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2022.06.09 硅谷历史的五本最佳书籍

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Economist Reads | Silicon Valley
The five best books for understanding Silicon Valley’s history
Pentagon officials, hippies and whizzkids all feature
Portrait of American businessman and engineer Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer Inc, at the first West Coast Computer Faire, where the Apple II computer was debuted, in Brooks Hall, San Francisco, California, April 16th or 17th, 1977. (Photo by Tom Munnecke/Getty Images)
Jun 9th 2022 (Updated Jun 22nd 2022)


This article is part of our Summer reads series. Visit our collection to discover “The Economist reads” guides, guest essays and more seasonal distractions.

If silicon valley were a country, its gdp would be greater than that of Finland. The Californian tech hub’s immense power and wealth mean its history is worth studying, not least by others who dream of emulating its success—and avoiding its failures. Many of the Valley’s own leaders do study its history. This selection of books may help you get into their heads. Here, in chronological order, are the five best books on the history of Silicon Valley, plus a television show and film.

The Dream Machine. By M. Mitchell Waldrop. Stripe Press; 528 pages. $20 and £18

Silicon Valley did not, in fact, start in Silicon Valley. Many of the earliest foundations of computing were laid on America’s east coast, particularly in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. Mr Waldrop’s book, first released in 2001, chronicles the work of pioneers including John von Neumann, Vannevar Bush and Alan Turing. But it focuses on J.C.R. “Lick” Licklider, an early employee of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, which later became darpa. A visionary with a budget, Mr Licklider used military money to fund projects that directly led to the advent of personal computers—most notably arpanet, precursor to the internet. Mr Waldrop’s book is an important reminder that Silicon Valley grew not from startups, but within universities and governments.

From Satori to Silicon Valley. By Theodore Roszak. Don’t Call It Frisco Press; 64 pages; Available online

Much has been written on Silicon Valley’s connection to the hippie movement of the 1960s. For a quick introduction, it is hard to do better than Theodore Roszak’s polemical essay, first delivered as a lecture in 1985. Mr Roszak surveys some of the most influential thinkers of the Sixties, including Stewart Brand and his intellectual idol Buckminster Fuller, in an attempt to show how Buddhist-infused hippie thinking turned into techno-optimism. Early Valley pioneers, Mr Roszak says, saw tech as a way to jump to a blissful post-industrial future. lsd, a popular drug at the time, was a chemically synthesised shortcut to enlightenment. Mr Roszak does not hide his scorn and readers may disagree with his conclusions, but the information he presents helps to explain a part of the Valley’s early philosophy.

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Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age. By Michael A. Hiltzik. Harper Business; 480 pages; $17.99. Orion Business; £18

Many of the 20th century’s important inventions were products of corporate research labs: Bell Labs developed the transistor; ibm delivered hard-disk drives. But the greatest lab of all belonged to Xerox, a photocopier manufacturer. Starting in 1970, its Palo Alto Research Centre (parc) pioneered personal computing, developing graphical interfaces, Ethernet and many other critical technologies. Mr Hiltzik’s pacy book shows how, by adopting darpa’s free-for-all approach to research, parc became a hub of innovation. He demonstrates its influence, too: parc’s alumni, some of whom ended up founding Adobe and Pixar, seeded the Valley with the centre’s can-do spirit.

Steve Jobs. By Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster; 630 pages; $35. Little, Brown; £25

“Dealers of Lightning” ends with the ascent of Apple Computer. “Steve Jobs”, a captivating biography of the company’s founder, explains how Apple succeeded—and how Mr Jobs then brought it back from the dead two decades later. Thanks to hours of interviews with Mr Jobs, Mr Isaacson’s biography offers a personal look at the prickly man who shaped much of the modern world. Mr Isaacson’s portrayal is balanced, shying away from neither Mr Jobs’s achievements nor his difficult personality. That personality proved to be as influential as his products: Mr Jobs’s “reality distortion field”, which inspired cult-like loyalty in his staff, has been adopted by many modern founders. It can also explain some of tech’s biggest flops.

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram. By Sarah Frier. Simon & Schuster; 352 pages; $28. Random House Business; £9.99

A popular genre of business books is stories of such failures, including WeWork and Theranos. But why not instead learn from one of the modern Valley’s successes with “No Filter”, which chronicles the rise of Instagram? Ms Frier presents a captivating account of the startup and its rapid rise. Most riveting are passages on Instagram’s acquisition, which offer a look at Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey’s negotiating tactics. (Mr Zuckerberg’s Facebook ended up purchasing the company for $1bn in 2012, a record sum then for a startup.)

Also try:

For lighter fare, the fictional television show “Halt and Catch Fire” brings to life the thrilling, “anything can happen” attitudes of early hacker culture. Or watch “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, a dramatised movie about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Mr Gates, at least, has called it “reasonably accurate”.

Do you have your own recommendations? Send them to with the subject line “Silicon Valley history” and your name, city and country. We will publish a selection of readers’ suggestions.

1977年4月16日或17日,美国商人和工程师、苹果电脑公司联合创始人史蒂夫-乔布斯在首届西海岸电脑展上的画像,苹果II电脑在该展上首次亮相,地点在加利福尼亚州旧金山的布鲁克斯大厅。(Photo by Tom Munnecke/Getty Images)
2022年6月9日 (2022年6月22日更新)

这篇文章是我们夏季阅读系列的一部分。请访问我们的收藏,以发现 "经济学人读物 "指南、特邀文章和更多季节性的分心。


梦想机器》。作者:M. Mitchell Waldrop。Stripe出版社;528页。20美元和18英镑

事实上,硅谷并不是从硅谷开始的。计算机的许多最早的基础是在美国东海岸奠定的,特别是在马萨诸塞州的剑桥和华盛顿特区。Waldrop先生的书于2001年首次发行,记录了包括John von Neumann、Vannevar Bush和Alan Turing在内的先驱者的工作。但它的重点是J.C.R. "Lick "Licklider,他是五角大楼高级研究计划局的早期雇员,后来成为darpa。作为一个有预算的远见者,李克立德先生用军费资助了一些项目,这些项目直接导致了个人电脑的出现--最引人注目的是arpanet,即互联网的前身。瓦尔德罗普先生的书是一个重要的提醒,硅谷不是从初创企业发展起来的,而是在大学和政府内部发展起来的。

从Satori到硅谷。作者:西奥多-罗斯扎克。Don't Call It Frisco Press; 64页; 可在线阅读

关于硅谷与20世纪60年代的嬉皮士运动的关系已经写了很多。对于快速介绍,很难有比西奥多-罗斯扎克的论证文章更好的了,该文章于1985年首次作为演讲稿发表。Roszak先生调查了六十年代一些最有影响力的思想家,包括Stewart Brand和他的知识分子偶像Buckminster Fuller,试图说明充满佛教色彩的嬉皮士思想如何变成技术乐观主义。罗斯扎克先生说,早期的谷地先锋们将科技视为跳向幸福的后工业化未来的一种方式。lsd是当时流行的药物,是一种化学合成的启蒙捷径。Roszak先生毫不掩饰他的蔑视,读者可能不同意他的结论,但他提出的信息有助于解释谷地早期哲学的一部分。

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闪电的经销商。Xerox PARC和计算机时代的黎明。作者:Michael A. Hiltzik。哈珀商业;480页;17.99美元。猎户座商业;18英镑


史蒂夫-乔布斯。作者:沃尔特-艾萨克森。西蒙和舒斯特公司;630页;35美元。Little, Brown;25英镑

"闪电经销商 "以苹果电脑的崛起而告终。"史蒂夫-乔布斯》是该公司创始人的一本引人入胜的传记,它解释了苹果公司是如何成功的,以及乔布斯先生如何在20年后将其起死回生。由于对乔布斯先生进行了数小时的采访,艾萨克森先生的传记提供了对这个塑造了现代世界大部分的刺头男人的个人看法。艾萨克森先生的描写是平衡的,既不回避乔布斯先生的成就,也不回避他难缠的个性。事实证明,这种性格与他的产品一样具有影响力。乔布斯先生的 "现实扭曲场 "激发了他的员工对他的崇拜,并被许多现代创始人所采用。这也可以解释一些科技界的最大失败。

无滤镜。Instagram的内部故事。作者:Sarah Frier。Simon & Schuster;352页;28美元。兰登书屋商业;9.99英镑

商业书籍的一个流行类型是关于这种失败的故事,包括WeWork和Theranos。但是,为什么不从现代山谷的成功中学习 "No Filter",它记录了Instagram的崛起?弗里尔女士对这家初创公司及其迅速崛起进行了引人入胜的描述。最吸引人的是关于Instagram收购的段落,它让我们看到了马克-扎克伯格和杰克-多尔西的谈判策略。(扎克伯格先生的Facebook最终在2012年以10亿美元的价格收购了该公司,这在当时是一个初创公司的最高纪录)。


如果想看轻松的节目,虚构的电视节目 "Halt and Catch Fire "将早期黑客文化中惊心动魄、"任何事情都可能发生 "的态度带到了现实中。或者观看《硅谷海盗》,这是一部关于比尔-盖茨和史蒂夫-乔布斯的戏剧化电影。至少盖茨先生称其 "相当准确"。

你有自己的建议吗?请将它们发送至,标题为 "硅谷历史",并注明你的姓名、城市和国家。我们将公布读者建议的一部分。
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