Historical Perspective and the Inside Story of Silicon Valley by award-winning journalist Kara Swisher

One of my passions since my early university days has been to follow the tech industry. Those initial university days were from 1985 to 1989. The ear before I spent in the military, which was a common thing for every Finnish male.

I have always been fascinated with Silicon Valley and the birth of the tech industry and have read what I could get in my hands on personalities such as Larry Ellison from Oracle and many others. One could ask why Larry Ellison. I am fascinated by the story of how he was able to commercialize the relational database technology even if he really wasn't the inventor of it. He just used brute force to do what he needed to do to commercialize it. I remember reading the book (2003) "The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison"by Mike Wilson.

I was also a "fan" of Borland software company at the time as their tool "Object Pascal" was the first time I understood what an object is and an instance of an object. My wife Rita Salonen still remembers that as I "got it" during our grocery trip from Pihlajanmäki (Finland) to Malmi (Finland) shopping center. She asked me, "What happened?" and looked scared. My fascination with programming and working with development teams has never gone away. It is still there.

In late February 2024, the award-winning journalist Kara Swisher came out with a new book, "Burn Book: A Tech Love Story," which I have now read and wanted to share with you.

The Booklist characterizes her as "Swisher, the bad-ass journalist and OG chronicler of Silicon Valley…takes no prisoners in this highly readable look at the evolution of the digital world…Bawdy, brash, and compulsively thought-provoking, just like its author, Burn Book sizzles”

The book is part of a memoir, part history, and is a chronicle of tech's most powerful players. If you are in tech and have not heard of her, you must not have studied and followed the tech landscape. Kara Swisher is also tightly liked by the famous Wall Street Journal journalist Walt Mossberg, whose tech reviews are world-famous.

The book portrays interesting stories of Ms. Swisher's encounters with personalities such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Bob Iger, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Meg Whitman, Peter Thiel, Sam Altman, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

So the question you might have now. Did I like the book, what was good, and was there something I did not care for? For someone like me tracking the industry, getting the "inside scoop" of what these tech leaders were thinking and behaving was super interesting. Ms. Swisher spends quite a bit of time portraying Elon Musk, and the portrayal is not pretty. I leave you to judge yourself and what that means (read the book). I also have to say I give her credit as a journalist for not jumping to the multiple multi-million dollar offers she got in the "crazy 90s" from high-flying tech companies. She wanted to stay independent and to be able to report without any bias. It is also clear to me that leaving "money on the table" is something she must have reflected on in later stages of her career as she says, "I do like money." Based on the book, she did well with the industry events that she and Walt Mossberg put together, so no worries on the money front.

I was surprised that she used many words I had never heard, so the sophistication in the language was pretty high. I am surprised because one would think that non-native English speakers are a good target for the book, but a few language structures might be hard for a non-native person. I have lived in the US for 25 years, so if I have to pick up a dictionary, I am sure a non-native also has. This has not happened to me in a long time. Maybe Ms. Swisher expects the book to be translated into different foreign languages so it won't be a problem. I am not saying that I did not understand the context of the word, but my personality is such that it will bother me if I don't understand something.

When I bought the book, I was pondering how Ms. Swisher would be able to give a historical perspective on the tech industry. It became pretty clear to me that the perspective is her own relationships with industry figures and how they have shaped her view. As there are so many industry figures in tech, she needed to ignore many known personalities and pick the ones still interesting to us, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, etc.

I recommend the book as it takes you back to the 80s and 90s up until today. It is an interesting journey that Ms. Swisher has taken and reminds us how we came to where we are today with respect to the big tech events and companies.

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Dr. Petri I. Salonen

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