Raymond Chen's book titled "The Old New Thing" is the realization of a web blog in print. Parts of the book can be enjoyed by anyone who has dealt with the evolution of the Microsoft Windows operating system and inevitably asked the question "Why?" Why does Windows look like it does? Why are those seemingly quirky things about Windows the way they are?
Backward compatibility. Making subsequent releases of a software product compatible with software built to run on earlier versions is a vital art in the industry. Failing to make the latest version of Windows compatible with your favorite program is failing to keep you as a customer. Raymond spends most of his time relating his phenomenal expertise to this topic and helps to explain how making software backward compatible ultimately leads to the honest question "Why is this the way it is?" He even answers the question on occasion.
If you know what a web log ("blog") is, then you can imagine how a "blog" book might read. A person doesn't simply sit down and read a blog from the very beginning to the end and that point proves itself when you attempt to read Raymond's book from start to finish. To his benefit, the author put in a great deal of effort to group and link what were individual blog posts together, relating the contents of the book into a more cohesive read. For most, like a coffee table book, "The Old New Thing" is more enjoyable when it is occasionally picked up and a selection is read at random. For others, selecting familiar passages is a good strategy for reading. Everyone will likely skip over sections, if only to keep their sanity (tip: skip trying to decode the disassembly code).
Without a doubt, the content of the book is targeted at a technical audience and parts of it will make your brain burn if you are not a technical C or C++ developer who programs using the Windows API. However, there are hidden gems of wisdom that can be enjoyed by user interface designers, software developers, software managers, and those geeks who just couldn't get enough of the early Windows operating system releases.
The cost of the book was worth the answer to this single question, "Who do you usually blame when your PC crashes?" If the answer isn't "Well, I check to make sure that my computer's hardware, drivers, and software are all compatible with the Windows operating system and with each other before ever making a call to Microsoft's support line and blaming the operating system for crashing," then you should at least glance through the book.
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