Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Revolution in the valley..!!

Most surprisingly(to myself) this blog is turning out to be a book review..!! given that 50% of the blogs are book reviews...!! You CAN verify the accuracy of my claims..!!

So... this time the book is called "Revolution in the Valley - The insanely great story of how the MAC was made". Yes...the same old silicon valley... and the "REVOLUTION" was the release of the first user-friendly PC by APPLE called the MACINTOSH.... which all of us(pardon me for being presumptuous... but thats what i am.. in this matter) at some point of time have dreamt(or still do) of owning, while lucky few have actually had their dream fulfilled. ANd the story is really insane.
Not so much of a book i should call it. You will never for a moment feel the usual drab associated with biographical accounts of companies/people. This one is like a collection of anecdotes.. recollection by the main author and some other ppl, who were in the team which developed the first Macintosh.

That was an era when guys worked for realizing their passions rather than make money. Where design was governed by will to excel...rather than requirements from Manager. Again, its a must read for any Software engineer. And a very interesting reading for any creative thinking soul.
I could go on babbling..and make invain attempts to bring out the philosophy of the book, but the better approach would be to put few most interesting quotes and incidents mentioned in the book, and u will see the rational behind my recommendation.

***Bill gates.. on Steve Jobs' allegations of stealing Macintosh ideas***

"You're ripping us off!", Steve shouted, raising his voice even higher. "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!"
But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice.
"Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."
(Yes it turns out many of macintosh's ideas, including the mouse were drawn from Xerox PC)

****Apple designers think Bill gates' code is rubbish****

We thought the concept of the game was as bad the crude graphics that it used. Since the game was written in BASIC, you could list it out and see how it was written. We were surprised to see that the comments at the top of the game proudly proclaimed the authors: Bill Gates and Neil Konzen. Neil was a bright teenage hacker who I knew from his work on the Apple II (who would later become Microsoft's technical lead on the Mac project) but we were amazed that such a thoroughly bad game could be co-authored by Microsoft's co-founder, and that he would actually want to take credit for it in the comments.

*** Bill Atkinson, one of the main designers of MAC, on not being given due credit by Steve jobs****

"Hey, listen, I'm sorry, but you're overreacting and blowing things out of proportion," Steve(jobs) replied in a dismissive tone. "Who cares about a couple of magazines? You should have been included, but you weren't. Someone made a mistake. It's not such a big deal."
"That's easy for you to say," Bill retorted, upset at the lack of sympathy. He raised his voice, which was full of emotion. "I'm not going to work here anymore if you don't appreciate what I've done and treat me fairly."

****Few guys from the team decide to hoist a pirate flag on the buildng where they worked****

Finally, on Sunday night around 10pm, it was time to hoist the Jolly Roger. Capps climbed onto the roof while we stood guard below. He wasn't sure how he would attach the flag, and didn't have many tools with him. He scoured the surface of the roof and found three or four long, rusty nails, which he was able to use to secure the flag pole to a groove in the roof, ready to greet the Mac team members as they entered the new building the next morning.

The flag waved proudly over Bandley 3 for about a month or two, but one morning in late September or early October, I noticed that it was gone. It turns out that the Lisa team, with whom we had a mostly friendly rivalry, decided it would be fun to steal the flag for themselves. I think they sent us a ransom note or something, so a few of us stormed over to the Lisa building to retrieve it, which we accomplished, although Capps had to wrestle it from the grasp of one of the secretaries, who was hiding it in her desk.

**** Steve jobs sheer confidence(or arrogance) while making a sales pitch for the first Macintosh's to a university (I found this funny)****

Andy van Dam cleared his throat and looked right at Steve. "Well, its really impressive, Steve, and of course we'll want to join your program. But it's not exactly what we've been waiting for."
Steve looked a little angry. "What are you waiting for? You're going to have to wait a long time to find something better than the Mac!"
"Well, 128K isn't nearly enough memory to do what we want, not even close, and the screen is just too small. We're waiting for a 3M machine, and most of the other colleges are, too."
"A what?"
"A 3M machine. There was a recently published paper that coined the term. You know, a workstation with at least a megabyte of memory, a million pixel display, and a megaflop of computational horsepower. We believe that's what we need for an effective educational workstation."
A megaflop was the ability to execute one million floating point operations per second. The Mac didn't have any floating point hardware, so it was off by an order of magnitude. In fact, we were off by around a factor of 10 in each of the three dimensions.
"Oh, we believe in that, too," Steve shot back, without skipping a beat. "Apple will have an affordable 3M machine before anyone else. I only have one question. What's a megaflop?"

**** Again...Steve jobs' assuming confidence and sense of humor****

"How many man-years did it take to write QuickDraw?", the Byte magazine reporter asked Steve.
Steve turned to look at Bill. "Bill, how long did you spend writing Quickdraw?"
"Well, I worked on it on and off for four years", Bill replied.
Steve paused for a beat and then turned back to the Byte reporter. "Twenty-four man-years. We invested twenty-four man-years in QuickDraw."
Obviously, Steve figured that one Atkinson year equaled six man years, which may have been a modest estimate.


Basically.... going through the book, i realized how work could be so much more fun if approached with a right attitude and passion, and most importantly a sense of belonging. There is really much more than what i just put here. Steve Jobs extreme assertiveness, his eccentricity, and the small little workplace incidents. Its a treat alltogether. With a lot of takeaways, if u do want to. I read this book from the hardbound edition which would make for an excellent collectors copy. But for the few of us who would rather not waste their 800 bucks...all the stories are also available on the website "", though it is not so much fun(personal opinion) to read it from a glaring screen vis-a-vis the good old book in your hand.