Chris Botman's homepage

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Hello! I live in Perth, Australia with my wife. I work as a web and Android developer at Humaan. This website is a place for me to gather things I like and share some things I've made. It looks unstyled because my favourite websites have always been people's homepages that looked like this. You are welcome to contact me via email ( or Twitter (@botman).

Computer geek history

The front panel of an Altair 8800b home computer.


I like reading about early computer geeks and computer history (especially the 70s and the creation of the PC). Here are some books if you're interested too. At some point I'd like to put together a timeline showing how the events covered relate to each other. If you follow the links, some of these books are available free online (legitimately). These are in the order I read them (oldest first), as some of the books lead me to the next.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy (25th anniversary ed., 2010)

If you only read one book from this list, I suggest this one. It's more about the people and their motivations, than the technology they were making. Opens with one of my favourite bits, the story of the (infamous?) Tech Model Railroad Club in the 50s and 60s, from which rose the early 'computer hacker' culture. The book goes on to cover an impressively wide cast of characters, from the famous such as Jobs, Woz and Gates, to Richard Stallman, early videogame pioneers (Sierra, and Lord British, from memory), and others I didn't know by name but who left their mark.

Free as in Freedom, Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software by Sam Williams (2002)

I read this a while ago and don't remember too much from it, though I remember enjoying it and being especially motivated about open-source after reading it. There's a new version from 2009, so I will have to re-read it and update this.

It's Behind You: the making of a computer game by Bob Pape (2013)

This is a self-published book by a chap named Bob Pape, who in the late 80s as a bedroom coder found himself porting a commerial game, R-Type. I can image there are similar stories behind many of the early computer games I played growing up--back when European game companies such as Bullfrog and Blue Byte ruled.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (2011)

I'm not much of an Apple fan, but my appreciation of Apple, and Jobs himself, grew from reading his bio. I hadn't realised just how influential Apple had been, or what the landscape looked like when they started out (growing up, I knew only PCs and Microsoft). The book doesn't gloss over his characters flaws, which makes him seem much more human, and his loss all the sadder.

Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer by Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger (3rd ed., 2014)

Covers roughly from 1970 (the birth of the PC) to the mid-90s (Steve Job's return to Apple, the rise of the web and the PC's decline). A little dry at times and I sometimes got lost as to who was who, but glad I've read it. Some reptition toward the end makes me wonder if additional content was added to the third edition that started life as articles elsewhere. This is inspiration for the TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, which you should find and watch on YouTube.