Start-up Costs: Silicon Valley, Halt and Catch Fire, and How Microserfdom Ate the World – How can Microserfs be 20 years old? I need to buy it and re-read it. (I keep giving copies away and never getting them back; that’s how you know it’s good.) I love that book. I first read it when I was working in a startup in the dotcom boom, living in a sharehouse in London with my boyfriend and two other guys we worked with. I identified with Daniel, but I wished I was as cool as Karla. I think about her theory that the body stores memories and emotions in muscular deep freeze every time I get a massage. I cried and cried at the ending. I even liked the silly bits, like the pages where Daniel would free associate words to create a subconscious for his computer. IT SPOKE TO ME, MAN. And now here I am once again in startup life, and everything is different but somehow the same. Poetic, isn’t it? Change all the IRC references to Hipchat and you’re pretty much there. (And I know I’m not the first to point out that Coupland essentially invented Minecraft in this book. I hope Notch thanked him!)

This made me think: Is there a recognised canon for Computer Age books? I think Microserfs should be in it. What else? I recently read The Cluetrain Manifesto for the first time, which everybody else in my book group hated but I loved. (Man, in 2000 we really thought intranets were going to be a much bigger Thing than they ended up being, huh?) I still haven’t read The Cathedral and the Bazaar or The Mythical Man Month, which I probably should. The Snook reckons that The Cuckoo’s Egg is worthy of inclusion. Any others?


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  1. I could take or leave Cathedral. War of Art, perhaps?

  2. I’ve never heard of that one. Maybe we should start a book club for these!

  3. It’s not strictly speaking a startup/PC story, but I was fascinated by Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the story of the design of a Data General minicomputer that was launched in 1980, just in time to be swamped by the rise of the PC. Much more of a corporate setting, but the mindset of the programmers is still at work even if the forces driving their decisions are a bit different.

  4. Did either of you watch “Halt and Catch Fire”? We watched the first episode but I’m not hooked yet.

  5. I’m watching Halt and Catch Fire. First season struggles until the last 4 episodes, second season is a lot better.

    I wouldn’t necessarily call War of Art a “Computer Age” book, but it’s definitely a book for the creative and/or knowledge worker. And that’s almost the same thing. Picked it up after a recommendation from Merlin Mann.

  6. I’ve not seen Halt and Catch Fire: I don’t think it’s available on any of the channels I have access to, and the buzz about the show’s first season didn’t suggest it was worth going out of my way to track down for purchase. I’ve heard that the second season is better, but it’s not on my agenda just yet.

    (By contrast, I was quite keen to take a look at Silicon Valley and that is available for me to watch, but I seem to have stalled a couple of episodes in. I think I’m going to have to catch up with the show before it gets too many seasons ahead of me.)

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