The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
“What innovations led to the rise of corporations as incredibly powerful and influential elements of society? This 2005 book by writers for The Economist is a fast and easy read that goes far back and brings us to the modern-day corporation. It does not judge as much as inform — and that’s important in the current era of ‘anti-company’ in the opinion media.”
My Years with General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan, John McDonald, and Catherine Stevens.
“Everyone should read this book. Sloan is in many ways the founder of modern management and operations. He was brought into a very young GM that was already sprawling and out of control, and after two years, found himself leading the company once the founder stepped down. This book defines so much of what a modern corporation became: pricing, distribution, forecasting, budgeting, and more. Sure, some of the details might seem archaic (or analog), but the concepts endure with high fidelity. This is a treatise of a generation. My all-time favorite.”
The Home Computer Revolution by Ted Nelson.
“As part of a three-book series, I have been looking back at the rise of the personal computer. This book is by one of the pioneers — contributor, with Andries van Dam, to the first Hypertext system while at Brown. Nelson takes us through the first decade or so of the home computer: What was a computer? What could you do with one? Why? This is an era of tinkerers writing programs to do even the most basic things with a computer, like store something to a tape to use it later.”
The User’s Guide to Small Computers by Jerry Pournelle.
“As part of the three-book series I’ve picked out for myself on the rise of the PC, this book is a tour de force of humor, cynicism, and candor about the earliest days of home computing. A look at the index for what is included (8088, BASIC, Adventure, dBase, Compupro, Osborne, Impact Printer, and 18 different text processors) and what is not (Gates, Jobs) gives an idea of the breadth of history covered in this one fast, fun, tight read.”
Planning a Computer System: Project Stretch (1962) by Werner Buchholz.
“From the PC back in time to the mainframe, this book is an insider’s view on the creation of the IBM 7030 architecture which had the codename ‘Project Stretch’. Stretch was both a failure and a hugely critical and successful milestone. Before the IBM 360, Stretch was the first transistorized computer and the fastest computer in the world. So what is this book like? Well, there’s a whole chapter on whether to use decimal or binary. The 7030 had 169,000 transistors consuming over 20Kw of power, with a core memory of 262,144 words of 64 bits (16KB). It is a dense book filled with things most people know nothing about. But really how could you work in computer science and not at least try to grok what these people accomplished; mind blowing!”