All entries for Monday 23 November 2009

November 23, 2009


Writing about web page

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This is a book I've been meaning to read for a long time. It came out in 1995 and is set in the pre-Windows 95 era. Thus reading it today serves as a bit of nostalgia tip. Apple is portrayed as a company on the decline, hurting from it's beating in the 'look and feel' lawsuit, hoping that a switch from Motorola 68K to PowerPC will help revive it's fortunes and with staff who are hanging on hoping to cash in on a redundancy package. There's mention of the hype around a company called 3D0 and of companies throwing huge amounts of money at that so very mid 90s concept of 'multimedia' whilst trying to give the impression that they have some idea what it actually means and how you to make money from it.*

Unlike the very similar in concept but set a decade later Jpod and I think every other Douglas Coupland book I've read, it is not set in or around the author's home of Vancouver, Canada. Instead it's set in Redmond, US, and later Silicon Valley. Despite the title and initial setting it is not a book about Microsoft or working at Microsoft. Rather it is about some people who happen to work at Microsoft and later a start up created by an ex-colleague.

As with all of Coupland's novels it is seems to be more about concepts and ideas than the characters, with the events which occur serving merely as a mechanism by which to explore the preceding. It doesn't tell a story with a clearly defined start and end, rather it recounts the events that occur during a particular section of the protagonist's life. It's written in the form of a journal by a guy called Daniel. He's in his late 20s and for the early chapters of the book lives in a house with nine phone lines along with five fellow Microsoft employees, one of whom is already a stock option millionaire. It's a tale of working long and irregular hours out of a passion for the work. Of all night coding sessions and 3am snack runs to the supermarket. Of living to work rather than living to work. Of an increasing awareness that people of the same age, even some in the same line of work, are starting to do 'normal' things. Normal things being settling down, living in houses they don't share with several other single people, buying furniture that isn't from Ikea and having interests and lives separate to work.

I read JPod first and enjoyed it. I've seen it refered Microserfs for the Google generation, which having now read Microserfs it obviously is. Though I think it's more like an attempt at Microserfs for the Google generation. Microserfs is more, well, it's events are far more plausible than those of JPod and over all it's the better of the two because of that.

* Remeber that multimedia craze? There were 'multimedia capable' PCs, which in practice seemed to mean they came with a pair of speakers, a graphics card capable of displaying more than just text and a CD drive. There were 'multimedia games'  and 'multimedia titles', which tended to mean they contained lots of low resolution video clips and stuff to click on. Then of course there were 'multimedia devices' such as the Philips CD-i on which you could not only play multimedia games such as Cluedo and Burn:Cycle, but also watch films in Video CD format. Which as I recall had a tendency to look worse than VHS and some films didn't all fit on one disc so you had to change them part way through.

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