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Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

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An insightful biography of Florence's famous son Acclaimed biog rap her R. Lewis traces the As a result, the entire software base of Macintosh became a coherently created world in itself, one with an immediate familiarity to anyone who had mastered the elemental skills of using the machine. You could launch a strange application, and accomplish something instantly, without even touching the manual. Even down to such design-level detail, Insanely Great is not too technical; the reader needn't be a programmer or engineer to enjoy it, and to appreciate the big picture of personal-computer development.

I presume that anyone reading this is thereby familiar with sufficient basic concepts. If you hunger for more detail about these very bright folks and the challenges they invented and programmed their way through, go on to Andy Hertzfeld's Revolution in the Valley. Levy continues with the Macintosh's introduction and reception, including the famous Macintosh television commercial, and then discusses some of the aftermath: public reaction, various shortcomings and near-fatal mistakes, and changes to software and hardware.

Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

Most immediately important to boost Macintosh acceptance was Paul Brainerd's PageMaker, the perfect fit for Apple's new LaserWriter printer; teamed with the Macintosh they created the new realm of desktop publishing. When some of my close friends and myself bought Macintoshes in Spring , we weren't thinking of the long arc of development that was ascending with the Macintosh.

Mostly we were thinking of what a neat computer it was. I especially was struck by the clean black type on a clean white screen, instead of the eye-straining semi-focused yellow-green on black generally used by computer monitors.

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Given two books, one printed in black ink on white pages, and another printed in yellow-green on black pages, which would you choose? The original Mac offered plenty of other attractions, but that was sufficient. It's funny to look back, as Levy does, on the diehards who claimed that any serious computer wouldn't have pull-down menus or — especially — a pointing device like a mouse. Real writers and programmers would never take their hands off the keys, but would forever be memorizing arcane combinations of keystrokes and playing them like complex piano chords.

Over time, I came to agree that Steve Jobs was correct: the Macintosh indeed embodied the insanely great breakthrough he wanted. Levy Artificial Life, , etc. Here, however, his overbearing passion for the Macintosh keeps this from being a first-class treatment; though he recounts Apple's wrong turns and the widespread criticisms of Steve Jobs, his report lacks the rigor of Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine or even of his own Hackers Moreover, there are surprising gaps here: The early days of home-computing are limned only briefly, as are Apple's beginnings. But in tracing the evolution of how humans conceive of, and relate to, information in cyberspace, the author has done his research.

As the creation of the Mac looms, Levy focuses on the personal contributions and internal politics of those working at Apple; on software offerings like PageMaker, which revolutionized desktop publishing; and the last step in evolving the Mac as we know it: Bill Atkinson's HyperCard, the program that changed the way computer-users think about information. Everything you never realized you wanted to know about the Mac, by a very smart, infectiously enthusiastic partisan.


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