[SIGCIS-Members] New essay on Kidder's Soul of a New Machine in CACM

thomas.haigh at gmail.com thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Tue Dec 22 09:18:29 PST 2020



CACM has just published the first in what is supposed to be a trilogy of
essays from me looking at classic representations of IT work. The first of
these is "The Immortal Soul of an Old Machine," inspired by the 40th
anniversary of the publication of Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer Prize winning book
The Soul of a New Machine. It's a book that developers and historians both
continue to find fascinating, as a blending of literary craft and
engineering practice. My aim is to take the book apart to see how it works
and discover what it can tell us about how tech work has (and hasn't)
changed in four decades. I've been thinking about the book for almost thirty
years, since reading it in the only Manchester University undergraduate
computer science class that dealt with such things, and it was fun to go
back with a new perspective to try to understand what makes it so readable
and relatable.


The second will look at Levy's book Hackers, with some discussion of
relevant parts of Turkle's more critical depiction in The Second Self. And
the third part will explore Ullman's Close to the Machine and the relatively
recent TV show Halt and Catch Fire. 


Unfortunately this wasn't chosen as one of the paywall-free items for the
current issue of CACM. Those of you with access might want to show your
support for historical work by fetching it form the digital library via
https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3436249. But for everyone else, you can get a
copy at https://tomandmaria.com/Tom/Writing/CACMSoulOfANewMachine.pdf.


Best wishes,




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