Corporate history with enough drama for a movie.

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Business history that will satisfy anyone captivated by Silicon Valley.

Maxfield has written an engaging story about ROLM, a Silicon Valley startup that made its mark in the 1970s and ’80s. According to this insider account based on primary sources and interviews, ROLM was a model of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship that future startups sought to emulate long before consumer technology and social media companies captured the high-tech spotlight. ROLM’s innovative use of emerging digital technologies challenged AT&T’s monopoly position in the telephony business by helping companies save millions of dollars and improving office workers’ productivity. Maxfield fleshes out the story with engineering details, financial data, business strategies and management lessons that will appeal to MBAs eager to create their own successes. ROLM’s founders enjoyed extraordinary success in two distinct businesses—selling digital phone systems to businesses and making military grade computer systems for the Department of Defense. In its heyday, ROLM was a great place to work, with corporate perks such as 12-week sabbaticals for all employees—at full pay—after every sixth year of employment. With tennis courts, a gym, two pools, a gourmet cafeteria and landscaped grounds, its campus headquarters in Santa Clara, California, set a high bar for other companies competing for engineering talent during the late 1970s through mid-1980s. It’s easy to identify with the author’s sadness at how this story ends. ROLM was sold to IBM in 1984, and IBM sold ROLM to Siemens in 1988. The author draws from materials collected by the Silicon Valley Historical Association, newspaper and magazine articles, and interviews with the founders and former employees of ROLM to write a corporate history unusual in its candor. Readers don’t need to know the difference between a PBX and a CBX—although they’ll know after reading this book—to appreciate the intense emotions and exuberant personalities Maxfield portrays. A favorite among employees was ROLM executive Leo Chamberlain, known for “Leo-isms” such as being “ ‘up to our ass in alligators,’ a phrase he used whenever the going got tough.” Few authors have Maxfield’s knack for describing both the forest and the trees, which makes her history of ROLM a worthy model for other histories of Silicon Valley companies.

Corporate history with enough drama for a movie.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937110628

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Emerald Book Company

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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