Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

>stories about the history of specific software. [...] Does anyone know of other books (physical prints would be preferable to me) in this genre?

The AutoCAD story[1] is interesting to read. Unlike Forethought/PowerPoint, Autodesk was never acquired and stayed independent. A popular excerpt from it is John Walker evaluating 3 different venture capital deals.[2]

The Wordperfect story[3] is interesting. Because their headquarters was in Utah and intertwined in Mormonism, the book mentions several management practices that many would consider strange and oppressive (can't go to dentist during company hours, etc). From a technical perspective, one of the takeaways was their ill-fated decision to stick with assembly language too long instead of using a higher level language like 'C Language'. This affected the time-to-market for new products like the Windows version of Wordperfect. This is eerily similar to FogCreek/FogBugz strategy to stay with their internal proprietary "Wasabi" programming language. That affected their ability to create new features to keep with competitor Atlassian. This doesn't mean companies should always go from low-level to higher-level language for productivity. Google Inc did the opposite: Larry Page wrote first Pagerank system in Java and Python and his first employees rewrote it in lower-level C++ for better cpu & memory utilization of their servers.

The Chandler (personal information manager) story chronicled in the book "Dreaming in Code"[4] is very good. Even though Chandler never got well-known like AutoCAD and Wordperfect, the book lets you see how a lot of smart people can get sidetracked by endless architectural debates which delays the release of usable software. (Basically, the opposite of Eric Ries' Lean Startup where you have a Minimum Viable Product and iterate fast with real customers.) It's also a lesson that having money (Mitch Kapor's generous funding) becomes a handicap. You'd think that not having the pressure of a limited runway and not running out of VC money would empower the developers but that didn't happen. Instead, it just prolonged a lot of software architecture debates. In contrast, when companies are starving and in near-death bankruptcy, it tends to focus the mind very intensely on how to create business value. (E.g. Airbnb's founders selling cereal boxes in order to live another day and build the lodging platform.)

[1] https://www.fourmilab.ch/autofile/

[2] https://www.fourmilab.ch/autofile/www/chapter2_32.html

[3] http://www.wordplace.com/ap/index.shtml

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Dreaming-Code-Programmers-Transcenden...




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: