Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Architects of Tomorrow, Volume 2 / William Van Winkle

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-fiction

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

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Oregonian William Van Winkle has over twenty years of involvement in the personal computer industry, the last fourteen as a journalist. In addition to the first volume of Architects of Tomorrow, Van Winkle has a poetry compilation, a short story, and a compilation of articles he has written on the intersection of cutting-edge technologies with people and society. For more, visit his blog.


For almost ten years, William Van Winkle has interviewed some of the most influential people in science and technology for CPU (Computer Power User) Magazine. This book is a collection of twelve of those interviews, some old and some recent. Each also has additional information that catches up on what the interviewee has done since, updates some of the things discussed, or provides predictions or further insights from the interview subject.


Volume 2 continues in the same vein as the first installment of Architects of Tomorrow. The twelve interviewees run the gambit from early pioneers (Nolan Bushnell of Atari and Gordon Bell, the designer of the PDP-11, the first mini-computer) to those whose stories are still being written like Tim Westergren, the founder of music streaming service Pandora.

Just as in the first volume, I learned things about people whose stories I thought I would find very familiar. In the introduction, Van Winkle says about his interviewees:

Their works have already influenced millions of people, but perhaps in each chapter, you’ll find at least one tidbit that speaks directly to you. Maybe you’ll read a phrase, connect a couple of concepts, and in some small way their words will ignite a new idea within your mind.

When reading both volumes, I found some nostalgia (both Atari and the PDP-11 minicomputer figured prominently in my life thirty-plus years ago) and some insights or ideas that combine well with others, whether with another interview or something I’ve learned elsewhere. This volume had one answer, from Westergren, responding to a question about success stories due to Pandora that I thought was applicable in many ways to eBooks, Indie authors, and the readers who gravitate towards them.

People will say their iTunes sales spiked when their music showed up on Pandora. There’s a lot of that happening now in small ways, but it’s growing. Our goal is to build a musicians’ middle class. The music business is historically feast or famine. You either get signed to a label that will support you, and you hopefully put out a string of successful records, or you get to fight over crumbs with everybody else. For consumers, that means we get a pretty limited amount of music. Labels only have room for a small number of musicians every year. But on the Internet, there’s infinite capacity for playing a broad collection of music. So I think what music is for listeners will dramatically change. The experience will be much more personalized.

Anyone with an interest in technology, where it has been, and where it might be going, should enjoy this new volume.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four stars

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