A funny thing happened to Lamp and Rosegrant (both former Business Week reporters) on their way to writing a book about the so-called ``Massachusetts Miracle''--a two-decade economic expansion sparked by high-tech enterprises clustered along Route 128, which encircles Boston. When they began their reporting in 1985, the Bay State's business activity was nearing a cyclical peak; by 1988, though, the regional boom had become a bust with national implications. Undaunted, the authors persevered and produced a thoughtful appraisal of what has made this New England enclave a hotbed of innovation. To gain perspective, Lampe (now assistant director of MIT's Industrial Liaison Program) and Rosegrant (now a free-lance writer) examine the interactive forces that have helped shape Route 128's high-tech community over the better part of a century. To begin with, they point out, eastern Massachusetts has an education/research infrastructure second to none; its extensive network of world-class universities, hospitals, laboratories, and related facilities remains a magnet for talented students, professors, and scientists eager to test their mettle in demanding environments. No one set out to create a high-tech mecca in metropolitan Boston, the authors insist; it simply evolved as a result of fruitful alliances among local industry, federal agencies, and indigenous institutions before, during, and after WW II. Critical mass was reached during the early 1970's (with the dawn of the minicomputer age), and Route 128 now sustains itself (via start-up or spin-off firms, for example) while supporting a wealth of service providers--patent attorneys, venture capitalists, et al. Nor did state government play a substantive role either in triggering the onset of the Massachusetts Miracle or in cushioning the impact of its recession, the authors observe, concluding that the system seems to work best when not overmanaged. An expert audit of Silicon Valley East, highlighting the contributions of entrepreneurs like Digital Equipment's Ken Olsen and of scholastic promoters like MIT's Vannevar Bush.