Saturday, March 12, 2005

Book Review - The Nudist On The Late Shift

Continuing to mine the backlog of books on my shelf, and considering getting involved with a startup, I decided to read Po Bronson's "The Nudist On The Late Shift". It is an autographed first edition which I got through one of my periodical bulk orders from Amazon.

I can still remember the incredible energy and sense of inevitable success that defined Silicon Valley in the late '90's. I was lucky to be working for Visa in Singapore, and made regular trips to head office in Foster City. I would always take advantage of the travel to prowl around the Valley, visiting companies I had heard of and looking for solutions to problems we ran into building and maintaining Visa's networks.

The growth between visits was measurable, and it seemed like the centre of the universe had shifted to that endless collection of office parks scattered along Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose.

Bronson's book is really just a collection of articles he wrote for Wired, in which he attempts to capture what made the Valley work by telling the stories of people he interviewed and followed. He has given the book a structure by giving each of the individuals a thematic role in explaining the mysterious magnetisim of the Valley.

How does it stand up post bubble, post 9/11?

As with any attempt to write history while being surrounded by events, one risks missing the big picture and being buried in the detail. Bronson was clearly taken by certain companies and people he met. Not all have prospered in the way he assumed they would. But the book is still a good way of re-capturing the sense of the possible that pervaded everyone involved.

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