Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Life in Code

Life in Code

A Personal History of Technology

Ellen Ullman

MCD

READ AN EXCERPT →

BUY THE BOOK

Hardcover

The never-more-necessary return of one of our most vital and eloquent voices on technology and culture, the author of the seminal Close to the Machine

The last twenty years have brought us the rise of the internet, the development of artificial intelligence, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society. Through it all, Ellen Ullman lived and worked inside that rising culture of technology, and in Life in Code she tells the continuing story of the changes it wrought with a unique, expert perspective.

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t. Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years—and the next twenty.

EXCERPT

Outside of Time

REFLECTIONS ON THE PROGRAMMING LIFE

1994





I.

People imagine that programming is logical, a process like fixing a clock. Nothing could be further from the truth. Programming is more like...

Reviews

Praise for Life in Code

“This book is an original. It reads like a memoir, personal and compelling. But it’s also a set of savvy reflections about the unfolding of digital culture as it became mainstream culture and we all learned to live with its aesthetic, values, and politics. Here, nothing about the inevitability or the virtue of these three are taken for granted. The question of our ‘post-humanity’ is tackled as just that, a question for human beings to discuss rather than a technical problem for programmers to dispense with. Life in Code will launch the most interesting conversations!” —Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation

"What is most engaging about this collection is that Ullman, an expert in the field, allows readers access to sometimes highly technical material, never pandering to the most obvious topics. For example, she does talk about the struggles of women in tech, but doesn't generalize. It would be too simple, too expected to rehash that story line . . . Her narratives throughout the book both recount historical events and reflect on how much technological advances have affected the core of both our humanity and our society." —Rebekah Miel, Bust

"Ullman is a rare breed . . . She offers a vivid, gripping window into what it is to be shaped by keyboard characters and machine . . . Ullman relishes tech's beauty while also fearing what it has created." —Jessica Bennett, Elle

"Ullman's takes on tech's gaines (iPhones, endless information) and drawbacks (decision paralysis, loneliness) are often witty and always accessible." —Real Simple

"Sharply written, politically charged . . . What Anthony Bourdain did for chefs, Ullman does for computer geeks." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Ullman maintains a healthy skepticism regarding the notion that technology will cure all that ails us . . . she brilliantly questions the computer’s capacity for sentience." —Ben Segedin, Booklist

Praise for Ellen Ullman

“Ullman is that rare member of the coding tribe: a translator who deeply understands the world we live in and the worlds we build with software . . . Her insights are finely wrought, philosophical, and lasting.” —Anna Wiener, The New Republic

“No one writes more eloquently than Ullman . . . about the peculiar mind-set of the people who create the digital tools we use every day.” —Laura Miller, Salon

“Ellen Ullman writes unsparingly of the vivid, compelling, emotionally driven souls who gave us our new machines.” —Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March

“[Ullman is] a strong woman standing up to, and facing down, ‘obsolescence’ in two different, particularly unforgiving worlds—modern technology and modern society.” —J. D. Biersdorfer, The New York Times Book Review

“Ullman comes with her tech bona fides intact (she is, after all, a seasoned software engineer). But she also comes with novel material . . . We see the seduction at the heart of programming: embedded in the hijinks and hieroglyphics are the esoteric mysteries of the human mind.” —Constance Hale, Wired

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Ellen Ullman

Ellen Ullman wrote her first computer program in 1978. She went on to have a twenty-year career as a programmer and software engineer. Her essays and books have become landmark works describing the social, emotional, and personal effects of technology. She is the author of two novels: By Blood, a New York Times Notable Book; and The Bug, a runner-up for the Pen/Hemingway Award. Her memoir, Close to the Machine, about her life as a software engineer during the internet's first rise, became a cult classic. Her new book, Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology, tells a continuing story of the technical world as she experienced it while living in its midst for more than two decades. She is based in San Francisco.

Ellen Ullman

Marion Ettlinger

Ellen Ullman

Tours & Events

Meet the Author

August 10 - September 7, 2017

Meet Ellen Ullman as she reads from her new book Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology.

READ THE FULL EXCERPT →