Dealers of Lightning by Michael A. Hiltzik
  • Title: Dealers of Lightning
  • Subtitle: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
  • Author(s): Michael A. Hiltzik
  • Publisher: Harper Collins
  • Year: 2009-05-19
  • ISBN-10: 0061913502
  • ISBN-13: 9780061913501


“Dealers of Lightning” by Michael A. Hiltzik is a captivating and insightful exploration of the legendary research and innovation that took place at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) during the 1970s and 1980s. Hiltzik takes readers on a mesmerizing journey behind the scenes of PARC, where a group of brilliant and unconventional scientists revolutionized the world of computing and technology. With meticulous detail, the author chronicles the development of groundbreaking inventions such as the graphical user interface, ethernet, laser printing, and more. Through vivid anecdotes and engaging storytelling, Hiltzik captures the spirit of innovation and the challenges faced by these visionaries, providing a fascinating glimpse into the birth of the modern computer era.

In “Dealers of Lightning,” Hiltzik not only celebrates the achievements of PARC’s research team but also delves into the complex dynamics that influenced their work. He explores the clashes between corporate bureaucracy and the spirit of exploration, showcasing the struggles faced by the researchers as they navigated a business-oriented environment with their visionary ideas. Additionally, the book sheds light on the far-reaching implications of their innovations, which were initially overlooked by Xerox but eventually became instrumental in shaping the technology landscape we know today. With his thorough research and engaging narrative style, Hiltzik offers readers a captivating blend of history, sociology, and technology, making “Dealers of Lightning” a must-read for anyone interested in the origins of modern computing and the power of cutting-edge research.

Book Review

“Dealers of Lightning” by Michael A. Hiltzik is an enthralling and richly detailed account of the research and innovation that took place at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) during a transformative period in the world of technology. Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, takes readers on a gripping journey as he uncovers the groundbreaking inventions and pioneering thinkers who revolutionized the computer industry.

Through meticulous research and compelling storytelling, Hiltzik brings to life the brilliant minds behind PARC’s groundbreaking achievements. He introduces readers to legendary figures such as Alan Kay, Bob Taylor, and others who played key roles in the development of the graphical user interface, ethernet, laser printing, and other technologies that would shape the future.

What makes this book truly captivating is Hiltzik’s ability to not only provide a detailed history of these breakthroughs but also shed light on the challenges and conflicts faced by the researchers. He delves into the clashes between the innovative spirit of the PARC team and the corporate bureaucracy of Xerox, effectively highlighting the tension that often arises between visionary ideas and market-driven objectives.

One of the book’s greatest strengths lies in its exploration of the societal impact of these innovations. Hiltzik illustrates the far-reaching consequences of ideas initially overlooked by Xerox, which eventually became the foundation for personal computing and the digital revolution we witness today. By effectively blending history, sociology, and technology, Hiltzik crafts a narrative that deeply resonates with readers interested in the origins of the modern computer era.

However, it is important to note that occasional dense technical explanations might be overwhelming for some readers unfamiliar with computer science concepts. Nevertheless, Hiltzik skillfully balances the level of technical detail, ensuring that the book remains accessible to both technology enthusiasts and casual readers alike.

In conclusion, “Dealers of Lightning” is a remarkable book that takes readers on an extraordinary journey behind the scenes of PARC, uncovering the birth of technologically transformative ideas. Hiltzik’s meticulous research, combined with his engaging storytelling, makes this book a must-read for anyone fascinated by the history, sociology, and impact of innovation. It serves as a testament to the power of relentless curiosity, the determination of visionaries, and the potential of human ingenuity in shaping our world.

Word Count: 371

Target Audience

“Dealers of Lightning” by Michael A. Hiltzik is a recommended reading for a diverse range of audiences interested in the origins and impact of modern computing. With its rich exploration of innovation, clashes between corporate and creative cultures, and the societal implications of groundbreaking inventions, this book offers valuable insights that can enlighten and engage a wide range of readers.

  • Technology Enthusiasts “Dealers of Lightning” is a must-read for technology enthusiasts who are curious about the origins of the technologies they use every day. Hiltzik’s meticulous research and detailed storytelling provide a comprehensive understanding of the birth of computing, making it a valuable resource for those passionate about technology. The book offers an in-depth analysis of the groundbreaking work at PARC, from the development of the graphical user interface to ethernet and beyond, appealing to readers who seek a deeper understanding of the technological advancements that shape their lives.

  • History Buffs For individuals with an interest in the history of science and technology, “Dealers of Lightning” provides a compelling narrative that resonates. The book provides a behind-the-scenes account of the dynamic and revolutionary research environment at PARC during the 1970s and 1980s. Hiltzik’s exploration of the clashes between corporate management and the creative genius of the researchers not only sheds light on the birth of modern computing but also offers a captivating portrayal of the intricate relationship between innovation and business dynamics.

  • Innovators and Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurs and innovators across various fields can find inspiration and valuable insights within the pages of “Dealers of Lightning”. By delving into the challenges faced by the PARC team, the book offers an understanding of the creative process and the hurdles that visionaries encounter when pursuing groundbreaking ideas. The stories of how Xerox initially failed to capitalize on these innovations can serve as cautionary tales for entrepreneurs, highlighting the importance of recognizing and harnessing the potential of groundbreaking concepts.

“Dealers of Lightning” is a recommended read for a wide range of audiences, including technology enthusiasts, history buffs, and innovators. Hiltzik’s meticulous research and engaging storytelling make the book accessible and captivating, while offering valuable insights into the birth of modern computing and the complex dynamics that surround innovation. It serves as a reminder of the power of human ingenuity, the impact of visionary ideas, and the importance of nurturing a culture of creativity and exploration.