Read Accidental Empires by Robert X. Cringely Online


Computer manufacturing is--after cars, energy production and illegal drugs--the largest industry in the world, and it's one of the last great success stories in American business. Accidental Empires is the trenchant, vastly readable history of that industry, focusing as much on the astoundingly odd personalities at its core--Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mitch Kapor, etc. and thComputer manufacturing is--after cars, energy production and illegal drugs--the largest industry in the world, and it's one of the last great success stories in American business. Accidental Empires is the trenchant, vastly readable history of that industry, focusing as much on the astoundingly odd personalities at its core--Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mitch Kapor, etc. and the hacker culture they spawned as it does on the remarkable technology they created. Cringely reveals the manias and foibles of these men (they are always men) with deadpan hilarity and cogently demonstrates how their neuroses have shaped the computer business. But Cringely gives us much more than high-tech voyeurism and insider gossip. From the birth of the transistor to the mid-life crisis of the computer industry, he spins a sweeping, uniquely American saga of creativity and ego that is at once uproarious, shocking and inspiring....

Title : Accidental Empires
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780887308550
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Accidental Empires Reviews

  • Sean
    2019-02-09 01:42

    Some of the reservations people have about Cringley's style are forgivable: if you haven't read around the subject of the PC revolution and researched the subjects for yourself, you'll think his attitude is to say the least disrespectful. When you appreciate just how weird some of these guys were/are and how arcane technology met classic American entrepreneurial spirit, you'll realize Cringley is actually being honest if not always generous.As a fun companion to the historical record, it excels. Cringley tries to answer the questions: how did the market evolve? why is it this shape? where will it go? -- and does a reasonable job to answer them. Since the book was published, his long-term view of the structural nature of the computer business has by and large been vindicated. The computer is disappearing, if not all at once and for the expected reasons. The "two standards" market is largely the same, for whatever sector you care to name. And the companies involved are rising and falling for pretty much the reasons Cringley thought they would. So, fun, insightful, reasonably prophetic, what more do you want?

  • Ethan
    2019-02-21 19:43

    A friend gave me Bob Cringely’s Accidental Empires years ago. Finally got around to it.Cringely is a gossip columnist for the tech industry, and even he realizes how ridiculous that sounds. It’s important context for Accidental Empires, a smart and interesting read. It’s a history of the microcomputer industry, roughly 1978-1996. It’s fascinating. It’s also more about the personalities than technology. He’s unafraid to call Steve Jobs “a sociopath” and Bill Gates a “megalomaniac”. And it’s not just about them, either, examining the wondrous golden age of Xerox PARC, and the revelation that “All IBM Stories Are True”, and more.If there are two themes that carry throughout the book, they are that: * There are only 14 people in the tech industry, because it’s always the same 14 people that pop up everywhere. * That you can be a good technologist, or a good businessman, but not both.There are two weaknesses to the book. First, it stops in 1996. Steve Jobs is still at NeXT and has not yet returned to Apple. In 1996, the future of Apple was pretty bleak. Times have changed, obviously. But this weakness in the book opens new opportunities for reflection. After reading this book (and it’s wildly unflattering view of Jobs’ management acumen) I have more respect for Jobs. If what Cringely writes is true, Jobs has returned to Apple and corrected every strategic and technological misstep from his first tenure. I have more respect for him now.Second, (and you may have guessed this!) Cringely has opinions, his feathers get ruffled, and he appears to hold a grudge. He clearly does not like Jobs. But he seems to consistently point out failings in all of the players. Fair warning if that sort of writing will put you off.Nonetheless, this book is recommended, as is his weekly column over at He doesn’t know everything, but he can spin what he knows and what he suspects into an interesting stew. Next uip for me is a book about PARC, if I can find a good one. Those guys invented the GUI, the mouse, Ethernet, the word processor, and more and never bothered to make a dime.

  • Murray Fife
    2019-02-02 21:41

    I just re-purchased it to re-read after I couldn’t find my original. Although Accidental Empires was written in 1996, and has to be read old-school style since it’s not available on the Kindle, this is a great history of how all of the major tech companies that are still around got their start.It talks about Microsoft, Apple, and IBM and the birth of Windows, the Mac, and the modern PC during the wild west of the computer industry. Did you know that:• Microsoft started off by buying DOS, and then rebranding it to MS-DOS, with the initial goal of dominating the workplace.• Bill Gates demonstrated Word himself in the early days, and it only crashed once, even though there were eventually 300+ bugs reported in the version that he shows (he only knew of 6)• Apple was not always profitable, and almost went belly up after a number of failed computer systems (Apple III, and Lisa).• IBM initially built the first PC in less than a year.If you are interested in how our industry started, and want to see that some of our modern day billionaires were poor just like us then fork out the $17.29 ($13.30 + S&H), and check out this book.

  • Song
    2019-01-25 23:56

    It's a truly pleasant experience to read this book, actually I should confess that I laughed A LOT in the reading. The book is hilarious.Besides the fun part, I was inspired by this book too. This book went through the early history of Personal Computer industry, gave the vivid silhouettes of the people, the companies and Silicon Valley in this industry. Mr.Cringely examined why today's Information Technology industry is what it is now, and how it became like this.The book provided the facts and opinion about how the high tech companies succeeded, and how many more failed. Why Bill Gates is the richest person in the world, and how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the most beloved high tech company in the world.It used to say that reading history can make people understand the rise and fall of things. We can learn the lessons from it, and get new ideas or patterns from the past success. Today Personal Computer is declining, and the focus is shifting to Smart Phone and Tablet. Although product is changing, the similar struggles, fights, winning and loss are still happening lively everyday in this industry, just like what it did in the old days.Mr. Cringely presented a lot of insights in this book, many of them are still valid in these day. It's both informative and educational.I recommended this book to anyone who is working for Information Technology industry and interested in how INTEL, Microsoft, Apple, Lotus and IBM this big names evolved into today's looking. This will benefit to the observers, thinkers, entrepreneurs and visionaries from both business and technology perspectives.The only problem with this book is Mr. Cringely has many bias views about company or people, like IBM. He wrote this book in 1993 and updated it in 1996. Many views have been proved obsolete and wrong.

  • Toby Whaymand
    2019-02-08 22:54

    I have had this book years, the pages are yellow and I've read it so many times, every time read this book I still find myself laughing out load. It because of Cringely's humour, the comedy factor that makes this book such an excellent education tool. This is my one of my favorite books

  • Deborah J Miles
    2019-02-04 18:43

    My version was printed in 1996. It was a set book for an Open University course which I was taking, and is Cringely's own account of how the personal computing industry started up. I was concerned that it would be stuffed with jargon and concepts beyond my understanding, but it wasn't. I found it informative, entertaining, and most importantly, it was easy to read. At times, I found myself laughing out loud- my favourite tale was about dust contaminating silicon wafers used by Intel to make their microprocessors. Despite every precaution being taken by the supplier and Intel, Intel were receiving a high proportion of duff wafers. An investigation showed that an Intel shipping clerk had been opening the hermetically sealed boxes as they arrived to count each item inside, which naturally spoiled the product. Cringely tells the story so much better, and he left me with a comic vision which still comes to mind today.

  • Dimitrios Mistriotis
    2019-02-21 22:42

    Great book and huge influence.

  • Frank Palardy
    2019-02-03 18:52

    Good, the basis for his show about nerds.

  • Reggie
    2019-02-15 22:42

    Accidental Empires by Robert Cringely, released in 1992, tells the story of an insider’s view of the rise of the personal computing era. The Rebooted edition was released online for free earlier this year. Find it here: (use the Next & Previous links at the top to change chapters). The individual stories are fascinating. Bill Gates always trying desperately to prove he could do anything (and in desperate need of a shower most of the time). Steve Jobs torpedoing the LISA project, which was his idea in the first place, and instead focusing on the Macintosh products (and also always in need of a shower). Don Estridge, who led IBM’s successful attempt to launch the first PC in 12 months, turning down Steve Jobs and a million dollar signing bonus and a million dollar annual salary to take essentially a demotion at IBM. The book looks at many different companies and projects and the people behind them from Apple to Atari. Some were successful, many weren’t. The history here seems to indicate that success can come against all odds. Those with vision and drive changed the world, even when they should have failed. Shoestring budgets and desperation led to many breakthroughs. Skunk work projects saved companies. At the same time very professional projects ended without any commercial success. Either there are no rules, or the rules are always changing. For me the best parts were about the famed research center Xerox PARC out of which came Ethernet, laser printers, the Alto workstation, and early graphical user interfaces. Apple borrowed heavily from their research, so did many of the other early pc companies. In part because many of the researchers left to turn their concepts into products. Much of what Xerox invented was actually based on work done by Doug Englebart at the Stanford Research Institute. When Doug Englebart passed away earlier this year the news credited him with inventing the computer mouse. In truth he envisioned most of our modern computing era, apparently by having a vision of much of our modern technology while driving to work one day in 1950. Doug Englebart and his team gave a demo of that computing vision in 1968 at the Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. This “mother of all demos” was described in this fashion by Robert Cringely: “the demo was equivalent to dropping-in on a model rocketry meeting and bringing with you a prototype warp drive. The world of computing was stunned.”Xerox PARC didn’t bring much to market, but sure came up with some cool stuff. Since they were trying to go as fast as possible they used a flat organization. Everyone reported directly to Bob Taylor who was a psychologist, not an engineer. He knew he was capable of handling at most 40 to 50 researchers and 20 to 30 support staff. With this fixed number of researchers they sought to hire only the very best. Which they did and then turned them loose to create new stuff while Bob facilitated collaboration between work groups. The approach somehow worked well enough for them to implement tons of new technologies, even though it broke all the rules that we know of about successful organizations.

  • Dane Cobain
    2019-02-21 21:44

    When you read a book about computing, you can generally predict how good it's going to be based upon how recently the first edition was released. Things move so quickly in the computing world (thanks to Moore's Law) that by the time a book goes to print, it's often already obsolete.Not so with Accidental Empires. The first edition of the book was released way back in 1992, and even though it was revised in 1996, that was still almost twenty years ago. Despite this, the book still makes for a fantastic read - it's effectively a collection of reminisces anyway, and so it hardly matters whether the story you're reading happened five years ago or thirty years ago.In fact, Cringely's writing is lucid and prophetic, and he mentions things that he couldn't possibly have known at the time - despite wrongfully predicting that Bill Gates would never marry, a prediction that he revised in the later version, he gets everything else spot on. For example, he predicted the development of the smartwatch and the tablet computer, and he also predicted that the computer would be fully assimilated in to our lives by 2005 in the same way that the television became a staple for evening entertainment. Not bad, considering he made these predictions at the start of the 1990s.It's also interesting to see how the same characters keep on cropping up in the computing world - in the same way that Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki pop up everywhere in the world of social media, people like Andy Hertzfeld, John Warnock and Steve Ballmer seem to be everywhere, everywhen. In fact, even Guy Kawasaki, who is now best-known as a technology enthusiast and an authority on social media, is name-dropped somewhere in Accidental Empires.If you're geeky (like me) and fascinated by computer hardware and software and the companies and developers behind one of the most fundamental changes in our lifestyle since the written word was first invented, get this book. Otherwise, go ahead and miss out - your loss.

  • Jamie
    2019-02-10 01:48

    This book is mind-blowing! The history of the first several decades of the microcomputer revolution, told as history should be told: as a series of stories.So many of the things mentioned in this book - inventions, founding of companies, rise and fall of people and fortunes - particularly in retrospect, are just amazing, particularly because of the personalities involved. We all recognize the names of the people (e.g., Gates, Jobs, Woz), and their products have becoming literally household names (e.g., Apple, Adobe, etc.)... but reading about their origins, the multiple times they trapped lightning in a bottle, the coincidences - and most importantly, the capitalizing on the missteps and short-sightedness of others! - is the most fascinating part of this book.And it ends just as Jobs is out at Apple and Microsoft unveiled Windows 95. What a cliff-hanger, when you know the rest of the rollercoaster yet to be revealed for this cast of characters!I cannot recommend this book enough.

  • Rand
    2019-02-07 02:55

    More than a mere (view spoiler)[ accounting of the advent of personal computing but a compelling story about the people who made the tech tick. People who wanted to play games, people who stole ideas from each other, people who gained and lost fortunes faster than the number of transistors per microchip would double. The section on the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC, the team that built the prototype which would later become Apple's Lisa after Xerox chose not to fund the project) was especially inspiring. Of course, all of the information in this book is available somewhere or another online, but you'll be hard pressed to find it all collected anywhere else in a single narrative that's this engaging and cogent. Plus Cringely personally interviewed a number of the key players in the saga of the heady early days of Silicon Valley, making this book a (hide spoiler)] primary source for the code we breathe.

  • Joseph
    2019-02-03 23:42

    It's very informative, and in my view, should be read along with The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business. From a historical standpoint, it was right-on, and reflects the current state of the industry in the early and mid-1990s. However, some of the predictions were way off, such as predicting Steve Jobs as a failure. It also did not reflect IBM's transformation under Gerstner, though Robert X. Cringely addresses that in his new book, The Decline and Fall of IBM: End of an American Icon?.

  • Vladyslav
    2019-02-10 19:35

    I was born in 1987 in Ukraine. The first PC I have seen was IBM clone at mother's work around 1993. My first computer I got around 1998 and it was already Pentium with Windows 95 on board.Now I work as software engineer.During my teenage I was always wondered where are all other OS except Windows? Why only PCs are around? Why Apple Macintosh claims as professional and so expensive tool? Why IBM is not that big anymore? Why "Windows sucks"? How did it all start?Had similar questions? Welcome to read this entertaining overview of the computer history.The book is quite old and for that reasone it's even more interesting to analyze what happened with companies later, were author's predictions close to the current reality.I found this book very informative and interesting. Hope you will.

  • Bryan
    2019-02-03 02:52

    This book was written in 1992, with two add-on chapters from 1996. It's sort of a classic in the genre of histories of Silicon Valley.It's common to read stuff about pirates or knights or whatever and either think you were born too late, or that you can't believe how those primitives endured, or both. It's less common, I guess, to do that with a book about stuff that happened 20 years ago.There are a number of good historical tidbits in here I'd never heard. The reason the book doesn't get more stars is that Cringely, who was then an InfoWorld columnist, wrote it in a conversational stream-of-consciousness kind of style that might be OK if this were an experimental novel, which it is not.

  • Murray
    2019-02-19 18:36

    Difficult to rate because it's truly a period piece but overall it's fantastic. You get, not only, a glimpse into the rise of the tech companies that shape today (Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Intel, Sun, Etc) but there's a layer of gossip since the author (Cringely) happened to be a writer at the magazine InfoWorld at the time.There are moments and predictions that hold through such as in the initial revision on how a GUI interface would become defacto and IBM mainframes would fall (consider: earlier copies these were still far-off and company-dominant) along with a revised afterword which touches Oracle and even how cell phones could be what breaks the true "computer in every home".It's sort of a blast-from-the-past. Not quite 3/5 though not quite 4/5. All around a page-turner, though.

  • Tim
    2019-02-15 02:43

    A pseudo-classic. I think it probably deserves that billing. I enjoyed it. I had moments of deja vu throughout, so I'm not sure if I had read it years ago -- man am I getting old, memories fading, mind turning to mush --, but it was a fun read nonetheless. I have read Cringely online for years, so there could have been some overlap with those articles and the book, too. Who knows. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to read the book with the benefit of hindsight; it is interesting to see how his perceptions at the time turned out (or did not turn out). All in all, a very entertaining read.

  • Robert Kennedy
    2019-01-23 21:48

    The story presented trails off at 1992 (the publishing date) and it is surprising to see how little has been accomplished in the computer industry in almost 10 years. Cringely tries to walk a fine line between describing the personalities of the people involved and guessing their motivations. Too often he fails and the resulting invective just feels childish and trivial. Despite this, it was a fun read for someone who grew up during the birth of home computers. Familiar touchstones abounded and helped to ground each chapter's timeline for me.

  • Jo Oehrlein
    2019-02-10 19:31

    I've enjoyed the chapter by chapter re-read on book is obviously dated in that it makes comments on history leading to a "present" that was 20 years ago. Still, Cringely's got good insights into many of the companies that are still important in our world (Apple, Microsoft) and some that aren't so important anymore (IBM).It's interesting to read about the development of hardware and software and the various alliances that are made, strengthened, weakened, and eventually broken.The comments from other readers can be interesting, too.

  • Matt Mcglothlin
    2019-02-23 01:53

    It was more educational than well-written. I learned a lot about the personalities of early pioneers in the pc industry, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in particular. The book provides insight on decisions being made to this day in the world of Apple, Microsoft and Adobe. In particular Apple's disdain for Adobe Flash technology and Jobs' desire to own the technology rather than opening up his platforms.

  • Peterboh
    2019-02-11 01:33

    I really liked this book, especially after reading Black Swan and the likes, which describe the role of luck in success. The book is a great insider story about the early software and hardware ventures. It is a story of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and their peers. Apart from the last couple chapters where author offers advice on how to start new ventures and offers his view on the future of the software industry, I had a really good time reading.

  • Scoats
    2019-02-16 18:26

    Although now dated, this is a great history of the personal computer. Cringely had an unique perceptive of this industry as history was happening. Cringely is a very interesting guy in his own right and utilizes that to good effect to the keep the subject from getting too dry. As I said, it is dated and makes many references to the then present, but that shouldn't stop you from reading this book. You probably won't find a better or more interesting book on this subject.

  • Roger Merritt
    2019-02-18 19:50

    A collection of short biographies of the people who created the personal computer from the 1970s through the 1980s. I especially liked it because I was watching what was going on at the time and the names were mostly familiar to me. Bill Gates is America's richest man because Gary Kildall decided he wanted to go flying rather than meet the representatives from IBM, who were looking for an operating system for their small computer.

  • Nickel
    2019-02-18 01:27

    Nice history of what was going on in the tech industry when many companies were competing to get a piece of the personal computing revolution. The only issue for me with the book was that there seemed to be a lot of opinion interspersed as factual statements and the attitude of the writer seeped into the novel, detracting from the overall experience.

  • William
    2019-02-15 18:39

    It's a bit dated, but it's a fun to go back to the early/mid-90s and see the then current perspective as well as "what's next."My favorite quote: "I'm not giving very good odds that Steve Jobs will be the leader of hte next generation of personal computing."Ah well, can't call 'em all, Cringley.

  • David
    2019-02-21 19:56

    awesome book about the early years of the PC (late 70s through mid 90s). There's a lot that I never know, didn't realize at the time, or had forgotten. Gives some good perspective on the current state of the industryThe book is getting pretty dated (e.g., Steve Jobs was still at NeXT when the book was written), but Cringley's currently working on some sort of rewrite/update or something

  • Jenni
    2019-02-13 23:54

    Both incredibly informative and entertaining history of computers. I enjoy Cringely's humor, and how he is able to explain complex computer ideas in layman's terms. The only downside to this book was that it was written in 1992, right before the boom of the internet. I want a sequel to see how he chronicles the history of computers from 1992 to 2002 (or even 2008)!

  • Mike
    2019-02-20 19:29

    This is a book about the first wave of technology immigrants who became the first tech-billionairs in Silicon Valley. It is about the PC empires and the first giant software companies that fed the beast - Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Sun, Oracle ... The time before Yahoo, Facebook, Google and the current age. It is worth reading to see that things have not really changed all that much.

  • John
    2019-02-21 21:45

    This is a great history of the personal computer industry. I enjoyed the insider knowledge and anecdotes about the personalities involved in bringing these technologies out. Reading this today (on my tablet) is a great way to look back and see how we arrived at the convergence devices that we now carry with us everywhere.

  • Eric Andresen
    2019-02-09 20:51

    Published in 1992 this is a great history of how the tech sector came to be. This was written in the days before we called the tech sector the tech sector, but it covers Microsoft, Bill Gates, Woz, Bob Taylor and was my first glimps at Xerox PARC. 100% recommended.