Suggested Reading: The Race for a New Game Machine

David Shippy, Mickie Phipps — The Race for a New Game Machine — Citadel Press, 2009, 256 pp. ISBN 978-080653101-4

(buy at Amazon.com)

(buy at Amazon.com)

This book, strongly reminescent of Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer-winning Soul of a New Machine, relates the history of the development of the Cell, Xenon, and Broadway processors, the hearts of Sony’s PS3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and Nintendo’s Wii game machines, respectively.

The book focuses on the insane deadlines, the absurd constraints, and the internal corporate shinanigans. Shippy and Phipps do succeed in conveying the tense atmosphere of the environment where the new PowerPC core was being developped at IBM and how they had to deal with Toshiba, Sony, and Microsoft. Shippy tells us the story using a first-person narrative, but he never quite lets us forget about him—he clearly does not suffer from any inferiority complex. His co-author, Mickie Phipps, has a very shy voice if any in the book. Maybe did she wrote chapters, but you can’t tell from the narrative. That is quite sad as I am sure her point of view on the events would have been interesting as well.

The technical content of the book is about nil. Not only technologies are hardly discussed, they are often dumbed down a bit too much. A second edition would greatly profit from replacing the appendix of “nerdy words” by a much larger appendix detailing the actual concepts of microprocessor design.

The read is not a total loss, you will learn a lot about the big corporations and their internal culture; whether it’s IBM, Microsoft or Sony.

Cut-throat, really.

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