Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman

by Cody

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman (cover art)

Aside from the occasional reference to antiquated software and machines, much of Life in Code reads as though it was just written. Many of the very same quibbles, worries, issues, and insights found in recent issues of Wired or Fast Company have been on her mind for decades. Even more impressive than this sagacity, though, is Ullman’s ability to render technology (and its socio-cultural implications) in clear and immersive text. For example:

“…I spent a long time thinking about the interior life of a robot. I tried to imagine it: the delicious swallowing of electric current, the connoisseurship of voltages, exquisite sensibilities sensing tiny spikes on the line, the pleasure of a clean, steady flow. Perhaps the current might taste of wires and transistors, capacitors and rheostats, some components better than others, the way soil and water make up the terroir of wine, the difference between a good Bordeaux and a middling one.” (p. 191)

It’s a rare person that can negotiate the world of bytes and world of words with equal deftness, but that’s exactly what Ullman does. We’re lucky to have her insight, foresight, and wit as we digitally blaze forth.