Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder

Why I read it: We have an extremely small library in the R&D kitchenette in my office. Every day that I heat up lunch (when I don't go out, or have something that's better cold) I would pick this book up and, if no one felt like talking to me, read a page or two while I waited for the microwave. I'm sure it was better than the alternatives -- Law for Engineers, Better Designs in Half the Time, etc. This book took me two or three years to read.

Bookmark: My memory. I read the same page over and over for weeks, I'm sure.

Tastes like chicken: "Dreaming in Code" would be the closest fit.

This book traces the development of a computer codenamed Eagle at a company called Data General. It's non-fiction, and published circa 1980. I was at around page 80 when I realized that these people were making something much bigger than the computers I think of today -- not a mainframe so much, but they were really happy when it fit in a freight elevator.

What I liked: For one thing, reading this every day provoked interesting conversations with some of my coworkers. A manager, yesterday, saw I was almost finished and said "good book, isn't it?" and then we had a chat about how the teams in the book were in healthy competition, whereas the ones in my office are in competition, but maybe not quite so healthy. The teams here are very zero-sum game, very win/lose.

Not so much: I got kind of confused about who was who, but that probably had to do with the nature of how I read this. The kitchenette may be more suited to magazine articles.

Also, it seems like the world of technological innovation really hasn't changed that much in thirty years. I don't know why I would think it would, but while the products we develop get smaller and smaller, the team size and dynamics seem to say the same.

Lesson: There are stories in everything.

No comments: