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Ask HN: What are more books like “Masters of Doom” or “Showstoppers”?
107 points by enitihas 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments
I recently read "Masters of Doom" and found it to be far more motivating than any self help book. What books do you think are similar to it?

The usual recommendations are: "Racing the Beam", "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", "The Idea Factory", "Soul of a New Machine", "The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce"

All fine reads. But I just want to remark how singular "Masters of Doom" is. It struck me just the other day. The entire id Software team was 18-19 years old. And each individually possessed 4-5 years of (bare-metal) computer game making experience by the time they joined!

I think about that a lot when I see high schoolers today crafting worlds so easily in Unity ;)

I started reading “Masters of Doom” in my school’s library on a break between classes, and I ended up reading the whole book from start to finish in a single sitting.

In my opinion, Masters of Doom (as an audiobook) went from good to exceptional because of Will Weaton's narration.

Entirely agree. I have been hearing this while running and I have never been so motivated to get out and run, just so I could hear another chapter.

I believe, initially only Romero and Carmack had such kind of experiance. Adrian Carmack did not have experiance with video games and Tom Hall had only some bare experiance.

Computer history is one of my favorite topics, so I've read a lot over the years. Here's my list:

>> Classic computer history:

- "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution", Steven Levy

- "The Innovators", Walter Isaacson

- "Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley", Adam Fisher [innovative format, tons of interesting tidbits after you get used to the style. Read only after the other two above]

- "The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story", Michael Lewis

- "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs", Alan Deutschman

- "Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made", Andy Hertzfeld

- "Masters of Doom", David Kushner

- "Idea Man", Paul Allen

- "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", Katie Hafner

>> Entertaining stories, but less historical value:

- "Ghost in the Wires", Kevin Mitnick

- "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley", Antonio Garcia Martinez

- "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal", Nick Bilton

>> On my to-read queue:

- "How the Internet Happened", Brian McCullough [just started; very promising]

- "Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age", Leslie Berlin

- "Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of WWII", Liza Mundy

- "Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer", Paul Freiberger / Michael Swaine

>> Others worth mentioning (but just read a few chapters):

- "The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray", Charles Murray [about Cray Computers]

- "Racing the Beam" [about Atari]

- "Commodore: A Company on the Edge" [about Commodore]

>> Bonus:

- "Art of Atari", Tim Lapetino [great as a coffee table book, particularly if you grew up in the 80's :) ]

Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely is worth a read.


Accidental Empires is probably THE classic, absolutely worth a read.

I also enjoyed "Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age" by Michael Hiltzik and "Showstopper! The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft" by G. Pascal Zachary

And if you want to go beyond computer history, then I'd add

- "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", Richard Feynman

- "The hard things about hard things", Ben Horowitz

- "Shoe Dog - A Memoir by the Creator of Nike", Phil Knight

- "Bad Blood", John Carreyrou [about Elizabeth Holmes]

- "Trillion Dollar Coach" [about the life of Bill Campbell]

The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll is also great

Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia journal [1]. I also have "Blood, sweat and pixels" on my reading list [2].

1: https://www.jordanmechner.com/store/the-making-of-prince-of-...

2: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062651235/blood-sweat-and-...

I read both Blood, Sweat and Pixels and Masters of Doom over the holidays. Definitely recommend BSP

The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll is a great book... Hackers, Cold War intrigue, the CIA, the KGB, actual shell scripts, it has it all!

Is there an audiobook version of this book? I can't seem to find one.

I'm not aware of any, but I don't listen to many audiobooks. It seems like audible doesn't have one, so there's probably not one out there.

Edward Snowden's book is so good. It really described my life growing up with computers and the advent of the Internet. I'm not sure it fits MoD or showstoppers, but it certainly fits into the category of books listed here.

"Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" by Steven Levy. I found this one very motivating, covering MIT hacker heroes of old, early game developers, and the Homebrew Computer Club.

Seconding this recommendation, great book.

The Cuckoo’s Egg is not quite similar to Masters of Doom, Where Wizards Stay Up Late, or Hackers, but it’s an extremely good book about tracking hackers and Berkeley Unix (BSD). It’s motivating in a similar way though :)

A rather obscure (but I think worthy) entry is Bob Pape's "It's Behind You".

Pape was a programmer who wrote games on the 1980s British 8-bit Sinclair Spectrum computer and in this book he talks about his experiences both with the gaming industry at the time and how to program on such a limited machine. It's free on his website (http://itsbehindyou.atwebpages.com/download.html)

The Spectrum version of R-Type was legendary. This book is well worth a read. Especially for the insights as to how badly young game devs were treated by some of the companies back in the day.

Game Over by David Sheff. An older book about the early days of Nintendo and specifically focused on how Nintendo came to the U.S. with the N.E.S. Lots of interesting anecdotes and well told. I am always surprised more people haven't read this one!

Wow. I read that when I was like 16-18. I'll never forget the green cover with Mario on it.

Great timing for this question, I just completed the audiobook and was also looking for something similar.

Masters of Doom is probably the best book I have ever consumed. It was extremely motivating, the description of everything made me wish I could go back in time and be there so badly.

Think of having a goal you are so passionate about reaching, that you don't care about food, baths or anything else, you just want to work on this 20 hours a day. Must have been amazing.

Myself, I definitely will have a look at the Wolfenstein 3D and Doom "Game Engine Black Book" by Fabien Sanglard.

"What the Dormouse Said" is a classic, highly recommended.

Much more niche is "Race for a New Game Machine," highlighting the IBM design team responsible for the chips powering the Xbox 360 and PS3.

"Stay Awhile and Listen" is a great book covering the founding story of Blizzard North, creators of Diablo 1 & 2. While not as great as Masters of Doom, it reminded me quite a bit of it.

Some interesting (audio) books that sort of deal with the story and people behind technology that I liked:

"King of Hearts: The True Story of the Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery" - Medicine is a technology too, but how innovation happens there is fascinating (and a little mind boggling)

"Schiit Happened" - small hardware startup by a few guys (they make their own headphone amps/dacs in the US)

"Elon Musk"


Really enjoyed "The Idea Factory". I'm currently reading "Sandworm" - more cybersecurity related, but it's really good so far.

Does 'Showstoppers' refer to 'Show-Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT' by G. Pascal Zachary? I did enjoy that.

Yes yes. I remember the book by the name Showstoppers only, as the word somehow has got stuck in my brain.

I'm also trying to find that book, so I second the question.

I have a category on my bookshelf of semi humourous memoirs of engineering projects.

The two classics are:

Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, about the Manhattan project and other places he ended up.

And Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, about the engineering effort behind the Data General Nova. This one literally has a Pulitzer.

I also enjoyed The Race for a New Game Machine, but not as much as the above books.

I second Surely You're Joking. There's a second Feynmann book - "What do you care what other people think"

All good recs so far. Here's a few I haven't seen mentioned yet -

Computing in the Middle Ages: A View From the Trenches 1955-1983 - Severo Ornstein

Early British Computers - Simon Lavington

Geeks Bearing Gifts - Ted Nelson (and also Computer Lib/Dream Machines)

more recently - UNIX: A History and a Memoir by Brian Kernighan

Not gaming related but if you want to know the origins of where everything in computation came from, George Dyson’s “Turing’s Cathedral” is a revelation. It’s the story of computer, told by interviews of the folks who created the architecture of it all. It’s incredible history

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software

This book really captures what software development is like. Highly recommended for non-tech folks who want to understand what programmers do all day.

Not game-related, but "Almost Perfect", the story of WordPerfect the company.


As well as "The Perfect Store", the story of eBay

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis is tangentially related.

It has some programming related themes. Listened to it while I was working for a FinTech client in the online trading industry.

Not about the gaming/IT industry but "Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" is another incredibly motivating founding story

Exploding the Phone by Phil Lapsley is good and covers the years of phone phreaking.

Stay awhile and listen. It's a book about Blizzard.

The Codebreakers, David Kahn.

Dreaming in code!

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