Basti's Scratchpad on the Internet
29 Mar 2024

Books of 2023

Even though I did read some fiction last year, non really stuck with me. It appears that I am more interested in non-fiction these days. Strange how these things go.

Quest for Performance

book cover for Quest for Performance

Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft, by Laurence K. Loftin

I have searched for a book like this for a long time: a history of airplane technology. The book details technological milestones and archetypes from the Wright flyer to the mid-1980s, with an emphasis on the two world wars and interwar years. It sometimes veers too close to a mere list of models and performances, but by and large still manages to tie it all into a comprehensible narrative. I guess you need to be a bit of an airplane nerd to appreciate this, but I found it fascinating!

And it is free to download, too.

The Soul of a New Machine

book cover for Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder

The book retells the development of a computer during the interstitial years, after the big bang of computing in the first half of the century, but before the home computer revolution. This is a bit of a gap in the common computing lore, and one I hadn't know much about.

This happened before standardized CPU architectures, so we get a glimpse into CPU hardware design, the user-land software side of things, and the micro-code in between. This is quite an unusual perspective today, reliant on common abstractions as we are.

A fascinating read if you're interested in computing history, without requiring a Computer Science degree for the broader story.

Die großen Zeppeline

book cover for Die Großen Zeppeline

Die großen Zeppeline: Die Geschichte des Luftschiffbaus, by Peter Kleinheins

Half the book is reprints of technical reports of the original lead engineers who worked on the German Zeppelins. The other half is a retrospective view of Zeppelins in Germany and elsewhere.

There are myriad fascinating details about Zeppelin construction, like how their gas bags were made from animal intestines, or how they reclaimed water from engine exhaust to prevent losing weight while burning fuel. And it's especially fascinating to read about these things from people to whom this was the pinnacle of technology, and juxtapose our modern perspective.

This is another book I've been searching for many years. I found both this and Quest for Performance on Library Genesis, which is a terrific resource for researching books.

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