The Dream Machine, which is nominally a biography of J.C.R. Licklider, is actually an overview of the history of computing from M.I.T.’s Whirlwind effort through the beginnings of true personal computing in Silicon Valley; much of the book concerns ARPA and ARPAnet. Lick’s biography is embedded in the story, but its purpose is to center the discussion. The predominant focus of the book is on the efforts of Licklider’s colleagues, and it often strays far from his life story.
This is a terrific book. The writing is lucid, the research–though predominantly from secondary sources–is excellent. If you plan to read one book about the ARPA computing effort, this should be that book.
This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.