Book Review- The Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder, 1981

Maria has her students read this book in Computer Systems class. So I decided to read it. It certainly provides good insight into hardware/software engineers. How they act. Their temperaments. Their biases. Their need for ‘interesting’ or ‘creative’ work and their willingness to reinvent the wheel so that it can be created ‘here’. Having played a similar role at my job, I can say that the depiction is pretty accurate. The 35 year old book is still relevant today.

That being said, one of my least favorite things in the world is to read other people’s code. A short logic jump would say that I don’t particularly like to debug or help people debug. As such, reading about other people debugging was not my favorite subject matter ever.

The story focuses upon a new 32-bit microcomputer being built at Data General. Tracy Kidder became embedded in the development group and followed their actions for about 1-2 years. Data General declined in the 80’s and was bought by EMC in 1999. A more recent version of ‘writer gets embedded with development team’ is Scott Rosenburg’s Dreaming in Code.

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