Coders by Clive Thompson [8/10]

Here’s one for the geeks, the real heroes of the universe. Forget the soldiers, the tycoons, the footballers, it’s the programmers, the ones who write the code that underpins our modern world, who rule. Clive Thompson, an assured chronicler and a deft stylist, does something remarkable with “Coders,” attempting to write the history of modern programming, and to a large degree, succeeds. Moving through the generations of hardware and software, and the generations of attending coders, Thompson interviews the super creators, the uber coders, the role models for all those filmic tropes we love, but also the regular folks who program for a living. He addresses meritocracy, gender biases, coding style, and our current discontents with the ubiquitous software we use. I’ve done some coding in my own life, of a very mixed quality, and I’ve written fictional characters from that world, so I found every chapter fascinating. If at the end one has the feeling that “Coders” does not quite delineate a coherent history, well, I think we’ll need the luxury of some more passing time before we have anything truly magisterial. In the meantime, this is a balm for the soul, a paean to those who shape the digital.

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