Kicking off this past weekend with Jason Zweig’s condescending Wall Street Journal essay “Everything you know about the Crash is wrong,” advisors are being inundated this week by millions of similarly vapid words marking the 90th anniversary of the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. (The Crash in fact played out over several days, of which the climactic last – “Black Tuesday” – was October 29.)

Indeed there is much to be learned from that cataclysm, none of which will be written about this week. Its single most important gold nugget of guidance derives, as always, not from economics or finance but from the deepest and darkest recesses of human nature. To wit: you cannot have a totally shattering, generational stock market crash until the great mass of the public has become firmly convinced that stocks can only go up. (See also oil and/or gold in 1980, internet-related stocks in 1999, and the American single-family home in 2006.)

But I digress. My purpose today is to celebrate and praise a far different October 29: that of 50 years ago, in the epic year 1969. For it was on that day the ARPANET – the Stone Age internet – went live. The first successful message on the ARPANET was sent by UCLA student programmer Charley Kline at 10:30 p.m. Pacific time. Whereupon the system crashed…but not before modernity had been born.

The ARPANET was something entirely new, entirely different, indeed entirely revolutionary…and entirely unheralded. It happened without anyone in particular realizing that it had happened – “a nonhierarchical, noncommercial, wild-and-wooly network…nurtured and shaped by a bunch of temperamentally anarchic professors and long-haired graduate students at the end of the tumultuous 1960s.”

“It was a product of the military-industrial complex that had a countercultural soul.”

That brilliant, pithy sentence, and all the quoted material above it, come from an unputdownable book published just a few months ago. It’s The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara. And in the words of Mitch Kapor (who was there), The Code “will rightfully take its place as the definitive single-volume account of how Tech got to be Tech.”

He adds, “O’Mara captures the stories of transformational founders and leaders, technical breakthroughs, and organizational innovations over the past half century as no one has before.” You have my permission to treat this as an understatement, to which I’d add my own opinion that O’Mara is the best writer of narrative history that tech has ever had. You don’t have to be a computer geek or a venture capitalist to love Margaret O’Mara’s The Code.

© 2019 Nick Murray. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. Nick’s new book Nick Murray’s Scripts will be published at Thanksgiving. Watch for the announcement.