Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Geeks Bearing Gifts

Geeks Bearing Gifts v.1.1, subtitled How the computer world got this way, is a collection of thoughts and notes about people and events of the computer revolution. Written in 2008 by Ted Nelson, a legend himself, the man behind Xanadu.

This book is great, because we get an insider's view into the fascinating history of our biggest invention - the computer.

This book sucks a bit in how it is delivered: proofreading could have been done better, the text in low-res illustrations is barely readable, the disjointed style feels more like reading notes, or encyclopaedia, and finally, the chapter summaries are completely unnecessary. The 200 pages of Geeks Bearing Gifts are divided into 50 chapters numbered from -27, through 0 (UNIX®), to 22. Each chapter starts with a summary, which I started skipping after a few chapters, because a half page summary in a two page chapter means re-reading the same information shortly after reading it for the first time. Irritating.

Still, for a computer geek, this book makes an interesting read. Let me end with an unusually succinct summary of the last chapter "Why We Fight", which contains Ted's manifesto:
"Today's computer world is a godawful mess, ghastly for many people. But there yet may be hope."

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