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Copyright

Title: Revolution in the Valley
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Copyright: 2004
ISBN: 0596007191
Pages: 291
Price: $25.00
Rating: 75%

Several books have been written about how the Macintosh computer was made. Revolution in the Valley, continuing in this fine tradition, is written by one of the key members of the original Macintosh team, Andy Hertzfeld. This book is a collection of anecdotes (originally published on Hertzfeld's web site, www.folklore.org) about the halcyon days when a small crew of dedicated geeks changed the world. This is not about the creation of Apple Computer, which in itself was a watershed event, but the creation of the Macintosh computer, which brought simple GUI computing to the masses at an affordable price. 

The book itself is an attractive hardcover, printed on glossy paper, with a bonus: when you remove the dust jacket, you see, printed on the cover, frames of the famous 1984 Mac commercial. 

Steve Wozniak, one of Apple's co-founders, says in his forward, "Every computer today is basically a Macintosh, a very different type of computer from those that preceded it." And this is true - perhaps someone else would have invented the GUI computer with windows, icons, menus and a pointer, but no one else did. Revolution in the Valley takes a close look at the ins and outs of what went on behind the scenes as the Mac was being developed, and after it was released. 

Hertzfeld's not much of a writer, but what he lacks in style he makes up for in enthusiasm. He's captured an oral tone in these anecdotes, one redolent of "gee, whiz" on almost every page. As he relates the tiny events and incidents that led to the final creation of the Mac, he contributes to a fragmented narrative, one that takes form slowly as you progress through the discrete incidents he recounts. 

There is much to say about the protagonists in this story: the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), Hertzfeld himself, but also lesser-known heroes, such as Burrell Smith and Bill Atkinson (known, among other things, for creating HyperCard, the greatest Mac application ever). But this book is not one that contains biographies, so the only true feeling one gets for these characters is through the isolated incidents that Hertzfeld tells about.  

Given Hertzfeld's role in the design of the Mac, much of the book focuses on hardware design and software development, including the arcanes of ports and cards and code. These parts of the book won't interest the casual reader, but the true geeks will find them exciting. I found more interesting the later sections, discussing the actual release of the Mac and the improvements made shortly thereafter. 

Hertzfeld's comments at the end of his introduction sum up this book: "I also think in the largest sense we substantially failed, because computers remain frustratingly difficult to use for ordinary users. There is still a long way to go before the Macintosh dream is fully realized, and perhaps the best stories are yet to come." 

This book will certainly appeal to those Mac fanatics who want to know more about the genesis of this "insanely great" computer, especially those involved in hardware and software design.

Kirk McElhearn  

Kirk McElhearn (kirk@mcelhearn.com) is a freelance writer and translator living in a village in the French Alps. You can find out all about him at his web site, http://www.mcelhearn.com.