A well-researched book students of technological history and the emergence of the digital economy will want to know.



Thoughtful history of the Bay Area enclave that has remade the world in the years since World War II ended.

As O’Mara (History/Univ. of Washington; Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century, 2015, etc.) writes, Silicon Valley has long been held as a place of the singular American virtues of bootstrapping and lone-genius entrepreneurship, a place of garages where big things happen, as when David Packard built his first gizmos after graduating from Stanford in the late 1930s. There’s some truth to that view, but the larger reality is that Silicon Valley was the product of massive federal investment throughout the Cold War, when thinkers such as Vannevar Bush urged that the federal coffers be put to work funding big science—including the computer revolution. As a result, writes the author, “the U.S. government got into the electronics business and became the Valley’s first, and perhaps its greatest, venture capitalist.” Even such famously government-averse entrepreneurs as Steve Jobs benefited from federal largess: If Apple didn’t sell its products to the Pentagon in quite the numbers that Microsoft did, it made plenty on the federally supported educational front. Along the course of her illuminating history, O’Mara, who worked in the Bill Clinton White House in the early days of the internet, describes the emergence of civilian venture capitalists—but even they, exemplified by Georges F. Doriot, known as “the General,” worked plenty of government connections. Though much work was done by antinomians and countercultural types in the first days of the personal computer revolution, it was usually within a carefully constructed and controlled setting. Hippies they may have been, but “the fact that Northern California had been such a hub of Cold War science was why many of them were there in the first place.” Today, of course, the military-industrial complex thrives even though Silicon Valley has helped change the culture of the Pentagon in the bargain “to get government bureaucracies to behave like start-ups.”

A well-researched book students of technological history and the emergence of the digital economy will want to know.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56218-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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