Geek History

Recently, I’ve read The Hacker Crackdown and The Ten Cent Plague. For Christmas I’m going to be getting Replay: The History of Video Games.

And now I ask my fellow Doper, what other Geek History books should I read?

You can just browse the Jargon file. Its sort of a database of 90’s hacker lingo.

I liked The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. Its about an engineering team building a 1980’s business computer. Its impressive how engaging it is given that its basically about a bunch of engineers sitting around making sketches of ICEs.

Accidental Empires by Cringely is probably my favorite.

I thought the “seminal text” was Hackersby Levy?

The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll is a good read. It tells the true story of the hunt for the German hacker who broke into US military computers. The link, below, tells the whole story, so you may not want to read the link, but if you can find the book, it is pretty good.



This is the first one I thought of. See also Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts–The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution by Steve Lohr.

Good stuff guys. Thanks!

I just want to remind everyone that it’s not just computer related things I’m looking for. Science Fiction, Comic Books, RPGs and all related pursuits are welcome.

I’m not sure if this is along the lines of what you’re looking for, but have you read Neuromancer by William Gibson? It was the beginning of cyber punk.

You’ve kind of got the right idea, but I’m really looking for non-fiction.

I like many of the books already mentioned (particularly Accidental Empires, Hackers, The Cuckoo’s Egg and Microserfs (although that was fiction)).

But for non-computer related geeky books, I like those by Henry Petroski, an engineering professor who has written entire books on subjects such as the paper clip or the pencil. His first book was called To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design and was about engineering failures. (For example, the collapse of the walkway at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, in which 144 people died.)

David Macaulay writes and illustrates books on architecture and design, including one on a Gothic cathedral.

And Edward Tufte wrote several books on information design, and how to convey information more accurately.

I was going to recommend The Cuckoo’s Egg. It’s written in first person and the guy is nicely quirky; a very enjoyable book. Would actually make an awesome movie with the audience rooting for Cliff to catch the hacker.

Hackers by Stephen Levy IS the seminal text, and also an EXCELLENT read.

Also a good read is Engines of the Mind by Joel Shurkin, focusing on the development of computer hardware to a greater degree, going back to number theory so it spreads out a bit beyond the more recent stuff.