Tracy Kidder: “He described them as knights errant, clad in blue jeans, seeking with awesome intensity the grail of technological achievement”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of journalist Tracy Kidder, who started out as a fiction writer but decided early on that he preferred writing about real people. In the late 1970s he spent eight months living in the basement of Data General Corporation, watching the engineers at work on a new microcomputer. He described the engineers as “knights errant, clad in blue jeans and open collars, seeking with awesome intensity the grail of technological achievement. … They believe that what they do is elegant and important, but they have the feeling that no one else understands or cares.” Kidder’s book The Soul of a New Machine was one of the first nontechnical books about the computer industry and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

Kidder went on to write a series of books about apparently ordinary topics. For his book House (1985) he wrote about the construction of a single house in Amherst, Massachusetts, because, he said, “[Building] is the quintessential act of civilization.” To write his book Among Schoolchildren (1989) he sat in a fifth-grade classroom in an impoverished public school for a school year.

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