Written by Tracy Kidder.
Narrated by Ben Sullivan.
First published in 1981, The Soul of a New Machine documents a skunkworks project inside Data General Corporation to rapidly design and develop a next-generation 32-bit microcomputer.
Despite an unconventional approach to staffing and project management, and enormous time pressures, the project culminated in the Data General MV/8000, launched in 1980. It was to be Data General's last major commercially successful product. The machine and Data General Corporation are now mere footnotes in the history of computing, but this book is important because it is one of the most comprehensive first-hand accounts of the corporate culture inside a computer manufacturer in that turbulent era of the late 1970s to early 1980s.
The audiobook version is a thrilling listen. Despite the dry subject matter, Kidder presents the episode as an epic adventure into unchartered territory, full of larger-than-life characters.
Much has changed in the world of computers in the last 40 years, but listening to this book it is surprising how little has changed, too.