I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
I knew when I downloaded this book that I was being a bit of a nerd, using up time that could have been spent listening to riveting fiction swotting up on chemistry, biology and physics. But I couldn’t resist it. Science is a big part of my job (I work in an intensive care unit) but I didn't opt for science at school, and although I know a fair amount about human biology I’m really aware of fundamental gaps in my knowledge concerning the basic sciences underpinning biology and science in general. This lecture series has definitely helped to fill those gaps.
He’s a pretty good lecturer, with a very good knack for explaining complex concepts using simple, helpful analogies. And the series is thoughtfully constructed so that it begins with the most fundamental concepts in science and then builds on this so that the listener acquires an overview of all human scientific endeavour by the end of the series.
Downsides? Well, it’s pretty old. These recordings were made in the 1990s, and whilst the basics of science haven’t changed significantly in those 20 years, you do keep wondering whether some of the modern scientific topics he mentions are still current (e.g. the large hadron collider and recent advances in medicine). He talks about global warming as if it’s just some controversial new theory that some scientists are working on, and the internet isn’t mentioned at all.
If you can tolerate the fact that it is dated and you want to learn more about the fundamentals of science, you should get this book. It is also great value, with 60 lectures for your one Audible credit.
I have a PC, a laptop, a smartphone, an Ipod and an electronic keyboard. I'm not boasting. Most people in the West who aren't embroiled in poverty probably own a similar range of digital devices. These digital machines have taken over the World and occupy large chunks of our time. And I'm not complaining. I get huge pleasure listening to talking books (a gift of the digital age) and browsing the internet. 25 years ago I got my first computer and it had a hard drive less than 500mb. I hadn't heard of internet or email, There was no Wiki, Google or Facebook. 25 years earlier, when I was a toddler, the only computers were massive creaking mechanical dinosaurs hidden away in military facilities or NASA.
I find this dramatic recent change in our way of life astounding. And I'm not a computer geek at all. I have no idea how they work, I just enjoy the way they present information, entertainment and interactions with my old friends whenever and wherever I want them.
So this book is the story of how that all came about. The visionaries and eccentrics who took the series of steps, starting with adding machines and progressing to the first personal computers, video games, the internet, search engines and social networking. The book presents the Goliaths such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Alan Turing, along with the many Davids with whom they collaborated so productively. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it a fascinating listen.
This book didn’t surprise me. When I chose it I saw that it had been given an average of nearly 5 stars on all Audible parameters, so I expected it to be good - and it was. Even though a lot of the content is discussion of the minutiae of the computer industry, which you might expect to get a bit boring, I was never bored. I carried on wanting to know what would happen next all the way through.
How significant was the contribution of Steve Jobs to shaping today’s world? I guess the answer has to be: ‘very’. The World has changed spectacularly and dramatically over the last 30 years in which the digital revolution has taken place. Our lives have been utterly transformed by the computerisation of so many aspects of daily life, at work and play. If Steve Jobs had not existed (or Bill Gates, who is certainly given due credit in this book), then the digital revolution would have gone ahead just the same, and I expect the World would look roughly similar to the way it does today, but these were the two men who got to decide exactly how the hardware and software would look and function. They are the Thomas Edisons of the digital age.
Clearly they were in the right place at the right time. This hasn’t always applied to history’s great visionaries. Gregor Mendel and Gallileo Gallilei were in the wrong places at the wrong times, and weren’t given the credit they deserved. Leonardo Da Vinci was ahead of his time, inventing things like helicopters which the technology of the time couldn’t come close to fulfilling. Even Einstein was a bit ahead of his time, although he did live to see some of his scientific breakthroughs come to fruition. But Jobs and Gates were both absolute Johnnies-on-the-spot. They were born and raised in the cradle of the burgeoning computer industry, just as it was about to take off spectacularly. They had the determination, innovative genius and charisma to be the leaders of this revolution.
I knew a bit about Steve’s life because I’d seen the biopic and I had also listened to an Audible book ‘The Innovators’ outlining the history of the digital age going right back to the late 19th century (a pretty good listen too, by the way), but this book offered much more detail about Steve’s life than either of those could fit in. Everyone knows that Steve could be ruthless at times in pursuit of his goals, but this book also tells of Steve’s more humane side. He also had to overcome a number of demoralising failures – his career wasn’t just a long litany of success. As a listener, you have the luxury of being privy to the ups and downs of the life of this phenomenon, but, despite this detail, you don’t really get to know him. He was a private man and this book was written by two journalists, with relatively minor and formal roles in Steve Jobs’ life. But the lack of a really private and personal insight into Steve Jobs’ life doesn't detract from the quality of this brilliantly written and articulated story.