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An Amazing Story – The Soul of a New Machine


As many of us cruise the information superhighway (haven’t heard that for a while have you) on 64-bit machines, it might be a good idea to take a breath and remember a pioneer. Back in the days when a small team at IBM was building a general purpose 8 bit personal computer, Tom West and his team were working on a 32-bit mini-computer. The work Tom and his team did was chronicled in a book called “The Soul of a New Machine”. The book is a fascinating look into the dynamics of a team building a new, cutting edge computer under tremendous time constraints, and of course, pressure.

According to the Boston Globe (worth the read), the book is now often used in both business and journalism classes, but even if you are not going into business, or journalism and you aren’t a geek, the book is a great read about social dynamics and is a part of your history as a person reading this blog.

Though most of us use microcomputers today, the mini was the beginning of the transition from mainframe to small, powerful computing devices. Tom West was one of the visionaries who saw a critical technological stepping stone through to completion.

Tom West passed away on May 19th this year at the age of 71. The Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Soul of a New Machine” is a fascinating and grounding read for anyone, regardless of technical inclination. Sometimes is it good to look back from whence we came and see how different aspects of our social history have come into being.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education
Cyber Threat Analysis Center
ESET North America

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