I subscribe to The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, where today’s issue says that it is the birthday of Tracy Kidder. The Almanac always has great capsule summaries of interesting people, tying in their literary strings. In this case, it is no stretch as the author won the Pulitzer prize for the book The Soul Of A New Machine.
When I forwarded the reference to Marilyn Pratt, she said she hadn’t read the book, so we exchanged email about the book and author. I have a first edition copy and I’ve read it a few times in the 25 years (yes, some of you SDN developers weren’t born yet) since it was published. Marilyn skimmed the first few pages on Amazon and agreed that the content relates to recent discussions about Geeks and Suits.
The preamble to the book talks about the Data General lobby, where an early computer (it claims their first production model) displayed charts for visitors. Not just any chart, but company profits. And to warm a suits heart, “20 percent (before taxes) of those burgeoning net sales.” – shades of EBIDTA!
You don’t get a Pulitzer for writing dry technical jargon, or complex business acronym stew, you get it by telling a human story with a serious plot, real characters, and by standing above the crowd. Tracy Kidder did this. Wired magazine visited the main character in the story recently, and I had a major flashback to the first times I read the book. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be the author, writing about how computers and technology work, or the main character, building a superior product.
When Marilyn clued me in to the The Geek Gap bookby Bill Pfleging and Minda Zetlin , I think I disappointed her by not being terrifically enthused. Now I remember why — Tracy Kidder had told a similar tale. As Joseph Campbell said, and probably the Grateful Dead as well, it’s the same hero quest tale.
Wikipedia entry for The Soul of a New Machine
The Geek/Suit Saga, as told by Marilyn Pratt
- Business and Geek Networks
- The Geek and Suit Collaboration – Chapter One
- Geek and Suit Collaboration – Chapter Two – RoundTable Podcast
- The Geek and Suit Collaboration – Chapter Three
- Clubhouse in Vegas -The Geek Suit Shootout
- When it all comes together:The Geek and Suit Collaboration – Part V Munich Edition