The Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine

Hardback Modern Library (Hardcover)

By (author) Tracy Kidder

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Paperback $13.18
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 186mm x 30mm | 420g
  • Publication date: 1 September 1998
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0679602615
  • ISBN 13: 9780679602613
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Sales rank: 233,818

Product description

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, The Soul of a New Machine was a bestseller on its first publication in 1981. With the touch of an expert thriller writer, Tracy Kidder recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A compelling account of individual sacrifice and human ingenuity, The Soul of a New Machine endures as the classic chronicle of the computer age and the masterminds behind its technological advances. Tracy Kidder has written a new Introduction to this Modern Library edition.

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Editorial reviews

The design and building of a new, state-of-the-art, 32-bit minicomputer hardly seems the stuff of a gripping book - unless you've read the likes of, say, John McPhee. Kidder, who also transcends the technical, follows a team of Data General Corporation engineers through the year-long turmoil whereby one of the nation's most aggressive computer companies gets a new machine "out the door." En route, he says a great deal about America's computer industry; the engineering profession; and how fairly normal people cope with the intense pressure of pushing through an indescribably complex intellectual task - "far beyond what any one person can do" - under extraordinary time pressure. In mid-1978, Data General - a go-go finn that had made the Fortune 500 list in only ten years - was lagging slightly in development of a 32-bit minicomputer; and corporate management decreed a crash program to get a new machine out: two crash programs, really (Kidder is excellent at showing the subtle nuances of intra-corporate rivalry), of which the "Eagle" project led by engineer Tom West emerged the front-runner. In an atmosphere of near frenzy, young engineers straight out of college were recruited for the hardware and microcode teams that would turn an unimaginably complicated abstract concept into a machine. The lure for the kids was the promise of actual design work, not the creature comforts ("You're working in a place that looks like something psychologists build for testing the fortitude o_f small animals"); and they soon learned about "signing up" - the often unverbalized commitment to carry through a project, regardless of what incidental havoc it wreaks on your life. After a while, the point of the project is as much to see what you're worth as to build "the machine." Kidder has a good feel for people and, equally important here, the ability to make a computer's internal workings relatively understandable to a non-technical reader (though the text does bog down, occasionally, in Boolean algebra, instruction processors, system caches, and microsequencers). The drama here is one of people under pressure, achieving "something unforgettable in their working lives," and anybody can plug-in. (Kirkus Reviews)

Back cover copy

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, The Soul of a New Machine was a bestseller on its first publication in 1981. With the touch of an expert thriller writer, Tracy Kidder recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A compelling account of individual sacrifice and human ingenuity, The Soul of a New Machine endures as the classic chronicle of the computer age and the masterminds behind its technological advances. Tracy Kidder has written a new Introduction to this Modern Library edition.

Flap copy

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, The Soul of a New Machine was a bestseller on its first publication in 1981. With the touch of an expert thriller writer, Tracy Kidder recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A compelling account of individual sacrifice and human ingenuity, The Soul of a New Machine endures as the classic chronicle of the computer age and the masterminds behind its technological advances. "A superb book," said Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. "All the incredible complexity and chaos and exploitation and loneliness and strange, half-mad beauty of this field are honestly and correctly drawn." The Washington Post Book World said, "Kidder has created compelling entertainment. He offers a fast, painless, enjoyable means to an initial understanding of computers, allowing us to understand the complexity of machines we could only marvel at before, and to appreciate the skills of the people who create them." The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhardin 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices. Tracy Kidder has written a new Introduction to this Modern Library edition.