"Accidental Empires" by Robert X. Cringely

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: I understand that I got to this book a little late. Robert X. Cringely wrote "Accidental Empires" back in the early 1990s, with a second edition published in the middle of the decade. As a consequence, its references to contemporary technology are hilariously outdated to the modern reader (the supercomputers of the day would barely keep pace with smartphones today). His analyses of businesses and business figures like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Larry Ellison might all be subject to considerable revision in light of what's happened in the two decades since. But as a piece of history-in-progress and an explanation of some of the big themes in the computer industry up to the dawn of the Internet, "Accidental Empires" is a lot of fun and a highly readable biography of an industry. Especially as a pre-Internet time fades farther and farther into memory, this book is a pleasurable reminder of just how much things have improved -- no matter how much the superstars of the business have themselves changed.

Verdict: A good read for recalibrating one's mind around the stunning growth in computer technology, especially since the Cold War