Amiga - Book Review

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Book Review of :  Amiga


Amiga by Matthew Arnold Stern is a novel that reads like a memoir of a woman reflecting on her life as a computer programmer in the heady days of software development for personal computers. Part of her story is intimate and compelling, but the novel also delves into the true unfolding story of digital advances and its culture during the period narrated by the protagonist, Laura Rodriguez. She begins to tell her story as a young green computer programmer in 1985.  She is introduced to the Amiga computer, which was at that time a revolutionary machine capable of advanced graphical renderings. Amiga also had a second meaning in the story – the friendship between Peter and Laura.  Her early life as a young woman and fledgling programmer is juxtaposed with chapters of her present life as a senior programmer in 2016, thirty years later.

Laura’s recounting of her early career provides a fascinating clear-eyed depiction of working programmers and the problems they tackled. The novel also provides an informal anthropology and history of computing of the early years of computer technology. Stern’s book talks of the complexity of launching a software product during that era, how huge computer shows in Las Vegas, and other cities were crucial in exposing your software to the users.

 Her career starts when she accepts a programming job with a quirky family-owned business similar to other tech garage startups of that period. This computer lab was located in the home of an eccentric elderly widow and her two dynamically different sons.  Laura was hesitant to become involved with the dysfunctional family dynamics but enthralled by her opportunity to work on an Amiga computer system. She’s fascinated by what the computer can do. There were no industry standards or rules.  She was a pioneer in an unexplored wilderness on the information highway. She welcomed the experience, the exultation, and the anxiety of startup life.

In alternate chapters, Laura’s present life is woven into the tapestry of her past experiences as a programmer in the early years of computer programming. Her present life is complicated with the trials of her company’s merger and her boss being replaced by a twenty-something female.  Lots of things go south for Laura. Her daughter battles with cancer and ongoing treatments. Her son quits a well paying but unsatisfying job and moves home to pursue a dream of becoming a DJ.  Laura’s ex-finance resurfaces after a thirty years hiatus. His re-emergence coincides with a period where Laura’s current marriage is floundering.

The novel expertly ties together the various roles of the protagonist’s lives; Laura, the programmer, and Laura, the mother, homemaker, and wife. Stern adds a bit of symbolism into his tale; one such object is the figurine of the goddess Diana, a  symbol of feminine power and a symbol of empowerment that Stern wants to leaves with women readers.

Another recollection Laura commits to her memoir is the pre-election debates reoccurring between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She handles conflicting issues that the election might represent to her Hispanic family with diplomacy and tact. When things are stressful in Laura’s contemporary life, she often wants to go back to a simpler time, but those thoughts quickly fade as frightening memories of the past resurface.

Stern excels at being a creative storyteller who is able to weave the life of a female Hispanic programmer into an insightful, intelligent, reflective story about technology during its fascinating early years and the barriers that the protagonist deftly broke through.  If you have a computer programmer in your life, this is a book for you. If you aren’t a programmer, Stern’s insight into how programmer’s minds work and how the advances in technology have changed our world makes Amiga well worth the time to check it out.

Stern's writing is clear, eloquent, and entertaining. He pens a great novel of the technically oriented women and their grit in entering a profession that was almost exclusively male. Stern creates a protagonist who has the wherewithal to handle the personal, social, and technical problems of her era, portraying a woman of astonishing powers.

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Matthew Arnold Stern


Matthew Arnold Stern is an award-winning public speaker and writer. His novel Amiga came from his experiences in the computer industry in the 1980s as a technical writer and computer journalist. His awards for writing and public speaking include Distinguished Toastmaster and an Award of Excellence from the International Online Communications Competition. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge. His hometown of Reseda, California plays a prominent role in many of his works. He lives in Lake Forest, California with his wife of nearly 30 years. He has two children, a granddaughter, and lots of cats.

Visit for more information on Matthew Arnold Stern


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