The Devouring Fungus - Tales of the computer age - Karla Jennings

This is a book of computer stories, history and trivia from 1990. It's an odd mixture, and now pretty retro. Parts are very Jargon Filey, and others heavily mainframed and IBMy. The parts that talk about computing culture, while covering the same people, are far, far less flattering than the Jargon File is. The same jargon is covered, but here it feels as true to life as an official government pamphlet about 'Beat' slang. The whole feel of this section is of a lost anthropologist, but in its way it's rather interesting, especially as a contrast to other sources.

The other part of the book, which feels rather stronger, is the wide collection of computer anecdotes, many of admittedly dubious authenticity. The author appears to have done plenty of research, gathering facts on the verifiable stories, but sources aren't cited and some things are left rather woolly, so it's a relatively poor secondary source... but many of the stories are still quite fun!

All in all, it's a weaker book than it could have been, and there's quite a bit of overlap with various other sources, but it does fill in the gaps rather well, and as the book's dated, it's even become a bit of a historical snapshot in its own right. Worth reading, if you're into this kind of thing.

Posted 2010-05-11.