Posts Tagged ‘pre-Internet’

Pre-Internet era books that have not yet been bettered

October 31st, 2016 No comments

It is a surprise to some that there are books written before the arrival of the Internet (say 1995) that have not yet been improved on. The list below is based on books I own and my thinking that nothing better has been published on that topic may be due to ignorance on my part or personal bias. Suggestions and comments welcome.

Before the Internet the only way to find new and interesting books was to visit a large book shop. In my case these were Foyles, Dillons (both in central London) and Computer Literacy (in Silicon valley).

Foyles was the most interesting shop to visit. Its owner was somewhat eccentric, books were grouped by publisher and within these subgroups alphabetic by author, and they stocked one of everything (many decades before Amazon’s claim to fame of stocking the long tail, but unlike Amazon they did not have more than one of the popular books). The lighting was minimal, every available space was piled with books (being tall was necessary to reach some books), credit card payment had to be transacted through a small window in the basement reached via creaky stairs or a 1930’s lift. A visit to the computer section at Foyles, which back in the day held more computer books than any other shop I have ever visited, was an afternoon’s experience (the end result of tight fisted management, not modern customer experience design), including the train journey home with a bundle of interesting books. Today’s Folyes has sensible lighting, a Coffee shop and 10% of the computer books it used to have.

When they can be found, these golden oldies are often available for less than the cost of the postage. Sometimes there are republished versions that are cheaper/more expensive. All of the books below were originally published before 1995. I have listed the ISBN for the first edition when there is a second edition (it can be difficult to get Amazon to list first editions when later editions are available).

“Chaos and Fractals” by Peitgen, J├╝rgens and Saupe ISBN 0387979034. A very enjoyable months reading. A second edition came out around 2004, but does not look to be that different from the 1992 version.

“The Terrible Truth About Lawyers” by Mark H. McCormack, ISBN 0002178699. Very readable explanation of how to deal with lawyers.

“Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” by Scott McCloud. A must read for anybody interested in producing code that is easy to understand.

“C: A Reference Manual” by Samuel P. Harbison and Guy L. Steele Jr, ISBN 0-13-110008-4. Get the first edition from 1984, subsequent editions just got worse and worse.

“NTC’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary” by Jack Halpern, ISBN 0844284343. If you love reading dictionaries you will love this.

“Data processing technology and economics” by Montgomery Phister. Technical details covering everything you ever wanted to know about the world of 1960’s computers; a bit of a specialist interest, this one.

I ought to mention “Godel, Escher, Bach” by D. Hofstadter, which I never rated but lots of other people enjoyed.