Title: Accidental Empires
Author: Robert X. Cringely
Page Count/Review Word Count: 358
When you read a book about computing, you can generally predict how good it’s going to be based upon how recently the first edition was released. Things move so quickly in the computing world (thanks to Moore’s Law) that by the time a book goes to print, it’s often already obsolete.
Not so with Accidental Empires. The first edition of the book was released way back in 1992, and even though it was revised in 1996, that was still almost twenty years ago. Despite this, the book still makes for a fantastic read – it’s effectively a collection of reminisces anyway, and so it hardly matters whether the story you’re reading happened five years ago or thirty years ago.
In fact, Cringely’s writing is lucid and prophetic, and he mentions things that he couldn’t possibly have known at the time – despite wrongfully predicting that Bill Gates would never marry, a prediction that he revised in the later version, he gets everything else spot on. For example, he predicted the development of the smartwatch and the tablet computer, and he also predicted that the computer would be fully assimilated in to our lives by 2005 in the same way that the television became a staple for evening entertainment. Not bad, considering he made these predictions at the start of the 1990s.
It’s also interesting to see how the same characters keep on cropping up in the computing world – in the same way that Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki pop up everywhere in the world of social media, people like Andy Hertzfeld, John Warnock and Steve Ballmer seem to be everywhere, everywhen. In fact, even Guy Kawasaki, who is now best-known as a technology enthusiast and an authority on social media, is name-dropped somewhere in Accidental Empires.
If you’re geeky (like me) and fascinated by computer hardware and software and the companies and developers behind one of the most fundamental changes in our lifestyle since the written word was first invented, get this book. Otherwise, go ahead and miss out – your loss.