Brad Feld

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Book: Bricklin on Technology

May 17, 2009
Category Books

I haven’t been reading that much lately (only 27 books so far this year) so I had a nice weekend chewing on a handful of them as I tried to catch my breath from a few weeks of constantly moving around.

The first – and most enjoyable – was Bricklin on Technology .  I’ve somehow managed to end up with three of them – I know that Dan Bricklin sent me one and Amazon sent me one, but I don’t know where the third came from.  Dan told me about this book a few months ago when I saw him in Boston at the TechStars for a Day event.  He’s done an outstanding job of combining his essays on computing with updated thinking along with a bunch of great history.  There are a dozen chapters – each are a “mini-book” within the book.  My favorite was Chapter 12: VisiCalc (which is – not surprisingly – the history of VisiCalc) but the other chapters are all great and include things like:

  • What Will People Pay For?
  • The Recording Industry and Copying
  • Leveraging the Crowd
  • Blogging and Podcasting: Observations through Their Development
  • Tools: My Philosophy about What We Should Be Developing

I first heard of Dan Bricklin in 1979.  I had bought an Apple II with my bar mitzvah money (and some help from my dad).  When VisiCalc came out, we bought one of the first copies; we still have the original 5.25” disk in the brown vinyl VisiCalc binder (our copy was the one featured in the Triumph of the Nerds video series – that’s another long story.)  Not surprisingly, Dan and his partner Bob Frankston were early heroes of mine.  I even bought a copy of TK Solver when it came out.

I finally met Dan in 1995 when he was starting to think about the company that became Trellix.  I think we were introduced by Aaron Kleiner, but I can’t remember.  Yes – I was really excited the first time we met!  I ended up helping out in the very early days of Trellix through the point that Dan raised a $200k seed financing from CRV.  I’ve always loved the way Dan’s brain works and Bricklin on Technology is a bunch of it in one portable package.

I was at MIT on Thursday and Friday last week.  One of my favorite things to do when I’m there is browse in the MIT Press Bookstore in Kendall Square.  I ended up picking up a handful of computer books that I read (well – I read some and skimmed some) this weekend.  They are:

Designing Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices : HCI for beginners.  If you are interested in HCI or gestural interfaces but haven’t thought much about them, this is a quick, easy read. However, it’s really simple and there is a ton of important stuff missing from it.  One fascinating insight – the bathroom has become a test bed for gestural interface technology (ah – my heart flutters).  C.

Semantic Web For Dummies (For Dummies) : Alex Iskold from AdaptiveBlue would be proud of me.  Like most of the Dummies books, it was filled with filler (probably 50% of it could have been chopped) but it had plenty of useful examples.  I didn’t learn much from it as I knew most of it but I was searching for something suitably “beginner” aimed at a software developer.  I’d give this one a C+.

A Semantic Web Primer, 2nd Edition (Cooperative Information Systems) : This one was a little more serious.  Again, it was aimed at beginners, but I thought it was much more logical, much better structured (how ironic), and more insightful than the Dummies book.  It’s also more like a textbook so it presents the same concepts in a more serious nature.  I give this one a B.  As a result, I’m still searching for a great “beginners Semantic Web” book.

I think it’s time for some mental floss.