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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 11 Number 3 -- Reviews

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129627D
Original Publication Date: 1989-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 4 page(s) / 23K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

WILLIAM ASPRAY: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The Reviews Department features reviews of films, audio and videotapes, exhibits, end publications relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of any technical, economic, business, social, or institutional aspect of the history of computing will be given a complete review.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 22% of the total text.

Page 1 of 4

THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Reviews

WILLIAM ASPRAY, EDITOR

The Reviews Department features reviews of films, audio and videotapes, exhibits, end publications relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of any technical, economic, business, social, or institutional aspect of the history of computing will be given a complete review.

Dissertations, articles, and other studies of interest to Annals readers will be listed in a section on "Other Literature, ~ with full bibliographic citation and notes on its nature and availability. From time to time we will also invite longer essay reviews on important research topics, the published literature on these topics, and further opportunities for research.

Most reviews are solicited, but colleagues are encouraged to participate by indicating their wish to review a work or by suggesting titles to the Reviews Editor.

NB: Reviews without bylines are by the editor.

REVIEWS

Smith, Douglas K, Robert C. Alexander. Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then 19nored the First Personal Computer. New York: William Morrow 8 Company, 1988, 274 pp.

In both lesson and style, this book is of the same type as TMCY Kidder's 1981 The Soul of a New Machine (reviewed in Annals, Vol.4,pp.188-190). It teaches, with many vivid and striking examples, that innovation is unlikely in a big firm and that innovators are apt to be frustrated interlopers in a firm dominated by bean counters. Its style is lively and exciting, full of names and conversations both real and imaginary. It is an important contribution to history for it records how the computing business was in that brief moment before the personal computer, and it tells the inside story of one of Xerox's several failures.

The heart of the story is how Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) invented and demonstrated Alto, the first computer designed for personal use, only to have it ignored by a management averse to everything but lip service to anything new. This allowed others, such as Apple eight years later, to bring PARC's creative novelties to a receptive market. The authors, a writer and a management consultant, repeatedly make the point that while the top men of Xerox often said they intended to lead the world in graphic communications and in "the architecture of information," their actions reflected a different vision, "a vision of finance and control that tackled only what was already seen with technology already established through development, manufacturing, and marketing systems already in place."

The jacket blurb correctly says, "In allowing Xerox to say no to the Alto, the company's executives seemed to turn their backs on the adventuresome spirit, the willingness to risk, and the faith to commit to the unpredictable course of a new technology that had characterized the company's pioneeri...