Trial by Fire

Tales from the Dawn of the Computer Age

Non-Fiction - Biography
160 Pages
Reviewed on 06/15/2013
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Patrice Brooks for Readers' Favorite

"Trial by Fire" by Stephen M. Buck is a memoir by an eyewitness to and participant in the “dawn of the computer age”. The memoir covers his career – his introduction to computers and his ride through the acceleration of computer technology and its introduction throughout industry and our everyday lives.

The author’s writing style is warm and self-deprecating. It really felt as though I was just listening to an old friend, with a gift for gab, describing his fascinating career. For those old enough to remember the times, the political and cultural contexts in which he places his stories are enjoyable and provide historical depth, plus political and cultural breadth that most of us lack. (Just for starters, imagine being an eyewitness to the WPPPS bond debacle, traveling and working behind the Iron Curtain or a South American city notorious for its drug cartels and all the danger that entailed.) For those too young to remember and with a curiosity about computers and/or 20th century history, this will be a fascinating historical and political read – definitely more than you would ever pick up in most run-of-the-mill history and political science classes. Some of the anecdotes contain technical details that will cause many eyes to glaze over. However, as an engineer, I thoroughly enjoyed them. And this occurs so infrequently that it doesn’t detract from the overall flow of the book or the more non-technical content. Further, the descriptions of the settings, characters and activities can be enjoyed without understanding any of the technical details.