The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World is an odd book. It's well-written, but Sharon Weinberger so dislikes the Vietnam War that not only can't she say anything good about it, she can't say anything good about anyone or anything associated with it. Thus the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (which began as ARPA but has more often been known as DARPA) is mocked for its expensive and supposedly calamitous counterinsurgency projects, some of which were actually very good and still have application today. I wrote last month about how DARPA helped develop the M-16 assault rifle whose descendants still arm the US military and those of many other countries, more than half a century after I saw it in action in the Vietnamese Highlands. I especially snickered at Ms Weinberger's quote from a "nuanced account" by Frances Fitzgerald, whose books are about as nuanced as Donald Trump's tweets. Another oddity is the book's scattershot references to ARPANET, a collection of military, government, and academic computers that evolved into what we know as the internet. (It started with a proto-email that read, in its entirety, "LO". The sender was typing "log-in" when the connection died. From that lone syllable arose Amazon, Netflix, WeChat, Zoom, and all the other conveniences and time-wasters that dominate ours lives in the 21st century. Yet nowhere does Ms Weinberger devote more than a couple of paragraphs to the DARPA project that actually did change the world! For all that, her book is worth reading, and not nearly as dull as you might think. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford
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