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Revolution in The Valley Andy Hertzfeld
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN:0-596-00719-1
320 pages
£ 16.95
Published: 15th November 2004
reviewed by Mike Smith
   in the June 2005 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

I usually elect to review O'Reilly (as opposed to other publishers') titles for the User Group newsletter because I like them (obviously). This one came through and I had to look twice, because its not in the usual O'Reilly Nutshell format. Of course its not the usual Nutshell technical guide either -- but it is an O'Reilly book.

I remember now why I said I'd have a look -- though not a complete Apple convert (yet) I enjoyed the classic ``Hackers'' by Steven Levy; Tiger and the new G5s are becoming more and more compelling all the time and I just know I'll succumb in the end. I think I've got Insanely Great too, by Levy, but can't remember a thing about it, so maybe never got around to reading it. Either that or it's rubbish.

Anyway, this book ... Its full of photos of people, computer parts, screen images, notes, designs, artwork. The first and last 10 pages or so are various note book entries. Its nice to see the early designs, scribblings, etc took place. There's also an picture of Bill, but enough of that.

Each chapter is an account, and part of the story that runs from 1979 to 1985: all about how the Macintosh was made. The book is split in to five parts. I'm not sure what the criteria were for these five parts -- it may be there somewhere, but its not obvious to me at the moment. The chapters are mostly in chronological order and I guess they are phases in the development of the Mac. The last part is post Mac release (which I'm sure you'll know was 24th January 1984).

Whilst we're on the launch of the Mac itself, the chapter entitled ``The Times They Are A-Changing'' (there are no chapter numbers!) is an account of the launch event. Reading this, with the description of what happened, how Jobs built the tension and the reaction of the crowd, really got to me. In fact I was so excited I went straight to Google to find the videos (they're out there, macbytes.com has a link). So Hertzfeld is pretty good at writing, as well as Mac design.

The rest of the chapters are about the interaction between the various designers and developers, including Hertzfeld, around the various Mac projects. You also learn insights into how Apple functioned and some of the problems they had on the project, but surprisingly (perhaps) not a lot about the design of the Mac itself (though there are one of two things on the software design side, but nothing technical that I spotted). The stories are brief -- at just a few pages, small enough to pick up and read at any time.

In summary, it's a jolly good read, and absolutely worth your while picking up. I won't go as far as saying that it's Insanely Great -- that would be too big a pun!

If you want to know more, head over to http://folklore.org/ where I think many of the anecdotes also reside, but the book itself is well worth it.

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