Book Review: Revolution In The Valley

I’m not and I never was never a great Apple fanboy. When I was a teenager in the second half of the 1980s, the Apple Macintosh still cost several thousand euros and was hence far beyond what I could afford. Like most, my computing world was that of Commodore, Atari and others who offered affordable computers for the likes of me. The PC with Windows followed my home computing phase which in turn was followed by Linux and Open Source. In other words, there was no space in my world for the always much more expensive Apple computers at any time. But obviously they played and are still playing an important role in the computing space so I decided to read up a bit on the history of the first Apple Macintosh.

Revolution in the Valley” is the title of Andy Hertzfeld’s book on the early days of the Macintosh. The book is not written from a Steve Jobs perspective but from the perspective of the people ‘in the machine room’ who actually designed the hardware and software of the first Mac. Despite having a background of what happened before the Mac at Xerox PARC and Steve Jobs’ first encounter with a graphical user interface that shaped his ideas of what would eventually become the Lisa and the Macintosh (see my book review of ‘Dealers of Lightning’), I was still a bit disoriented at first that there wasn’t really an introduction of the vision Steve Jobs or ‘the company’ had for the Macintosh. Instead, the book is a collection of individual stories of what happened from 1981 to 1985 in Apple’s Macintosh department. Each story is self contained and sometimes it’s a bit difficult to follow the thread from one story to the next. After getting used to this, however, I very much enjoyed the book and it was great to understand the relationship between the engineers working on the Mac, Steve Jobs, his ‘reality distortion field’ and Apple as a company. Also, it’s quite interesting to compare those stories to what went on at other companies such as Commodore and Atari at the same time.

I fully recommend reading the book, but perhaps not as the first one on the subject. For that I fully recommend ‘The Innovators‘ perhaps followed by ‘Fire in the Valley‘ to go from a broad view to the evolution of computers to the focused view on how the Apple Macintosh was created.