My job is to persuade you to buy this book or make you feel you've made the right choice if you've already bought it.

That's easy because there's not another book like this, and if you do much with computers you need a good reference work on hardware. Of course there are massively larger books on the subject, but that's just the point: most of the time you're not looking for a long essay on the subject, you need information, and reliable judgment, both of which Robert Bruce Thompson is highly?I am tempted to say uniquely?qualified to give.

I can say this with some authority. I've never actually met Robert Bruce Thompson face to face, but we've been friends for years. Such is the way with the modern Internet. I first "met" him in the dark days after BYTE Magazine was suddenly and unexpectedly folded, and I continued my column on my web site (Shameless self-promotion: One of the features of both the web site and the column was reader mail, and there soon appeared a corps of regulars, all experts in one or another field, all articulate, and all very generous with their time and effort. Robert Thompson stood out among these, and it was soon clear to me that he knew far more about computer hardware than I did. That was surprising: I've been in this business since 1978, and while no one can know everything, I thought I knew a good bit about nearly everything. I do, too, but Thompson knows more, both in depth and breadth, and that's astonishing.

He's pretty careful, too. Over the years I have found I agree with most of his conclusions, and when we disagree I have to rethink my position, because he's been right at least as often as I have been.

So. You have here a well written book by someone who understands the subject. It's about computer hardware and nearly everyone needs a good opinionated reference work on that subject, provided the opinions are sound, which in Thompson's case they certainly are. It's published by O'Reilly, which means it's well edited by editors who resist the temptation to become unacknowledged collaborators. It's really the best book you'll find on this subject. And if that doesn't persuade you to buy this book, I doubt anything else I can say would.

?Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor
July 2003