By Levi Sumagaysay
The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Levi Sumagaysay says that the surprise quotes and anecdotes in Adam Fisher’s new book “Valley of Genius” makes you feel like you’re a fly on the wall during the early days of this generation’s most impactful industry.
The Mercury News
Oh, to have been there in 1979 when Steve Jobs had an epiphany while getting the demo of Xerox PARC’s Alto computer, complete with a graphical user interface and a mouse.
Thanks to a new book by Adam Fisher, a self-professed geek who grew up tinkering with computers and video games in Silicon Valley, readers can just about eavesdrop on historic moments like that one, which led to the Lisa, then the Mac.
“Valley of Genius,” a written oral history of what Fisher calls the region’s magic moments, was truly a labor of love. “I had to sell the house to finish the book,” which fell a couple of years behind schedule, he said in an interview recently in Larkspur, where he and his wife own a shop called Fisher’s Cheese + Wine.
Because of the book’s oral-history format, Fisher was able to bring back to life some of the tech industry’s most revered figures, you could almost hear Jobs’ voice as he takes part in the conversation throughout the book.
Or picture John Perry Barlow, maybe with a cowboy hat on, talking about the birth of Wired magazine. Then there’s @realDonaldTrump, inserting himself into the telling of the hatching of Twitter.
But Fisher said writing an oral history was “ten hundred times harder” than writing a regular book.
He had to do the legwork to get the more than 200 interviews. Then he had to research and track down archived interviews with the voices he wanted to include but couldn’t interview, such as Apple co-founder Jobs, who died in 2011, a few years before Fisher started working on the book. Or Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, who are around somewhere but wouldn’t talk. Marissa Mayer talked to him, but at the very last minute.