A rollicking account of a good, old-fashioned visionary who gathered together—under one roof or connected by...

READ REVIEW

THE DREAM MACHINE

J.C.R. LICKLIDER AND THE REVOLUTION THAT MADE COMPUTING PERSONAL

Meet J.C.R. Licklider, the man who put “personal” in “personal computers,” in this lively, memorable, and wickedly detailed biography from Waldrop (Creativity, not reviewed).

In what amounts to a history of the computer, Waldrop introduces readers to the men and women involved in the process (from Norbert Wiener and John von Neumann to Gary Kildall) and the process itself (decimal to binary and mechanical to electronic and operator to programmer). Skating his way through so much of this history was Licklider, a psychologist with a bent for mechanical engineering and mathematics, who saw the computer as humane and intimate, as a democratizing tool, but most of all a dreamer who understood that the beauty of the machine lay not in “automating those huge data-processing engines called bureaucracies.” Rather, its glory would be in human-computer symbiosis, wedding the computer’s algorithmic talents with the human’s intuitive ones. And this interaction found its fullest expression in Arpanet—that “intergalactic network” that became the network of networks, the Internet—funded by the Pentagon but then exploding beyond its military confinement. As Waldrop tells this history, allowing readers to follow its multiple paths with the ease and delight of falling dominoes, he gets the names straight for his audience: When we think of the mouse and Windows and word-processing, insert Douglas Engelbart and delete Bill Gates; for MS-DOS, insert Kildall and delete Gates; for the personal computer, insert Licklider and delete Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Along the way, readers will also get a good sniff of the politics involved in working for such institutions as MIT, the Pentagon, IBM, and Xerox, all of which Licklider touched down in during his long career.

A rollicking account of a good, old-fashioned visionary who gathered together—under one roof or connected by cables—like-minded visionaries to make the whole expansive notion of personal computing and networking a reality.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89976-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

THE ORDER OF TIME

Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more