Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Books like this and others such as The Soul of A New Machine, Accidental Empires and even Hackers are all all fine books. They show the excitement that comes from joining pure science with engineering at a time when knowledge and technical advances allow production of cool new products.
But the downside of these books for me is that they show that the thrill of discovery is real, but it is the nature of technological advances that they never end, so the story can rarely finish with a dynamic crescendo. The idea and development of “packets” as a way of transferring data over large networks really is a cool and innovative way to achieve a goal. But after the fascinating struggle to get a proof of concept with the first ARPAnet connection, the steps to the modern Internet is a tale of diminishing storytelling returns.
Good story, so many characters it is hard to keep track sometimes, but it mostly focused on a telling of specific technical advances in a fairly “reporter like” fashion.
Final note: if you tell people you you are reading a book about the history of the Internet, they almost always bring up Al Gore. So yes, he is mentioned in the book, just once, when there was a celebration on the 25th anniversary in 1994 of the first connection, and Gore was invited. This was written in 1996 before the “Al Gore invented the Internet” wackiness was with us. The point being, those who DID invent the Internet thought his legislative contributions were enough to get a ticket to the party.
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