The Startup Channel

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 6.40.46 AMWe interrupt this book for a quick update on what’s happening in my so-called career. Shortly before beginning this serialization of Accidental Empires I explained that I would be doing some new projects including a book and a startup about startups — The Startup Channel (thestartupchannel.net). The latter project will now launch in April so it’s time to explain.

The Startup Channel will be an online video channel about startups and startup people. You’ll find it probably on YouTube unless some other Internet video outfit makes me a better offer (hint, hint). We’ll be launching with 40 hours of pre-produced content, which is a lot for online video where the […]

Accidental Empires, Chapter 7 — All IBM Stories are True

IBM-PC-83ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER SEVEN

ALL IBM STORIES ARE TRUE

I live in California in a house that I can’t really afford in a neighborhood filled with blue-haired widows and with two-earner couples who have already made the jump from BMW to Acura and in their hearts are flirting with voting Republican.

Remember when life came mainly in black and white, and Wally and the Beav walked down a street as the credits rolled across them? That was my house they walked by on that tree-lined street, my 50-by-105 foot lot, my gnawing termites, my 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk dripping oil in the driveway, and my orange tree dropping oranges in the […]

Accidental Empires, Part 7 (Chapter 1d) — Our Nerds

accidental-195x300The founders of the microcomputer industry were groups of boys who banded together to give themselves power. For the most part, they came from middle-class and upper-middle-class homes in upscale West Coast communities. They weren’t rebels; they resented their parents and society very little. Their only alienation was the usual hassle of the adolescent—a feeling of being prodded into adulthood on somebody else’s terms. So they split off and started their own culture, based on the completely artificial but totally understandable rules of computer architecture. They defined, built, and controlled (and still control) an entire universe in a box—an electronic universe of ideas rather than people—where they made all the rules, and could at last […]

Accidental Empires, Part 6 (Chapter 1c) — The Airport Kid

accidental-195x300ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

The Airport Kid was what they called a boy who ran errands and did odd jobs around a landing field in exchange for airplane rides and the distant prospect of learning to fly. From Lindbergh’s day on, every landing strip anywhere in America had such a kid— sometimes several—who’d caught on to the wonder of flight and wasn’t about to let go.

Technologies usually fade in popularity as they are replaced by new ways of doing things, so the lure of flight must have been awesome, because the airport kids stuck around America for generations. They finally disappeared in the 1970s, killed not by a transcendant technology but by the dismal economics of flight.

The numbers […]

Accidental Empires, Part 4 (Chapter 1a) — The Demo God

accidental-195x300ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES CHAPTER ONE

THE   DEMO-GOD

Years ago, when you were a kid and I was a kid, something changed in America. One moment we were players of baseball, voters, readers of books, makers of dinner, arguers. And a second later, and for every other second since then, we were all just shoppers.

Shopping is what we do; it’s entertainment. Consumers are what we are; we go shopping for fun. Nearly all of our energy goes into buying—thinking about what we would like to buy or earning money to pay for what we have already bought.

We invented credit cards, suburban shopping malls, and day care just to make our consumerism more efficient. We sent our wives, husbands, […]