The Dream Machine


by Kai-Fu Lee

The story of the man who instigated the work that led to the internet—and shifted our understanding of what computers could be.

Behind every great revolution is a vision, and behind perhaps the greatest revolution of our time is the vision of J.C.R. Licklider. He did not design the first personal computers or write the software that ran on them, nor was he involved in the legendary early companies that brought them to the forefront of our everyday experience. He was instead a relentless visionary who saw the potential in the way that individuals could interact with computers and software.

At a time when computers were a short step removed from mechanical data processors, Licklider was writing treatises on “human-computer symbiosis,” “computers as communication devices,” and a now not-so-unfamiliar “Intergalactic Network.” His ideas became so influential, his passion so contagious, that author M. Mitchell Waldrop calls him “computing’s Johnny Appleseed.”

In a simultaneously compelling personal narrative and comprehensive historical exposition, Waldrop tells the story of the man who not only instigated the work that led to the internet, but also shifted our understanding of what computers were and could be.

This Stripe Press edition also includes the original texts of Licklider’s three most influential writings: “Man-Computer Symbiosis” (1960), which outlines the vision that led to the personal computer revolution of the 1970s; his “Intergalactic Network” memo (1963), which outlines the vision that inspired the internet; and “The Computer as a Communication Device” (1968, coauthored with Robert Taylor), which amplifies his vision for what the network could become.

Hardcover | 528 pages | Stripe Press | 2018

M. Mitchell Waldrop is a freelance writer and editor. He earned a masters in journalism and a PhD in elementary particle physics at the University of Wisconsin. He was previously a writer and West Coast bureau chief for Chemical and Engineering News, senior writer at Science, editorial page and features editor at Nature, and worked in media affairs for the National Science Foundation. He is also the author of Man-Made Minds (Walker, 1987), a book about artificial intelligence, and Complexity (Simon & Schuster, 1992), a book about the Santa Fe Institute and the new sciences of complexity. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Amy E. Friedlander.

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