"Those with high-tech products to sell, no matter if their
vision is cynical or genuine, are able to exercise a tremendous
influence over our society. They have convinced us that broken
software is to be expected, and a fix will be out soon; that a new
computer every few years is necessary; and that children need to
use computers practically from infancy. And their influence is not
limited to consumer-users. Because of the conventional wisdom that
``high-tech'' is responsible for the current economic boom, they
also have a strong influence on political, educational and legal
figures, for example, selling the notion that copyright of software
is a special legal form requiring special criminal provisions not
previously needed, or pushing for the adoption of multimedia-based
educational tools of uncertain educational value."
"Two recent examples of computer contrarian books are High Tech
Heretic by Clifford Stoll and In the Beginning was the Command Line
by Neal Stephenson. These are notable because they were both
written by experienced authors who love and are experienced in
computing, and whose previous successes in techno-book writing has
made them somewhat famous among members of the hacker community.
Both authors set out to challenge dominant ideas in our current
culture of computing, using dramatic images and emotional rhetoric
rather than through a data-driven discussion."
"Both High Tech Heretic by Clifford Stoll and In the
Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson are interesting
and fun to read. On the whole, Stoll seems to have a better grasp
of his own goal in writing his book, while Stephenson simply seems
determined to impress us with his thoughts. Neither of these books
is a carefully argued essay--two more-honed examples might be
The Trouble with Computers by Thomas K. Landauer and Failure to
Connect by Jane Healy--but High Tech Heretic and In the
Beginning... are more likely to be widely read and discussed. I
hope these will not be the last books to question the directions of
mainstream computing. Creative people will surely propose
revolutionary ideas on reorganizing our modes of education and
work, and some of these ideas will require excellent computer
technology to support them. The real challenge is preventing the
support technology itself from becoming the goal."
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