For the past decade change seemed to happen over night, every night. Fueled by the exponential rise of technology, the digital revolution was difficult for many to make sense of, but James Gleick watched and analyzed, criticized and commended, participated in and prophesized about the instantaneous transformations of the world as we knew it.
What Just Happened is a collection of Gleick’s articles from this equally exciting and terrifying decade—remember Y2K?—that range from condemnations of maddeningly pervasive bugs in Microsoft software to the invisible shackles we wear in an “Inescapably Connected” world. Combining insight and reason with wit and passion, What Just Happened is an essential tour of our technology-driven mania.
This book of previously published essays by the author of Chaos and Faster is an eclectic chronicle of the information revolution's first 10 years. "The last decade of the twentieth century came as a surprise," writes James Gleick. What Just Happened shows how surprising it was: in the book's first piece, from 1992, Gleick notes that "a relatively small number of personal computer users use Windows." (He's a good sport about it, too, poking fun at himself in an introduction for making such an obsolete observation.) A longish piece on Microsoft from 1995 seems to correct the problem when Gleick comments on "the ever-advancing boundary of Microsoft's Windows package." Then it goes on to get something really right: "Microsoft's own power poses a threat, too--the threat that comes with the self-fulfilling destiny of any monopolist." That's a prescient observation, considering the antitrust actions taken against the company since those words were written. The closing chapter of the book is fascinating and forward-looking; it's not about what just happened but what may happen. Gleick anticipates the appearance of wristwatches containing "biometric information about your loved ones, so you can see how your parents are doing." If that doesn't sound exciting enough, consider this prediction: "One can even imagine properly functional motor-vehicle offices." Now that's something to look forward to. --John Miller
“A marvellous journey around our technology-drenched world ... The work of a master.” – The Independent
“Gleick’s a crack investigator who digs for the exceptional facts…. A worthy overview…on the brave new problems we’ve faced—and will face into the future.” – Detroit Free Press
“Invokes nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time, before we took all this technology for granted.” – The Rocky Mountain News
“ What Just Happened is a lively time capsule that examines the recent past—one that, not long ago, seemed fairly far-fetched.” – Columbus Dispatch
“Gleick is a writer blessed with a techie’s mind and insight. . . . As we further immerse ourselves into a plugged-in world, it would be wise to listen to what Glieck had to say back when.” — Book Street USA
"Gleick is the king of popular science writing." — Irish Times
"Gleick is one of America's leading exegete of the technological revolution that, like it or not, is taking over all our lives. He spends his at the cutting edge of computer and allied sciences, returning from the front with visions of the future." — The Observer
“Gleick’s essays remain pertinent.” — The New York Times Book Review
“James Gleick . . . is on the outer reaches of the electronic frontier . . . and [he] has mastered it.” — The Roanoke Times
“ What Just Happened is a lively time capsule that examines the recent past— one that, not long ago, seemed mostly far-fetched.” — The Columbus Dispatch
From the Back Cover