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The computer revolution brought with it new methods of getting work done--just look at today's news for reports of hard-driven, highly-motivated young software and online commerce developers who sacrifice evenings and weekends to meet impossible deadlines. Tracy Kidder got a preview of this world in the late 1970s when he observed the engineers of Data General design and build a new 32-bit minicomputer in just one year. His thoughtful, prescient book,The Soul of a New Machine, tells stories of 35-year-old "veteran" engineers hiring recent college graduates and encouraging them to work harder and faster on complex and difficult projects, exploiting the youngsters' ignorance of normal scheduling processes while engendering a new kind of work ethic.

These days, we are used to the "total commitment" philosophy of managing technical creation, but Kidder was surprised and even a little alarmed at the obsessions and compulsions he found. From in-house political struggles to workers being permitted to tease management to marathon 24-hour work sessions, The Soul of a New Machine explores concepts that already seem familiar, even old-hat, less than 20 years later. Kidder plainly admires his subjects; while he admits to hopeless confusion about their work, he finds their dedication heroic. The reader wonders, though, what will become of it all, now and in the future. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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ISBN-10:  0316491977
ISBN-13:  978-0316491976
Author:  Tracy Kidder
Genre:  Computers & Internet
Publisher:  Back Bay Books
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review by . December 20, 2007
How can a book about such a geeky subject be so gripping? I think I know. The book is about the development of new technology, yes, but more than that this is the narrative of teamwork. Every so often, a team of people with a shared goal come together and create greatness. This book is a look into that fascinating process and the culture that encouraged it.    I couldn't put this down until the last page was turned -- it is just fantastic.
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