This book of previously published essays by the author of Chaos and Faster is an eclectic chronicle of the information revolution's first 10 years. "The last decade of the twentieth century came as a surprise," writes James Gleick. What Just Happened shows how surprising it was: in the book's first piece, from 1992, Gleick notes that "a relatively small number of personal computer users use Windows." (He's a good sport about it, too, poking fun at himself in an introduction for making such an obsolete observation.) A longish piece on Microsoft from 1995 seems to correct the problem when Gleick comments on "the ever-advancing boundary of Microsoft's Windows package." Then it goes on to get something really right: "Microsoft's own power poses a threat, too--the threat that comes with the self-fulfilling destiny of any monopolist." That's a prescient observation, considering the antitrust actions taken against the company since those words were written. The closing chapter of the book is fascinating and forward-looking; it's not about what just happened but what may happen. Gleick anticipates the appearance of wristwatches containing "biometric information about your loved ones, so you can see how your parents are doing." If that doesn't sound exciting enough, consider this prediction: "One can even imagine properly functional motor-vehicle offices." Now that's something to look forward to. --John Miller
For the past decade change seemed to happen over night, every night. Fueled by the exponential rise of technology, the digital revolution was difficult for many to make sense of, but James Gleick watched and analyzed, criticized and commended, participated in and prophesized about the instantaneous transformations of the world as we knew it.
What Just Happened is a collection of Gleick’s articles from this equally exciting and terrifying decade—remember Y2K?—that range from condemnations of maddeningly pervasive bugs in Microsoft software to the invisible shackles we wear in an “Inescapably Connected” world. Combining insight and reason with wit and passion, What Just Happened is an essential tour of our technology-driven mania.
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