Found in 17 comments on Hacker News
topherjaynes · 2023-07-05 · Original thread
Have you looked for online courses? Here are a few of the books I'd go through around computers, but are you thinking more extensive history of "technology?" Like how we've grown from printing press as innovation?

Soul of a New Machine is a great non-fiction but reads like a fiction account of trying to overtake the Vax by building one of the first 32-bit machines

A Biography of the Pixel great overview of the innovation and math that pushed graphics forwrard

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood walks through information theory and how we got to the internet

Dealers of lightning: how a lot of modenr computing grew out of Xerox

f0e4c2f7 · 2023-03-14 · Original thread
Nope. If you look at the whole cycle going back to Shockley nothing seems too odd to me, yet anyway - I'm still open to changing dynamics.

If you go back and read books like Hackers[0] or The Soul of The New Machine[1] even the cast of characters is weirdly similar. That piece of geography seems to really strongly attract both the Founder and Venture Capitalist personality, who really are misfits most other places.

I suspect the chaos of the last few days is healthy for the system overall because it makes it look risky and possibly not even a payoff. That's not the way it looked 3 years ago.

As a result I suspect people who hang around will build even cooler stuff than we've seen in the previous 3 years.



coder4life · 2022-06-03 · Original thread
I'm going to say Soul of a New Machine made me cry and, especially if you do low level stuff or hardware, is one of the best books which shows overwhelming passion for the art.

smacktoward · 2016-11-02 · Original thread

If you want to do something like this right, the way to do it is the way Data General wanted to do it when IBM, then the 800-pound gorilla of the computer world, entered into DG's minicomputer market. (Which is described in Tracy Kidder's classic book The Soul of a New Machine (

The ad they proposed was much simpler -- a full page that said only the following:

They say IBM's entry into minicomputers will legitimize the market.

The bastards say, welcome.

chiph · 2015-11-13 · Original thread
If anyone new to the industry (software or hardware) hasn't read this yet -- you really really should. We had an MV-8000 at college and it performed quite well, considering the loads we threw at it (I recall it running ADA, COBOL, and Pascal compilers all at the same time)

dankohn1 · 2015-06-11 · Original thread
I hate to sound hyperbolic, but I can't overstate how impressive this work is. For me, it evokes nothing so much as Tracy Kidder's The Soul of A New Machine [0] for opening up an obscure world (the one many HN posters live in, but obscure to most people). I am amazed both by the technical fidelity and by the quality of the story telling.


varunjuice · 2015-03-31 · Original thread
Having helped start a business & taken it from no revenue to mid 7 figures in revenue, I think what's missing from this list is books that convey how

1/ uncertain & dark the days of building a business are 2/ you're at the mercy of randomness (despite having a strong sense of agency)

In that sense, a few books that tell you that darkness is a rite of passage for building great companies would be

1/ Soul of a New Machine -

2/ Fooled by Randomness -

3/ Coders at Work -

4/ The Innovators -

5/ The Hard thing about hard things -

6/ Are your lights on? -

smoyer · 2015-01-18 · Original thread
It doesn't take place in Silicon Valley but I thought "Soul of a New Machine" [1] was a great read!


gary__ · 2014-12-11 · Original thread
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder, the classic book following the development of a new minicomputer in the late 70s.

Stealing The Network: How to Own the Box. This is a collection of fictional accounts of "hacking" written by hackers. Real world techniques are described though its in lightweight detail, the aim of the book is more to give an insight into how an attacker thinks. It's quite an enjoyable read too.

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen. This one's a true story.

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software By Charles Petzold. I still have to read this one, but I expect it would fit in with what you're after quite well.

smacktoward · 2014-10-21 · Original thread
> We're all programmers, but we're not all the same

Which is a rebuttal to something I didn't actually say, but OK.

Look, obviously there are all different kinds of programmers. Millions and millions of people program computers today, so there's no end to the ways you can slice them apart. There are kernel programmers and GUI programmers, mainframe programmers and mobile programmers, Lisp programmers and BASIC programmers, elite programmers and n00b programmers.

But they are all programmers, was my point. They all do the work of wrestling with, as one of the people in Tracy Kidder's classic The Soul of a New Machine ( called it, "La Machine."

In this respect, being a programmer is a lot like being a coal miner: you become one by doing the work. Sure, some miners are handier with a pickaxe than others, and some can stand being down in a dark hole for longer. But regardless of that, everyone who puts on a hard hat with a lamp on it and goes into the mountain is a coal miner. The only thing you have to do to earn the designation is show up and do the work.

Now for the part of my comment where I (respectfully) challenge your conclusions.

You want to divide "programmers" further, into (essentially) "programmers," who are lazy 9-to-5 stumblebums, and "REAL programmers," who code with burning fury 23.5 hours a day (the other .5 hours they spend on HN). And then tell the people outside the "REAL programmers" category that, sure, they're "programmers," but they're not programmer programmers.

But that has a value judgment embedded in it, namely that 23.5-hour-a-day Burning Fury programming is Good Programming, and 9-to-5 programming is Bad Programming. But those positions aren't good or bad, they're just embraces of different sets of tradeoffs. You note yourself that the Burning Fury programmer sacrifices her health and relationships to get to that level. The 9-to-5 person is just someone who has decided against making that sacrifice. Maybe that limits their career growth, but it lets them hold on to those things. Maybe you've decided to let those things go in order to accomplish more in your work.

And both those decisions are fine! I'm not here to tell you how to live your life. I'm just saying that your way of being a programmer is not the only way of being a programmer. There are lots of ways to be a programmer. The only thing they all require is that you do the work.

michaelwww · 2014-01-12 · Original thread
The book that got me hooked on computers many years ago: "Soul Of A New Machine"
mindcrime · 2011-04-04 · Original thread
+1 for Cryptonomicon. It isn't the easiest book to get through, but it's very worthwhile.

Another couple of possibilities might be:

The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage - Clifford Stoll

Hackers & Painters - Paul Graham (yes, that Paul Graham)

mindcrime · 2010-12-20 · Original thread
I don't necessarily know of any one book that meets all of your friends requirements, but...

Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine might be good for your friend.

Another good option might be Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold.

Or, how about Coders at Work?

Another one that I have (but haven't had time to read yet) is Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg. It might have something that your friend would find interesting.

Another one that may be inspirational, although it's more about personalities than computer science per-se, would be Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

steveklabnik · 2010-11-03 · Original thread
I've always really enjoyed "The Soul of a New Machine" Amazon, non-affiliate:

It's the story of a team of engineers building a new minicomputer, back in the late 70s. I couldn't put it down. He manages to make the politics interesting and the technical details simple.

JamieEi · 2010-01-19 · Original thread
Coders at Work was very inspiring to me and also gave me the functional programming bug. It seemed like every one of the legends interviewed had something nice to say about Haskell (deserved IMO).

Founders at Work is also great but in some ways more of a business book. If you want to do a startup it is incredibly inspirational.

Another oldie but goodie is Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine.

"A Computer Called LEO" - story of the first commercial computer, used to run Lyons teashops. Fascinating both in terms of computer history, and history in general, especially Lyons' attitude to perfectionism, to the extent of doing many things themselves, that these days would never survive an outsourcing purge.

"The Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder

Drags a bit in places, but is still interesting in a history type way. It's the story of Data General building a 32-bit minicomputer in a year in the 1970s.

Fresh book recommendations delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.