Dirk Kabcenell rated it it was amazing
Before I start, a disclaimer: I worked on this project at Xerox in El Segundo during much of the time covered by the book, and directly with the author for a portion of that time. I had the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It reminds me of "The Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder in bringing to life the ups and downs of a difficult engineering project, although one difference is that that book portrayed the real characters involved. Although I joined after the earliest unformed years of the Star project, I can say that the events portrayed are described in a way that matches my recollection. More importantly, the book captures the feel of the place -- the sense that we were privileged to be doing something new and important, the very smart people we worked with, the tension of competing points of view on product direction, the excitement of the National Computer Conference launch, and the weird hybrid structure of a relatively free-wheeling advanced development organization sitting inside a highly structured company. It brings back a lot of good memories, including memories of good and not-always-good people. Although the main characters are composites -- I know because bits and pieces of me showed up -- some of the other "fictional" characters will be easily recognized by people who were there at the time.
As in "The Soul of a New Machine", some of the events and controversies were highly technical. Someone who is not a software person will probably not understand the details of these, but I think they'll be enjoyable anyway. And if not, they aren't the lion's share of the book.
I was not very plugged into the politics during my time at the company but I do think the author was a bit generous to the SDD team at the expense of corporate Xerox. It is true that Xerox didn't really know what to do with this product, but ill-advised product direction also played a part in the product's inability to find a market -- most notably, in my opinion, its conception as a closed system that would only ever run Xerox-provided software. If third-party vendors had been able to provide specialized software for high-value applications, the Star workstation might have been more marketable even at its high initial price. Think about how Tesla entered the market with an expensive sports car, and then moved to less expensive vehicles. We'll never know... (