Bricklin on Technology, ISBN: 978-0-470-40237-5The Structure of This Book
This is the text from Chapter 1 that explains what is in each chapter of Bricklin on Technology. These chapters are followed by a "Summing It All Up" section that ties things together and an index.
The Structure of This BookI start this book in Chapter 1 with some discussion about why I like to go into great detail looking at various ways to understand things.
In Chapter 2 I examine some of the emotional and sociological forces that affect what people are willing to pay for in technology-assisted personal communication (such as cell phones and photographs). I follow that in Chapter 3 with a look at the recording industry as a case study about some of these forces and relate them to a business situation being impacted by changing technology.
In Chapters 4 and 5 I expand from looking at the behavior of individuals to looking at using the enhanced connectivity made possible by the Internet to leverage larger groups of people. This includes the role of people who volunteer. I also include transcripts of two interviews I conducted with a senior person from the United States Navy about cooperation and use of technology at the national and international level. As a case study, in Chapter 6 I look at a portion of the evolution of blogging and podcasting, with a detailed look at the role of bloggers during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
In the second part of the book I change focus a bit more to the technology side and look at the nature of tools themselves. I cover in detail in Chapter 7 my view that, as human beings, we need tools and not "assistants." In Chapter 8 I look at some aspects of mobile and hand-operated computer technology-based tools, an area that is now flourishing with our ability to build products like the iPhone. This way of having a person control computing power is much more intimate than the older deskbound and keyboard-controlled computers of the 1980s and 1990s and is becoming a dominant means for controlling computer power. I look at the very real issue of usability through an examination of the Palm Beach, Florida, ballot situation, which I covered in detail at the time in the fall of 2000 on my blog.
Usability is concerned with operation on a second-by-second basis and human errors that occur in an instant. Another issue is long-term usefulness and dealing with unexpected changes and events over time. As computer technology, driven by software, becomes the fabric through which we run society and conduct much of our commerce, its robustness and durability are crucial. In Chapter 9 I cover that extensively in a discussion of both copy-protection and the long-term maintenance of the software that helps run our world, looking to noncomputer fields for guidance.
In Chapter 10 I look at an important product that has so far successfully evolved over three decades, the personal computer, especially the IBM PC and its descendents, including source material from its introduction. Too often we think of tools as static entities, born fully formed and staying unchanged, with their use and potential fully understood at the outset. Looking at the evolution of important products can help you get a better feel for the true nature of the process through which they change.
To look at the development of other tools, in Chapter 11 I cover the creation of the wiki, an Internet-based tool used by groups of individuals to leverage the group, through an interview with its inventor. In Chapter 12, I chronicle the early development of VisiCalc, a tool mainly used by individuals to leverage themselves. These stories show how inventors react to common needs to produce a solution and how those products end up in the hands of others.