A Front-Row Seat to (Android) History

Ben Galbraith
3 min readAug 14, 2021


I have to keep reminding myself why I love living in the California Bay Area, because like anyone here, routine events regularly cause me to question myself. For example, my monthly utility bill. Or, the property taxes.


One of the reasons I do genuinely love it here is the opportunity to be close to the center of the action for the tech industry. Sure, in 2021 there are lots of tech hubs in the world, people are working remote more than ever, but a good chunk of what matters still happens here.

But if you are a sane person and don’t live here, reading Chet Haase’s new book, Androids: The Team That Built the Android Operating System, is a great way to have that Bay Area experience without making horrible personal financial decisions.

Androids book cover

(Disclaimer: I know Chet and received an advance copy of the ebook.)

Of all the “behind-the-scenes, how-it-happened” tech books, Androids is truly unique in its approach. Whereas more mainstream authors like Steven Levy stay at a fairly high-level and tend to focus more on people and events, Chet has broken down the entire process of bringing Android 1.0 to market from the very beginning—even before Android existed as a smartphone operating system idea—and walks us through every step of the way.

More than that, Chet even breaks down the major components of what makes Android an operating system, and walks through how each of those came together, based on extensive interviews will all of the key contributors to Android. (Chapter names include: “Core Libraries,” “UI Toolkit,” and “System UI & Launcher.” ❤️ *swoon*.)

To get a sense of the level of detail, in one section, Chet illustrates some of the chaos of the rush to launch by explaining how an early team member created a certain piece of code as a placeholder (a WeakHashMap “implementation”) that was meant to free up memory after it was no longer needed, but didn’t actually do that—and he explains why (an engineer just copied a basic HashMap class without implementing the Weak part).

If you are an engineer and you want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how things happened and get into a good number of the technical decisions (e.g., why Java? why not C++ and Java? why not JavaScript?), you’ll find a lot of that detail here—and in the extensive footnotes.

But if you’re not an engineer but are a tech enthusiast, don’t worry. Chet makes this book accessible with careful explanations (and again, tucking away some of the more inane details in those footnotes).

To get to this level of detail, Chet interviewed nearly everyone who was there. But Chet himself is a respected engineering leader on the Android team, and has known many of these people for years, even before joining Google.

So regardless of who you are, if you want to understand how companies like Google and the entrepreneurs and engineers inside of them work, and how the world’s most popular operating system came to be in its initial form, I think you’ll enjoy Androids. You’ll get a sense of what it was like to actually be there without the Bay Area hassles. And what could be more fitting in 2021 than that?