Mike Schaeffer's Blog

January 10, 2006

I finished Pentium Chronicles on the train the other day. Given that the full title of the book is Pentium Chronicles: The People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips, I have to say that I expected something entirely different than I got. What I had thought would be a narrative discussion of Intel's development of the P6 core is really something else entirely: a book on large scale project management techniques, using a few specific examples from the P6 project. While there's nothing wrong with that kind of book (it's basically what Fred Brooks did with The Mythical Man Month.), Dr. Colwell seems more tentatitve when he decided what kind of book to write.

Early on in the preface, he basically announces his tentativeness when he explicitly states that he won't be offering many of his opinions because it stretches his "plausibile deniability" safety net too far. To me, that's emblematic of the biggest shortcoming of the book as an engineering/project management reference. Engineers working with their own "Plausible deniability" in mind don't produce good results: they work to redirect blame rather than improve the product they're working on. Dr. Colwell knows this, he even wrote about it in the book. With all that in mind, I can't help but wonder what the book would have been like if it had been written less with plausible deniability in mind.

For people reading this blog who are wondering if they should actually read the book, my answer is yes. However, it's important to go into the book with the right expectations. If you go in expecting something like Soul of a New Machine, you'll be disappointed.