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Paperback Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer Book

ISBN: 0688095119

ISBN13: 9780688095116

Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer

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Book Overview

How innovation can fare within large corporate structures. This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

an excellent account of the Xerox PARC story and more

This is an outstanding book about the intersection between business and technology with implications for much more than the PARC story. It is written by business school types and provides much more insight than the Michael Hiltzik book, Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age, which is also quite good but marred by a lack of understanding of the business story. I agree with the reviewer, "A Customer," who is an engineer and business school grad. I was an engineer working with computers in El Segundo in 1959 (There were no "computer engineers" then), and noted that almost all the people I worked with were going to business school, law school or medical school (as I did). As a medical student, I was contacted by IBM about doing some work with computers and medicine but there was nothing at the time that would interest me. Those computers were just fast desk calculators. These authors spend time describing the rise of Xerox and, contrary to another (one star) review, I believe their account is more sympathetic to Xerox than that of Hiltzik. One of the most important themes of the book is their description of the role of "financial people" in the decline of Ford Motor Company and of Xerox. The rise of Ford-trained executives coincided with the loss of the entrepreneurial spirit at Xerox. This theme was almost as important to me as the story of PARC although I had already read that story in Hiltzik's book. This country faces serious economic challenges and has to overcome the influence of the "financial people" in banking and manufacturing. Medicine is also running into serious problems of management that require the return of the "line worker" mentality that knows how to make the product, not just how to manipulate money. We have seen how that worked out the past year. This book is excellent and has a lot more to say about business in general, not just about Xerox in the 1970s.

A must Read

If innovation is in any way your concern read this. It memorializes fluently almost all the things a management can do to kill creativity.

Real business insight into how and why Xerox blundered

I have been a fan of the story of Xerox PARC ever since reading "Fumbling the Future" several years ago. In fact the lessons I learned contributed to my leaving engineering to get a business degree. Recently I read "Dealers of lightning" by Michael Hiltzik and was surprised to read through it and come across the Epilogue. In fact, I was actually disturbed by how easily the author relieved Xerox of its opportunity (and obligation from a shareholders perspective) to capitalize on the creativity and ingenuity of Xerox PARC. Those of us within the high-tech community certainly appreciate the open ended research that Xerox PARC conducted which has lined the pockets of so many that were never in any way associated with Xerox. However, if I was a shareholder of Xerox or any other company, I would be horrified by any management rationale that 'you are not obligated to exploit the technologies created within your labs'. Granted you may not be able to exploit all, but how about most? Xerox is not the government and is not using tax dollars for a collective good. I found the logic flawed and violates the basic motivations for establishing a commercial entity. I would recommend that for a business minded individual that you go read "Fumbling the Future" - which I have since reread. Reading "Dealers of lightning" was like watching a lawyer weave a case for premeditated murder against an accused and then claim temporary insanity as the final defense.

An amazing history of Xerox

I've been at Xerox Connect (the IT consulting arm of Xerox for about 2 years) and I was aware of Xerox's history with the PC, mouse, laser printer, etc... I am amazed at the skill and innovation Xerox had in it's ealy days, and how they've applied that same drive to their business today.

A great example of management thought and action mismatch

The book describes the history of Xerox's failure to capitalize on its own stated mission in the 70's -- to move beyond a copier company and become a document company. Most of the story revolves around the history of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Though the story of giving away the personal computer is interesting to those of us in the industry, the real benefit of the book is for anyone in management. It describes how managment describe a vision without creating a culture that supports that vision. The book has lessons for any manager trying to understand the issue of managing change. The only problem with the book is that it is out of print and hard to find. Hopefully a new edition will be published.
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