Donated Book - Now available at Samuels Public Library

Front Royal Women's Resource Center and Royal Oak Bookshop co-sponsor donations to Samuels Public Library that are by or about women. Nan Hathaway, Book Donation Sponsor & Coordinator, chooses our books each year. Thank you Nan!

We highlight one of these books every third week each month. Our 2020 Book Reviews and Commentaries are provided by JoEllen McNeal. Thank you JoEllen!

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

By Margaret O’Mara

 

How an otherwise unexceptional swath of suburbia came to rule the world

is the central question animating The Code….”  -The New York Times Book Review

 

“Few people had heard of “Silicon Valley” and the electronic firms that clustered there when a trade-paper journalist decided to give it that snappy nickname in early 1971.  America’s centers of manufacturing, of finance, and of politics were three thousand miles distant on the opposite coast.  Boston outranked Northern California in money raised, markets ruled and media attention attracted.”  So begins The Code, the definitive chronical of how one small group of people, in one particular place, changed everything for the rest of us.

Margaret O’Mara, one of the most significant historians of the American-led digital revolution, has produced the definitive history of Silicon Valley for our time.  In The Code, she tells a story of mavericks and visionaries, but also of powerful institutions creating the framework for innovation, from the Pentagon to Stanford University.  The transformation of big tech into the engine room of the American economy and the center of so many of our hopes and dreams - and increasingly, our nightmares- can be understood, in O’Mara’s competent hands, as the story of one California valley.  As her majestic history makes clear, its fate is the fate of us all.

In The Code, Margaret O’Mara, a historian at the University of Washington, distills volumes of monographs and biographies, newspaper articles and trade-industry publications, unpublished company materials and transcripts that she gleaned from various university archives into a fast paced narrative.  Utilizing personal interviews and collections of oral histories, O’Mara enlivens the book with the reflections and stories of dozens of participants who played roles in the Valley early on.

The Code is a wise chronicle of the growth and deployment of power and is especially clear in tracking the Valley’s evolving relationship to Washington D.C.  By taking the long view, Ms. O’Mara provides us with the ability to see the root of contemporary problems created by Silicon Valley’s rise, such as for-profit companies like Facebook compiling vast digital storehouses of personal information, or the freedom in the internet era being used to spread hatred and disinformation.

Even for self-professed non-techies, The Code, is a fascinating read. “Three billion smartphones, two billion social media users, two trillion-dollar companies, San Francisco’s tallest skyscraper, Seattle’s biggest employer, the four most expensive corporate campuses on the planet, the richest people in the history of humanity, the combined valuations of tech’s so-called big Five (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google/Alphabet, and Microsoft) totaling more than the entire economy of the United Kingdom” – this is the world in which we live in the second decade of the twenty-first century.  A must read for anyone interested in how a one-horse town birthed a revolution that has shifted the course of civilization.

Margaret O’Mara, Ph.D., is the Howard &Francis Keller Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington and a contributing opinion writer at The New York TimesThe Code was named a Best Book of 2019 by the Financial Times and Publishers Weekly.

The Code
2020 November Book Commentary