I have just finished reading Merrill Chapman’s book “In Search of Stupidity – Over 20 years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters” and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Its very readable, and lends itself to both being read cover to cover, or just dipping into the individual self contained chapters. It’s all about the computer industry, from the early 80s to present day, and whilst an excellent potted history of computing in its own rights, by focusing on some of the dumb mistakes and disasters that have befallen some of the biggest names (often of yesteryear, thanks to those mistakes), makes for an entertaining read.
Opening the book at random reveals sections on the disastrous launch of the IBM PC Junior (I remember it, but had forgotten all about it, like so many others), the failure of OS/2 to take off (I went on a OS/2 Presentation Manager course, to prepare for the brave new world that never came), the raise of Philippe Kahn and Borland (I remember using the TSR Sidekick utility) and its subsequent demise when it took over Ashton-Tate, and one of my favourite chapters, that of the dotcom boom/bust period, and how the business models of the companies that went under could never have made money in the first place, but somehow everyone get swept along in the greed and excitement!
Microsoft comes off well in the book, bar the whole DOJ thing. He points out that most of the major players have made really stupid mistakes, except Microsoft and Bill Gates. Sweet!
If you are intrigued, check out his web site www.insearchofstupidity.com. There is a 45 minute video you can download from the site that shows the author being interviewed on an American business TV program – he talks about the book and recalls some of the anecdotes from the book, so it’ll give you a good feel for the book – I went and got the book based on it, and was not disappointed!