The Dream Machine

M. Mitchell Waldrop

“Every great revolution has a vision at its core, and J. C. R. Licklider’s vision is what led to the personal computing revolution—possibly the biggest revolution of our time. He wasn’t involved in the storied early enterprises that propelled personal computers to the forefront of our daily lives, nor did he create the software that ran on the first ones or design them. Instead, he was a tenacious visionary who understood the possibilities of how people could engage with computers and software.

Licklider was penning treatises on “human-computer symbiosis,” “computers as communication instruments,” and a now-familiar “Intergalactic Network” while computers were still only a few steps away from mechanical data processors. According to author M. Mitchell Waldrop, computing’s Johnny Appleseed is due to his ideas’ popularity and contagious fervor.

Waldrop tells the story of the guy who not only started the work that led to the internet but also changed our perception of what computers were and could be in a fascinating personal narrative and thorough historical exposition.

The original texts of Licklider’s three most important writings are also included in this edition: “Man-computer symbiosis” (1960), which outlines the vision that sparked the 1970s personal computer revolution; his “Intergalactic Network” memo” (1963), which outlines the vision that sparked the internet; and “The Computer as a Communication Device” (1968), which expands on his vision for what the network might become.”