I've been reading High Tech case studies now since the 80s – just after I entered the business. Bryan Cantrill from Oxide Computer's podcast inspired me to get all my books out and order them on a rough historical basis. I thought listing them here might be interesting to someone. All of these I've read and there are a ton of lessons for entrepreneurs here. I put rough notes next to some of them in bold after the author name in quotes.
- 2022-06-27 - Added book of the week
- 2022-06-26 - Cleaned my bookcase and looked for other books in this category and added entries for How Would You Move Mount Fuji (Microsoft category), Go To (Misc / Software Category), Building a Successful Software Business (Misc / Software Category), Side Hustles (Misc / Software Category), Facebook by Steven Levy (Web 2 category), Tim Cook (Apple Category), A Piece of the Computer Pie (IBM Category), In Search of Stupidity (Misc / Software Category), Crypto (Misc / Software Category), Smart and Gets Things Done (Software Category), The Effective Engineer (Misc / Software Category), Creativity Inc (Apple Category), The Chip (Intel Category), Lean In (Web 2 Category), No Such Thing as a Free Gift (Microsoft Category), The Phoenix Project (Misc / Software Category)
- 2022-06-26 - Added Sub Categories in the Apple Section
- 2022-06-26 - Added Sub Categories in the Web 2 Section
- 2022-06-23 - Started adding links, added books suggested on Twitter, Added Gaskins on PowerPoint History; fixed typos (how did I possibly misspell Torvalds; clearly was stupid yesterday)
- 2022-06-23 - Apologies for where an Audible audio book is linked instead of hard or paperback; Amazon is inconsistent with this
- 2022-06-23 - Added a bunch more notes from reading these.
Book of the Week
In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters
This is an absolute gem of a book. There is a lot of humor here but the best bits, the parts I underline, start on Page 308 where he outlines positioning for a software product. In an extremely telling bit of analysis, he opens the book by looking at software companies in 1984 and then 2001. Even though there were a number of companies both larger than Microsoft or approximately Microsoft's size, in 2001, the next runner up, Adobe, is 1/20th of Microsoft's size. This he attributes to Microsoft being the only company "that never made a fatal, stupid mistake". And, yes, Ashton-Tate is part of the 1984 list. A bit dated but it is also timeless. Recommended
IBM / Mainframes / Super Computers
- The Supermen by Charles J. Murray; "The power of persistence"
- Who Says Elephants Can't Dance by Louis Gerstner Jr
- The Computer Establishment by Katherine Davis Fishman
- Big Blues by Paul Carroll
- IBM Redux by Doug Garr
- 1,000 Dollars and an Idea by Sam Wyly
- Computing in the Middle Ages by Severo Ornstein
- Computer Wars by Charles H Ferguson and Charles R. Morris
- Building IBM by Pugh
- Eniac by McCartney
- A Few Good Men from Univac by Lundstrom; HAVE NOT READ YET
- A Piece of the Computer Pie
- The Ultimate Entrepreneur by Glenn Rifkin and George Harrar; "A fantastic read. Cantrill argues in his podcast that DEC had too many people – and they did – but they grew up in an era where you made everything right down to the cases. That leads to an incredible number of people."
- Riding the Runaway Horse by Charles Kenney
- Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder; "The canonical high tech read; I've been re-reading this book roughly once a decade since the 80s"
- DEC is Dead Long Live DEC by Schein; HAVE NOT READ YET
- Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hefner and Matthew Lyon
- Nerds a Brief History of the Internet by Segaller
- History of the Internet by Moschovitis, Poole, Schuyler, Senfit
- Casting the Net by Salus; "HAVE NOT READ YET"
The Phone Company
- The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner
- Telephone by John Brooks
- End of the Line by Leslie Cauley
- Tales of ITT by Thomas S. Burns
- Dealers of Lightning by Michael Hiltzik; "It makes you realize just how bright the PARC folks were; sort of a mini manhattan project for computing"
- Copies in Seconds by David Owen; "Explains how Xerox afforded PARC. Today we don't realize the power of making copies but it was transformative"
- The Friendly Orange Glow by Brian Dear; "One of my absolute favorites; everything we do online today happened here first (and then in Lotus Notes by Ray Ozzie but thank the FSM that went away)"
Early Silicon Valley
- Fire in the Valley by Michael Swaine; "The second high tech book I ever ready"
- Accidental Empires by Robert Cringely
- Bill & Dave by Michael Malone
- What The Dormouse Said by John Markoff
- Broken Genius by Joel Shurkin; "The first proof that brains doesn't equal ethics; this was followed by Patrick Naughton, Hans Reiser and one of the php core team members"
- The HP Way by David Packard
- Siliconnections by Forest Mims III
- Hackers by Steven Levy; "The first high tech book I ever read; utterly engrossing"
- Tandy's Money Machine by Irvin Farman; "A deep dive into the Tandy ecosystem where I grew up"
- Sinclair and the Sunrise Technology by Ian Adamson and Richard Kennedy; "Understanding the ZX 81"
- We Were Burning by Bob Johnstone; "A good look at Japan"
- The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
- Inside Intel by Tim Jackson
- Andy Grove by Richard Tedlow
- The Intel Trinity by Michael Malone; "Fascinating particularly the bit about walking out the door and exiting the DRAM business"
- High Output Management by Andy Grove; "Good but cold"
- The Chip by Reid
- Bloomberg by Bloomberg by Michael Bloomberg and Matthew Winkler; "Makes you realize just how fundamental Bloomberg is"
- Note: A lot of our modern media tech comes out of Lucas intellectual heritage which is why this is here
- Droid maker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution by Michael Rubin
- Sky walking by Dale Pollock
- Inside the Star Wars Empire
The PC Era
- What You See Is What You Get by Alan Sugar
- PC Roadkill by Michael Hyman
- Almost Perfect by W.E. Pete Peterson
- Open by Rod Canion; "I agree with Bryan Cantrill that this should have been titled Compatible"
- Adventures in Microland by Jerry Pournelle; "Jerry Pournelle who is long gone was the quintessential tech blogger albeit in print form"
- Once Upon a Time in Computerland by Jonathan Littman; "Uber style fraud before uber"
- Sweating Bullets: Notes on Inventing PowerPoint by Robert Gaskins; PDF 500 odd pages; "This is a damn good read"
- The Microsoft Way by Randall Stross
- Idea Man by Paul Allen
- Breaking Windows by David Bank
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
- Microsoft Secrets by Cusuman and Selby; "This was the book that talked about employees leaving the office for coffee or soda and how detrimental it was for concentration. At the company I was at when this came out, our founder read it on a plane and we had soda in the office the next day. Only time he ever read a book that benefited engineers; ISO 9000 quality for software was one of the bad book fall outs."
- Proudly Serving my Corporate Masters by Adam Barr; "A boots on the ground look at Microsoft by a software engineeer"
- All You Really Need to Know in Business I Learned at Microsoft by Julie Bick
- Gates by Stephen Mane and Paul Andrews
- Barbarians Led by Bill Gates by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Ellen
- The Making of Microsoft by Ichbiah and Knepper; "Good coverage of the early years of the Microsoft / Softbank relationship"
- I Sing the Body Electronic by Fred Moody; "Best ever look at CD-ROM production realities. The bit about Slayer Sucks stayed with me forever"
- Show Stopper by G. Pascal Zachary; "Damn near perfect"
- No Such Thing as a Free Gift by McGoey
- How Would You Move Mount Fuji by Poundstone. "THANK GHU THIS INTERVIEWING TREND IS LARGELY OVER"
Apple / Jobs / Pixar / Next
- Revolution In The Valley by Hertzfield; HAVE NOT READ YET
- Insanely Great by Steven Levy
- The Cult of Mac by Kahney
- The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawasaki; "This book defined developer relations and evangelism for me and the industry"
The Middle Years
- Apple by Jim Carlton
- iWoz by Steve Wozniak
- The Steve Jobs Way by Jay Elliot
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney
- The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman
- iCon by Jeffrey Young and William Simon
- The Bite in the Apple by Chrisann Brennan
- Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli
- Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing by Randall Stross.
Take 2: The Return of Steve and Beyond
- Infinite Loop by Michael Malone
- Haunted Empire by Yukari Kane
- Tim Cook by Kahney. "AFTER READING THIS YOU STILL WON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT TIM"
- Return to the Little Kingdom by Michael Moritz
- Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky
- Apple Confidential by Owen Linzmayer
- The Apple Way by Jeffrey Cruikshank
- Leading Apple with Steve Jobs by Jay Elliot
- After Steve by Tripp Mickle
- The Perfect Thing by Steven Levy
- Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda; "This was written by the guy who created the auto correct algorithms on the iPhone and is amazing to understand how that one innovation came to be"
- The One Device by Brian Merchant
- The Silicon Valley Way by Sherwin
- Confessions of a Venture Capitalist by Quindlen
- Valley Boy by Tom Perkins
- LaunchPad by Randall Stross; "A deep dive into Y Combinator"
- Creative Capital by Ante; HAVE NOT READ YET
- eBoys by Randall Stross
- Softwar by Matthew Symonds
- The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison by Mike Wilson; "This book helps you understand Oracle and how sales people really work. The Go for the Gold program and Oracle's insanity in paying commissions on order receipt not payment of order never left me."
- The Java Handbook (this is here because of an excellent appendix covering the history of Java) by Patrick Naughton; "Great explanation of the early Java days"
- Sunburst by Mark Hall and John Barry; "Fascinating. I'm still pissed we lost NEWS in favor of X11"
- High Noon by Karen Southwick
- Making the Cisco Connection by David Bunnell; "Sandy Lerner's post Cisco career has to be the best heel turn in the history of the industry"
- The Future Was Here by Jimmy Maher; "As much of a lost hope as BeOS"
- Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond
- Free for All by Peter Wayner
- Free as in Freedom by Williams
- Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg; "Mitch Kapor's second coming and his inability to give up on Lotus Agenda; seriously tho a great look at what happens when you don't have an MVP and a lot of money"
- Rebel Code by Glyn Moody
- The Clue Train Manifesto by Levine, Locke, Searls, Weinberger
- The Idealist by Justin Peters; "This breaks my heart. I had dinner with Aaron once and he was a shining light"
- Unix A History and Memoir by Brian Kernighan; "Damn near perfect and I'm now ready for Unix Jeopardy"
- A Quarter Century of Unix by Salus; HAVE NOT READ YET
- Piloting Palm by Butter and Pogue; "We forget how important Palm was"
Netscape / Internet Stuff
- How the Web Was Born by Gillies and Calliau; "I was at the conference where the WWW was first announced and all of us 'experienced hypertext folks' didn't see how big it was; probably me single greatest technical misjudgement"
- Netscape Time by Jim Clark and Owen Edwards
- Competing on Internet Time by Cusumano and Yoffie
- Architects of the Web by Robert Reid
Web 1.0 - The Early Commercial Internet
- Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams
- The PayPal Wars by Eric Jackson
- StrikingItRich.com by Jaclyn Easton
- The Silicon Boys by David Kaplan
- Starving to Death on $200 Million by James Ledbetter
- Startup by Jerry Kaplan
- The Wikipedia Revolution by Andrew Lih
- High St@kes, No Prisoners by Charles Ferguson; "FrontPage was amazing in the day and this covers it well"
- Obscene Profits by Lane
- The CDNow Story by Olim, Olim and Kent
- dot.con by John Cassidy
- That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph; "A great look at Netflix"
- Netflixed by Gina Keating
- Year Zero By Rob Reid
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis
- Planet Google by Randall Stross
- I'm Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards; "A good boots on the ground perspective from employee #59"
- The Google Story by Vise and Malseed
- Work Rules by Lazlo Bock
- Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned from Google by Aaron Goldman
- How Google Works by Schmidt and Rosenberg
- The Search by John Battelle
- Into the Plex by Steven Levy
- Googled by Ken Auletta
Misc / Software
- The Tinkerers by Foege
- Programmers at Work by Susan Lakers; "The first early look at software authors"
- Masterminds of Programming by Biancuzzi and Warden
- Coders at Work by Siebel
- Hackers and Painters by Graham
- The Phoenix Project by Kim, Behr, Spafford "DISCLAIMER: IT IS A NOVEL ABOUT SOFTWARE"
- Crypto by Levy "UTTERLY COMPELLING"
- In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters by Chapman. "YES IT HAS dbase IN THE INDEX; DON'T WAIT - READ THIS IMMEDIATELY; I'M GOING TO READ IT AGAIN THIS WEEK"
- The Effective Engineer by Lau
- Smart & Gets Things Done by Spolsky
- Side Hustle by Guillebeau "CURRENTLY ON MY DESK; MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL"
- Building a Successful Software Business by Radin. "THE SAS MODEL IS STILL SOFTWARE AND THIS IS A CLASSIC MARKETING TEXT APPLIED TO THE SOFTWARE BUSINESS; STILL VALID"
- Go To. "ESSAY SIZE SNIPPETS ACROSS THE SOFTWARE REVOLUTION; RECOMMENDED"
- The Silicon Eye by George GIlder
- Telecosm by George Gilder
- Microcosm by George Gilder; "A fascinating look at the personalities that makes chips; his discussion of people that make analog devices specifically has always stuck with me"
- Life After Google by George Gilder; "HAVE NOT READ"
- Reinventing the Wheel by Kemper; "Sigh. Can't Kamen do something better; what has he been doing since???"
Blackberry & Nokia
- Losing the Signal by McNish and Silcoff; "I wasn't a BlackBerry guy but this explains the fire and furor. A lost technology path similar to Palm and DEC"
- The Decline and Fall of Nokia by Cord; "HAVE NOT READ"
Web 2.0 / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / AirBnB / Etc
- Authoritas by Aaron Greenspan
- The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrichj
- The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick
- dot Complicated by Randi Zuckerberg
- Lean In by Sandberg
- Facebook: The Inside Story by Levy. "IT IS LEVY; HE IS ALWAYS EXCELLENT"
Multiple Companies Covered in One Book
- The Boy Kings by Losse
- The Upstarts by Brad Stone
- Valley of Genius by Adam Fisher
- Always Day One by Kantrowitz
- Valley of the Gods by Wolfe; "HAVE NOT READ"
- The Four by Galloway; "HAVE NOT READ YET"
- The Airbnb Story by Gallagher
- No Filter by Sarah Frier; "Instagram is more important than we realize and this dives into the why"
- A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder; "Not as good as Soul of a New Machine"
- Disrupted by Dan Lyons
- Getting Acquired by Gazdecki
Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich; "HAVE NOT YET READ AND GENERALLY I ABHOR CRYPTO; INSERT DUTCH TULIP BULB RANT HERE"
- Beyond the Valley by Srinivasan; "HAVE NOT READ YET"
The Cellphone Wars
- Dogfight by Fred Vogelstein
- Disclaimer: I'm not a gamer and there is a rich lore of game books that aren't here; send me recommendations on Twitter
- Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Schreier; "HAVE NOT READ YET"
- Lucky That Way by Fregger
Space 2.0 / Tesla
- Liftoff by Eric Berger
- Silicon Sky by Gary Dorsey; "Yep. Space 2.0 started before SpaceX – 99"
- Rocket Billionaires by Fernholz; "HAVE NOT READ YET"
- Back Room Boys by Francis Spufford; "Fascinating since it isn't about America"
- Rocket Dreams by Marina Benjamin
- How to Make a Spaceship by Julian Guthrie
- Elon Musk by Vance