High Tech Non-fiction for a Low Tech Enthusiast
February 27, 2016 5:53 PM   Subscribe

As of recently I've been really into non-fiction about the Internet, computers, hacking, or any combination of those things. I like the behind the scenes look at these technologies and the cultures surrounding them, but also that they're presented in layman's terms. Some books/articles that I've enjoyed and fit this bill have been: Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick, How Music Became Free by Stephen Witt, The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett, and this Wired article about The Silk Road (Part 2). Could you direct me to some more books and articles like these?
posted by holmesian to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's been many, MANY years since I've read it so I don't remember how technical it is, but Cuckoo's Egg is a classic.
posted by primethyme at 6:02 PM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

The classic, Mother Earth, Mother Board by Neal Stephenson is about laying transoceanic cables and surprisingly little has changed since then. Excellent insight into humanity and the people tasked with laying down these cables. I think about it often
posted by z11s at 6:10 PM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. I read it probably 20 years ago and I still think of it often.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:21 PM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I second Cuckoo's Egg, it was formative in my youth. The MIT hack gallery is chock full of entertaining history.
posted by MoTLD at 6:47 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine, and even her novel The Bug.
posted by clew at 6:58 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Out of the Inner Circle" by Bill Landreth is old now, but it's what you're talking about.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:59 PM on February 27, 2016

http://www.amazon.com/Dealers-Lightning-Xerox-PARC-Computer/dp/0887309895 was a good read.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Programmer-Bruce-Jackson/dp/0345290798 is fiction, but reads as fictionalized, or perhaps was prescient at what hacking was going to be become. I read it in the early 80s and it was rather formative for me.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:22 PM on February 27, 2016

I've recently started reading Exploding The Phone, about the history of phone phreaking. It's pretty much exactly what you're looking for.
posted by asterix at 10:03 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

You want the Darkode episode of Radio Lab, which includes several links to related articles.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:46 AM on February 28, 2016

The Hacker's Dictionary

Some of the same information is online at here.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2016

Neal Stephenson's Mother Earth Mother Board is about setting up global fiber optic links back in 1996. I could have sworn he also wrote a fantastic piece about laying the first transatlantic cable but I can't locate the link.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:41 AM on February 28, 2016

Stephenson also wrote "In The Beginning Was The Command Line". It's dated but still good.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:17 PM on February 28, 2016

"Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet" by Andrew Blum is an excellent overview of the infrastructure of the internet.
posted by Marky at 7:30 PM on February 28, 2016

Platform Studies publishes endlessly readable technical biographies of generational products.

Mostly they cover consumer products like Flash, the Wii, the Atari 2600, the Amiga, etc, but they also published Peripheral Vision, a book about early computer graphics and their impact on the fine arts.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:15 PM on February 29, 2016

Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution is a great read and does a lot to set the stage for the next couple decades' tech history.
posted by brennen at 3:54 PM on February 29, 2016

>> Levy's Hackers:

The best part was the sweet and sour bitter melon story.
posted by Bruce H. at 11:35 PM on June 29, 2016

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