Accidental Empires Part 2 -- 1996 edition preface

Second in a series. Editor: Robert X. Cringely is serializing his classic Accidental Empires , yesterday with a modern intro and today with the two past ones. The second edition of the book coincided with release of documentary "Triumph of the Nerds". The intros provide insight into a past we take for granted that was future in the making then. Consider that in 1996, Microsoft had a hit with Windows 95 and Apple was near bankruptcy.

The first edition of Accidental Empires missed something pretty important -- the Internet. Of course there wasn’t much of a commercial Internet in 1990. So I addressed it somewhat with the 1996 revised edition, the preface of which is below. Later today we’ll go on to the original preface from 1990.

1996

In his novel Brighton Rock, Graham Greene’s protagonist, a cocky 14-year-old gang leader named Pinky, has his first sexual experience. Nervously undressing, Pinky is relieved when the girl doesn’t laugh at the sight of his adolescent body. I know exactly how Pinky felt.

When I finished writing this book five years ago, I had no idea how it would be received. Nothing quite like it had been written before. Books about the personal computer industry at that time either were mired in technobabble or described a gee-whiz culture in which there were no bad guys. In this book, there are bad guys. The book contains the total wisdom of my fifteen-plus years in the personal computer business. But what if I had no wisdom? What if I was wrong?

With this new edition, I can happily report that the verdict is in: for the most part, I was right. Hundreds of thousands of readers, many of whom work in the personal computer industry, have generally validated the material presented here. With the exception of an occasional typographical error and my stupid prediction that Bill Gates would not marry, what you are about to read is generally accepted as right on the money.

Not that everyone is happy with me. Certainly Bill Gates doesn’t like to be characterized as a megalomaniac, and Steve Jobs doesn’t like to be described as a sociopath, but that’s what they are. Trust me.

This new edition is prompted by a three-hour television miniseries based on the book and scheduled to play during 1996 in most of the English-speaking world. The production, which took a year to make, includes more than 120 hours of interviews with the really important people in this story -- even the megalomaniacs and sociopaths. These interviews, too, confirmed many of the ideas I originally presented in the book, as well as providing material for the new chapters at the end.

What follows are the fifteen original chapters from the 1992 edition and a pair of new ones updating the story through early 1996.

So let the computer chips fall where they may.

Reprinted with permission

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