LinuxWorld Boston Panel
Jim's New Storage Engine

Soul of a New Machine


I was talking with a friend of mine recently about how different areas have tried to rival Silicon Valley for influence in high tech.  But the valley's leadership wasn't always so.  In fact, if you go back twenty-five years, the "Route 128" area around Boston was the hotbed for much of the technology innovation around mini-computers with companies like Apollo, DEC, Data General, Wang and others.  And that in turn led to the development of many of the innovations in the early microcomputer industry with companies like VisiCalc, Lotus Development Corporation, Spinnaker Software, Javelin and many others.

Tracy Kidder told the story in his Pulitzer award-winning book Soul of a New Machine published in 1981, describing the development of a new 32-bit platform that would compete head-to-head with the DEC VAX.  Instead of covering the story from the top, by interviewing CEO Ed de Castro, Kidder told the story from the perspective of the engineers who made it happen.  He describes how Tom West, the head engineer, led a skunkworks project that would eventually become the Data General Eclipse/MV minicomputer. 

Kidder captured the spirit of dedication that it took to build an launch a computer system better and with more drama than any other book that has followed.  Data General was around for 30 years with many breakthrough products and was eventually acquired by EMC in 1999 with revenues of more than a billion dollars annually.  If you haven't read this book, you need to. It's a classic.


My wife bought me this book years ago thinking it was an exciting work of fiction that I would absolutely enjoy. I did find it exciting and absolutely enjoyable, and she was rather surprised to learn that it was in fact non-fiction.

I also recommend reading "The Big Score" by Michael Malone for those who haven't read it yet. It can be purchased second hand from Amazon's network (
It was published in 1985 and provides an exciting look at Sillicon Valley's history (going back further than I had thought).

The comments to this entry are closed.