Life in Code A Personal History of Technology The never necessary return of one of our most vital and eloquent voices on technology and culture from the author of the seminal Close to the Machine When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco and beca

  • Title: Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology
  • Author: Ellen Ullman
  • ISBN: 9780374534516
  • Page: 112
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The never necessary return of one of our most vital and eloquent voices on technology and culture, from the author of the seminal Close to the Machine.When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco and became a computer programmer in the late 1970s, she was joining an idealistic, exclusive, and almost exclusively male cadre that had dreams and aspirations to change the worlThe never necessary return of one of our most vital and eloquent voices on technology and culture, from the author of the seminal Close to the Machine.When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco and became a computer programmer in the late 1970s, she was joining an idealistic, exclusive, and almost exclusively male cadre that had dreams and aspirations to change the world In 1997, she wroteClose to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.The intervening twenty years has seen, among other things, the rise of the Internet, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society as Ullman s clique of socially awkward West Coast geeks became our new elite, elevated for and insulated by a technical mastery that few could achieve.In Life in Code, Ullman presents a series of essays that unlock and explain and don t necessarily celebrate how we got to now, as only she can, with a fluency and expertise that s unusual in someone with her humanistic worldview, and with the sharp insight and brilliant prose that are uniquely her own Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years and the next twenty.

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    One thought on “Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology”

    1. Ellen Ullman's memoir Close to the Machine is one of the books I remember most vividly from the 1990s. She followed it up with two novels; I admired but didn't love 2003's The Bug, but I thought By Blood, from 2012, was fantastic. When I found out about Life in Code, I was ecstatic, expecting Ullman would take the writing chops she'd honed with her novels and combine it with the fascinating subject matter of Close to the Machine, resulting in an an artful, up-to-the minute document of our times. [...]

    2. A pretty good, if variable, collection of essays. Many were previously published in pretty obscure places, and the author has revised many of the older ones. They were written between 1994 and last year, and document her ups and downs in the computer-programming business, and in life. The downs are mostly related to the white males (and Asians) who dominate the business. In Ullman's view, they are mostly misogynistic and trapped in a time-warp. But she really likes tech and writing code, and doe [...]

    3. LIFE IN CODE. (2017). Ellen Ullman. ***1/2.Ullman is a computer programmer and software engineer who manages to take a look at the state and future of our world as governed by computers and the internet. She manages to examine a variety os issues that have developed through society’s growing dependence upon the internet and the people surrounding it. In this book – a sequel to her earlier popular book, “Close to the Machine” – she singles out this growing dependence by society and the [...]

    4. This is a very thoughtful book of essays by a woman who has long experience as a software engineer while morphing into a career as a novelist and essayist. The book comprises chapters that span Ullman's career from the 1990s up through 2017. She remembers her life in programming and the toxic environment that still prevails for women in technology careers. In the middle of this, she also talks about artificial intelligence, philosophy, government policy and the future of the Internet, the perver [...]

    5. Another must-read, and a pleasure to read, given the quality of her thinking and writing. And I say that despite the fact that it is a collection of pieces from across three decades, only one of which was written in early 2017. If you are in my age group, and particularly if you lived in San Francisco, you will recognize some of what the author is writing about. If you are younger, you may benefit from her perspective -- which sounds like I'm saying 'you kids today,' but what I mean is, don't di [...]

    6. I don’t really give five star reviews and I was hesitant about this one, but this book made me feel things. I especially loved the essay “Dining with Robots” because it painted cooking and programming (art and science?) as two different things, valuable in their own right but certainly not the same, which I thought showed an all-too-rare appreciation for magic outside of science and logic and tech. I also felt like Ellen articulated much of what scares me and puts me off about tech, but do [...]

    7. A rich philosophical discussion of technology. A striking contrast to literature whose philosophical moments rarely seem to reach past adolescence. Explores questions about the mindset of technology. The genius and self-doubt. Questions about artificial intelligence, intelligence itself, and the essential elements of our humanity. Her description of the experience of working as a programmer had many vignettes that were familiar. The TRS-80, working in the attic of a building, problems in old for [...]

    8. I programmed computers back in the 80s and I have been longing for someone who would put that experience in words. This book does that. I usually dislike recycled literature, but in this case, I admit that the selection of essays and articles came together. I mostly enjoyed the stories about programming, the other, more general musings, was similar of listening in on a conversation, which was fine, and her thinking is much more interesting and fact-based than, say Steven Pinker. She also makes a [...]

    9. An interesting read. As a female working in technology (although not an engineer myself) I found the first 1/3 to be very interesting and helped explain some phenomena I have observed. 4 our of 5 stars because there was a middle section which talked about AI for what seemed like a really long time without a lot of the personal narratives and writing style to which I had become accustomed and enjoyed from this writer. The last third came back to relating personal stories and expressed some feelin [...]

    10. An interesting collection of essays about programming and technology through the years. I really enjoyed ‘The Rise and First Fall of the Internet’ written in 1998. Ullman's fears about the Internet and its affect on our culture are largely true today. I also enjoyed Ullman's personal stories about being a female programmer in a male dominated field in the 1970’s-90’s. Sadly much of what she experienced is probably still true today. If you’ve been in the field of technology for a while, [...]

    11. interesting! early days of code, Y2K crisis, the impact of tech startups in San Francisco. I really want to read her other memoir now. Here is my favourite quote about Ullman's entry into programming:"Yet I had a cocky courage and went ahead, armed with little but some knowledge about video, the understanding that I can was not afraid of machines, and an honors thesis on Macbeth." p240Who said humanities were worthless!??

    12. From the geeky life of computer programmers to serious theoretical discussions of technology, this book has it all! Entertaining and well written, you don't need to be a data scientist or programmer to enjoy. If you exist in this crazy thing we call the Information Age, there is something in this book for you.

    13. A great series of essays that look at the evolution of technology from the 90's to now. Ullman gives a very personal look at her experiences and thoughts on the changing state of our world through the eyes of technology.

    14. Read via audiobookEAT book. At most, maybe half or so is spent explicitly discussing tech culture and its lack of diversity, etc, but the other half is insightful analysis/commentary about tech and computers and life. A real love of coding and computers that made me want to dive deeper and learn more. Beautifully written with catchy phrases (i.e. "thought fart" in reference to Donald's tweets). Really inspirational and thought-provoking. First time I finally understood what y2k actually was. I w [...]

    15. My rating: 4.75If ever there were a book that perfectly captures why diversity of perspective is so very necessary to the conversation, this is that book. Part memoir, part discussion on the unfolding history of technology and programming, Ullman brings a unique voice to the conversation about the forces shaping the design of technology and the greater Bay Area. This collection of essays made me want to throw down my smartphone (has it really only been ten years?) while simultaneously planting t [...]

    16. I picked this up because Ellen Ullman was on my favorite podcast (Note to Self) and I liked some of the things she said. This book was interesting both for the historic perspective (she was a computer programmer in the 70s and has watched technology and culture evolve together), and also for her insights into life, culture, technology, privacy, and activism. I could probably re-read this book every year and still glean a lot of insight and perspective from it, and I hope it will be one I will re [...]

    17. This is a really wonderful collection of essays spanning Ullman's decades in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech scenes. Sometimes these kinds of collections can be disjointed or not cohesive, feeling like an afterthought. Life in Code is so well edited and structured that it avoids those problems entirely, presenting a coherent idea through a handful of pieces written across some 25 years.As worldviews go, Ullman's has that rare benefit of coming from somebody who is extremely thoughtful [...]

    18. The sub-title of this book, ‘A Personal History of Technology’ describes the contents perfectly. This is a history of the computer science industry from someone who was part of many of the iconic moments of that history. The essays in this collection cover classic computer history and timeless meditations on the role of technology in our lives. Dates at the beginning of each essay indicating when they were written made them even more meaningful by providing context.I can’t say enough good [...]

    19. Fair warning: I am a complete novice in this subject. While I am trying to learn and have successfully run "Hello World", currently my main interest in the world of programming and coding is philosophical rather than functional. Perhaps this is why I found so much value in this book. Reflecting on her long career in computer science and programming, Ellen Ullman recounts her often mundane and frustrating work experiences and pairs them with thoughtful musings about both the beauty and the danger [...]

    20. I wrote a review of this book, but took too long and it timed out and tossed it into the bit bucket. ("Bit bucket" is programmer slang for the mythical location of lost data.) This happened before so I'd learned to write less carefully and post less thoughtful prose. But, not being a computer, I forgot this time and tried to fix my typos and go beyond first draftiness. A better programmer (it's not the computer's fault) would have had the program save my earlier draft so I could recover. Ms. Ul [...]

    21. Wow, rarely does a book start off so well and go so sour.The first few chapters are great. Ullman demonstrates a rare insight into the language of coding and how it intertwines her life and ours.Gradually the fade comes. First there's many chapters on AI and sentience. This is well trod ground for me, so there's not much that's new are insightful - but fine all the same.Then the chapter on her cat, and I start to think these are just little dips into someone's psyche that got strung together to [...]

    22. Here's another book I might never have read but for the Read Harder Challenge. This was the selection I chose to meet the 'read a book about technology' challenge. I had been browsing the technology section of bookstores for months, and I was losing hope of finding something that wouldn't leave me stupefied with boredom. But then I read a couple reviews of this book, and I thought this is my kind of technology book. Ellen Ullman started as a programmer in the late 1970s and learned mostly by doi [...]

    23. I found this book at the library. I took it home as it had chapters about the author's point of view of technology history. Plus a chapter that had "CQ" in the title.For me, the stories of the author's travels through the programming world were the best. As a software engineer, these were fun and humorous. I started getting paid for my craft in the mid-1990's, around the time the stories in the book starts. I could relate to a lot of it. Especially the part about the hierarchy. The closer you ar [...]

    24. For anyone who's ever worked in a male-dominate society (politics, computers) they know where Ullman is coming from when she talks about boy-men culture where women are the enemy and not even considered worthy of respect. Ullman was in the field a long time as a code programmer then software engineer and even though the work could be mind numbingly tedious with long hours and no social life while co-workers play whiffle ball at their desks, you still get caught up in her passion for what technol [...]

    25. Ellen Ullman is a talented writer. She is also a professional coder and a really cool dude. I feel annoyed sometimes when one body seems to possess more than her fair share of talent. Nevertheless, this book was a great read. It is not difficult - I'd say you'd only need an 8th grade reading level to enjoy it. She uses normal words to write about big concepts. She is writing for the people, about the people and about the things that affect our lives. She writes about gentrification, privacy, inc [...]

    26. It was very interesting and often nostalgic to read these essays, both the computer-related and personal tales from Ellen Ullman's life. It evoked memories of my dabbles into coding, the courses in COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC and the hopes of somehow entering the fascinating new world of programming. It brought back memories of hearing about the Internet and searching for a way onto this info superhighway, finally getting a partial connection via Prodigy, an early service. The exciting possibility to [...]

    27. ~3.5An insightful, inspiring, warily hopeful and deftly written memoir. Parts I and II were most engaging, synthesizing technical details and personal moments into thoughtful conclusions on the clean edge of a penetrating style. The second half was not as well connected to Ullman's actual experiences with technology, sometimes being only tangentially related, and felt a bit more like proselytizing (though this may be appropriate given the larger societal topics).A reprise of the AI section, give [...]

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