An oral history of Silicon Valley.
Wired contributor Fisher, who grew up in the valley, debuts with an exhaustive gathering of the voices of the nerds, hippies, engineers, hackers, scientists, weirdos, and tech billionaires who invented the American future—from personal computers and video games to Google and Facebook—over several generations in the northern San Francisco Bay area. Based on more than 200 interviews and bristling with facts, personalities, and gossip, his inside account brings to life the “future obsessed and forward thinking” culture that gave life to our current digitized world. “Ready or not, computers are coming to the people,” Stewart Brand told Rolling Stone in 1972. Already, Atari’s Nolan Bushnell was creating video games, and the blending of hacker- and counter-culture was fostering a new popular culture among bright 20-somethings. Providing just enough context, Fisher wisely allows interviewees to tell their stories: of the pioneering Xerox PARC and Apple’s Macintosh; of the virtual community the WELL and the short-lived General Magic (with its early iPhone); of Pixar Netscape and the eBay experiment. In the mid-1990s, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin “looked like a bunch of kids…screwing around,” says Deadhead Charlie Ayers, their chef. Throughout the narrative, we meet shoeless programmers and watch water-gun fights; attend wild parties and hacker conferences; witness the inception of innumerable startups; and hear debates on everything from power to the people to IPOs as a stream of entrepreneurs, including Twitter’s “nose-ring-wearing, tattooed, neck-bearded, long-haired punk hippie misfits,” recall the beginnings of the cyberculture. There is much nostalgia: “We were younger then, and we thought it would go on forever,” says Buck’s Restaurant owner Jamis MacNiven, of the pre–dot-com crash days. While focusing on the valley’s cultural influence, this colorful history also describes emblematic moments from the lives of ambitious movers and shakers, including long walks with Apple’s Steve Jobs and young Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s famous party exclamation: “Domination!”
An immensely readable account of America’s wild cauldron of innovation.