Yesterday on Slashdot was a review of local NYT tech correspondent John Markoff's new book, "What The Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry." Quoting the review:
Most histories of the personal computer begin with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Apple in 1976, but while hanging out at SAIL in the mid 1970s, and at the First West Coast Computer Faire in 1977, I heard highly attenuated versions of the folklore that Markoff has only now, after nearly 30 years, run to ground. Conventional histories of the PC make passing reference to the MITS Altair (1974) before going on the talk about the Apple, the IBM PC (1981) and what followed. The more sophisticated would conspiratorially tell the story of how Steve Jobs "stole the idea" for the Macintosh from Xerox's fabled Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) as they were "fumbling the future," and nearly everyone knew that Bill Gates then stole the ideas from Apple.
But the truth of those half-heard folktales from my youth is that nearly every concept in the personal computer predates all of this, in a delightfully picaresque tale that starts in the late 1950s and weaves together computers, LSD, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War and dozens of characters.
We've been reading Markoff since we were a kid, after SFist's dad brought home a copy of "Cyberpunk" and said, "This is a book by a guy I went to school with." We could have cared less about our dad's old college buddies at the time, but we couldn't have cared more about anything 'cyberpunk' (we were Sci-Fi nerds deep into William Gibson at the time), and the book didn't disappoint. Needless to say, we're going to have to go get a copy of this -- how could SFist pass up stories of acid-dropping leftist computer nerds in the Bay Area?