In This Review

Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology
Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology
By David Hillel Gelernter
Basic Books, 1998, 160 pp

Great technology is beautiful technology, the author insists in this intriguing little book urging software programmers and computer designers to study art. Not so much about machines as about computers, this work culminates in an exploration of something called Lifestreams: a concept for personal computing developed at Gelernter's university, Yale, that would replace desktop computers. The term refers to a continuous flow of documents that people could dip into as they chose, from anywhere they wished. Gelernter emphasizes that the primary consideration in designing Lifestreams was aesthetic, not technological. Of even greater value to most readers than his discussion of information management is his retelling of the history of the personal computer. An intriguing if somewhat disorganized book by a brilliant polymath with a highly developed eye for form and beauty.