In the 1970s, while their contemporaries were protesting the computer as a tool of dehumanization and oppression, a motley collection of college dropouts, hippies, and electronics fanatics were engaged in something much more subversive. Obsessed with the idea of getting computer power into their own hands, they launched from their garages a hobbyist movement that grew into an industry, and ultimately a social and technological revolution. What they did was invent the personal computer: not just a new device, but a watershed in the relationship between man and machine. This is their story.

Buy Now

Select a DRM-free Format:

In Stock
In Stock
Buy the eBook and get these DRM-free formats delivered immediately:
  • epub (for iPhone/iPad, Android, eReaders)
  • mobi (for Kindle)
  • PDF
We can automatically send them to your Kindle, and your Dropbox. (You'll need to log in to enable these options.)

This title is currently available in Beta. Buy the eBook now, and you'll be able to download successive releases of the eBook as the authors add material and correct mistakes. You'll get the final eBook when the book is finished.

If you buy the combo pack (Beta eBook + finished Paper Book) now, you'll get the Beta eBook immediately. You'll get the finished paper book when it's released (we're currently estimating 2014-09-15, but these dates can change).


About this Book

  • 450 pages (est)
  • Published:
  • Release: B1.0 (2014-07-07)
  • ISBN: 978-1-93778-576-5

Fire in the Valley is the definitive history of the personal computer, drawn from interviews with the people who made it happen, written by two veteran computer writers who were there from the start. Working at InfoWorld in the early 1980s, Swaine and Freiberger daily rubbed elbows with people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates when they were creating the personal computer revolution.

A rich story of colorful individuals, Fire in the Valley profiles these unlikely revolutionaries and entrepreneurs, such as Ed Roberts of MITS, Lee Felsenstein at Processor Technology, and Jack Tramiel of Commodore, as well as Jobs and Gates in all the innocence of their formative years.

This completely revised and expanded third edition brings the story to its completion, chronicling the end of the personal computer revolution and the beginning of the post-PC era. It covers the departure from the stage of major players with the deaths of Steve Jobs and Douglas Engelbart and the retirements of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer; the shift away from the PC to the cloud and portable devices; and what the end of the PC era means for issues such as personal freedom and power, and open source vs. proprietary software.

Contents and Extracts

This book is currently in beta, so the contents and extracts will change as the book is developed.

  • Foreword to Third Edition
  • Preface to the Third Edition
  • Acknowledgments
  • Your Own Computer
  • Tinder for the Fire
    • Steam
    • The Breakthrough
    • Critical Mass
    • Breakout
    • Hackers
  • The Voyage to Altair
    • Uncle Sol’s Boys
    • Going for Broke excerpt
    • All Hell Breaks Loose
    • Putting It Together
    • The Competition
    • The Fall
  • The Miracle Makers
    • After Altair
    • Amateurs and Professionals
    • Building One and Building Two
    • Miracles and Mistakes
    • est and Entrepreneur’s Disease
    • Death and Rebirth
  • Homebrew
    • Power to the People
    • The Homebrew Computer Club
    • Wildfire in Silicon Valley
    • Nostalgia for the Future
    • Sixers and Seventy-Sixers
    • Home Rule
    • Homebrew Legacy
  • The Genie in the Box
    • The Altair’s First Recital
    • Pleasure Before Business
    • The First Operating System
    • Getting Down to BASIC
    • The Other BASIC
    • Electric Pencil
    • The Rise of General Software Companies
    • The Bottom Line
    • Software Empires
  • Retailing the Revolution
    • Spreading the Word: The Magazines
    • Word of Mouth: The Clubs and Shows
    • Hand-Holding: The First Retailers
    • The Big Players
  • Apple
    • Jobs and the Woz
    • Starting Apple
    • Magic Times
    • Trouble in Paradise
    • Shooting for the Moon
  • The Gate Comes Down
    • The Luggable Computer
    • The HP Way and the Xerox Worm excerpt
    • IBM
  • The PC Industry
    • Losing Their Religion
    • Clones
    • Consolidation
    • Commoditization
    • Cyberspace
    • Apple Without Jobs
  • The Post-PC Era
    • The Big Turnaround excerpt
    • Getting Really Personal
    • Into the Cloud
    • Looking Back

About the Author

Best known as the editor of Dr. Dobb’s Journal, Michael Swaine created or helped launch a dozen magazines, from InfoWorld to PragPub. He has written more than a thousand articles and columns for publications ranging from the Farmer’s Almanac to MacUser. He currently edits books for the Pragmatic Bookshelf and is working on a mystery novel set in the mythical Northwest State of Jefferson.

Paul Freiberger is an award-winning author, inventor, and former journalist. His books include Fuzzy Logic, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has written thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and columns, as well as speeches, white papers, and op-eds for top publications such as the Wall Street Journal.