Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Dealers of Lightning

Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

By Michael Hiltzik




Read an Excerpt

In the bestselling tradition of The Soul of a New Machine, Dealers of Lightning is a fascinating journey of intellectual creation. In the 1970s and ’80s, Xerox Corporation brought together a brain-trust of engineering geniuses, a group of computer eccentrics dubbed PARC. This brilliant group created several monumental innovations that triggered a technological revolution, including the first personal computer, the laser printer, and the graphical interface (one of the main precursors of the Internet), only to see these breakthroughs rejected by the corporation. Yet, instead of giving up, these determined inventors turned their ideas into empires that radically altered contemporary life and changed the world.

Based on extensive interviews with the scientists, engineers, administrators, and executives who lived the story, this riveting chronicle details PARC’s humble beginnings through its triumph as a hothouse for ideas, and shows why Xerox was never able to grasp, and ultimately exploit, the cutting-edge innovations PARC delivered. Dealers of Lightning offers an unprecedented look at the ideas, the inventions, and the individuals that propelled Xerox PARC to the frontier of technohistory—and the corporate machinations that almost prevented it from achieving greatness.

David Pogue review of “Dealers of Lightning”
New York Times, April 4, 1999:

“It’s a joyous ride; Hiltzik, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, superbly documents the arrival of each brilliant geek in Palo Alto. These young men quickly discover the highs of working among fellow geniuses when the dreams are big and the funds are lavish….

The delicious highlight of ”Dealers of Lightning” recounts Jobs’s famous tour. Contrary to legend, the members of the PARC team were well aware of the stakes. In fact, they made the Apple team wait for three hours as, tearful and angry, they debated showing their secret technologies. But having been promised shares in Apple’s hotly anticipated stock offering, a Xerox executive forced the issue by phone. Jobs got his demo, folded what he’d seen into new Apple computers and set off an exodus of PARC employees that marked the end of the research center’s heyday….

Hiltzik’s writing is confident and strong, qualities rarely found in such Silicon Valley tales….For any student of business or technology, ”Dealers of Lightning” offers a gem of a story that has never before been so well told.”