The Soul of a New Machine

I just finished Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine”. I
thoroughly enjoyed it, reading all but the first chapter during my
flights from Pittsburgh to Oakland, CA. Actually, the first chapter
was my least favorite, and after reading it I put the book down for
several weeks before resuming. The book describes the creation of the
32-bit Eagle, backwards compatible with the 16-bit Eclipse, at Data
General Corporation during roughly 1978-1980. This project stands out
in the degree to which management isolated the engineering team from
the rest of the company and gave them a great deal of technical
freedom. This allowed the engineers to design and build what they
thought was a good machine. I do not say “great” machine because the
engineers worked under enormous time pressure, as has proven to be
typical of the industry. Still, as regular a participant in endeavors
for which panic-stricken is the best description of the schedule, this
book struck a chord with me. One of the main characters, Tom West,
sounds like a fascinating man. The prologue describes him as “a good
man in a storm”. I hope that people may someday say the same about
me.

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