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The Idea Factory Audiobook

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

In The Idea Factory, New York Times Magazine writer Jon Gertner reveals how Bell Labs served as an incubator for scientific innovation from the 1920s through the1980s. In its heyday, Bell Labs boasted nearly 15,000 employees, 1200 of whom held PhDs and 13 of whom won Nobel Prizes. Thriving in a work environment that embraced new ideas, Bell Labs scientists introduced concepts that still propel many of today’s most exciting technologies.
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Publisher's Summary

In The Idea Factory, New York Times Magazine writer Jon Gertner reveals how Bell Labs served as an incubator for scientific innovation from the 1920s through the 1980s. In its heyday, Bell Labs boasted nearly 15,000 employees, 1200 of whom held PhDs and 13 of whom won Nobel Prizes. Thriving in a work environment that embraced new ideas, Bell Labs scientists introduced concepts that still propel many of today’s most exciting technologies.

©2012 Jon Gertner (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (330 )
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4.1 (279 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Clement 01-23-14
    Clement 01-23-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Long Pauses"
    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narration was so slow that I was often left wondering whether the chapter had ended. It was hard to follow the story when the pauses were so long that it became a distraction. I ended up having the listen to the book at 1.5x the speed which made it bearable. Great book though


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John P. Tynan Santa Barbara, CA USA 07-24-13
    John P. Tynan Santa Barbara, CA USA 07-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Slow talker"
    Would you try another book from Jon Gertner and/or Chris Sorensen?

    Narrator Chris Sorensen talks so slow I think the recording has stopped or it is a new chapter. Gertner, however, has a great and important story.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Yes.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney 01-29-13
    Rodney 01-29-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great story -- horrible pauses"

    If I was going to (pause) (pause) (pause) write my review (pause) (pause) in the fashion that the reader (pause) (pause) (pause) read this book (pause) (pause) it would probably read something like this sentence.

    As you can tell I'm really annoyed by this reader and his constant pausing, particularly in the first half of the book. It's extremely annoying since the guy can read well and has a pleasant voice but the pacing with all the pauses is frustrating. Either he reader got better or I got used to it since by the end of the book I didn't notice it much, but that was 10+ hours before I felt that way.

    With that out of the way the book itself is excellent, with the exception of the authors comments at the end of the book -- he should stick with telling other peoples story. I don't really have much to add about the content of the book, it's exactly what it says it is and that's a great thing.

    If you have the faintest interest in the subject and can get past the reader constantly pausing (and probably doubling the length of the audio) then you'll enjoy this book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter San Francisco, CA, United States 01-31-13
    Peter San Francisco, CA, United States 01-31-13 Member Since 2015

    peterb_sanfran

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    "Good history, but a little slow"

    I'm an engineer, so reading about Bell Labs and some of the most exciting discoveries and technological breakthroughs of the 20th century is of natural interest to me. This book covers all the great breakthroughs at Bell Labs, through the eyes of the executives of the labs and the Nobel Prize winners who did most of the discovering. Although this is a natural vantage point, I kept feeling like I was missing the basic intensity and passion of the individual inventor and discoverer, which is what most interests me.

    I never finished the book, because I'm afraid there are other works I'm more interested in, and are really more interesting to read. I wonder how the author holds other people's attention for the whole book, when an electrical engineer like me can't maintain interest.

    The narrator of this book is painfully slow. He reads so deliberately, as if he's recounting some incredibly exciting event like a political assassination, as he recounts the researcher pushing a probe into a device to measure a current. My audible.com software allows me to change the narration speed, and I highly recommend "2x" or 2 times normal speed, so you don't fall asleep, or punch the dashboard in frustration.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Cambridge, MA, United States 05-06-12
    Jon Cambridge, MA, United States 05-06-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Singularly one of the best books I have read/heard"
    What did you love best about The Idea Factory?

    Jon Gernter captures the very essence of Bell Labs' contributions to modern society, detailing how it was uniquely placed as an institution to event many of the technologies that we rely upon today. The story narrative is woven with enough (but not too much) dramatic flair that the listener is left constantly wanting to hear more. I found myself having to consume this book in a few days, whereas I would usually take several weeks to complete a book of this length in amongst all of the others I am reading.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story accurately captures much of the history and provides the necessary context around major discoveries, as well as background (and postscript commentary) of the major character actors involved.


    Have you listened to any of Chris Sorensen’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is my first of Sorensen's readings, but hopefully not my last. The performance is very well done.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I found this book enthralling. But I did have an extreme reaction also. I found myself intensely angry at the fate that befell Bell Labs (which has always bothered me) and the state of the American education system that leads Gernter (correctly) to ponder whether we have left the age of Innovation described in this book behind us for good.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hector centeno 05-13-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Important insights into U.S. industrial culture."

    This book fleshed out legends I heard over 35 years as a broadcast technician. It also implies questions about the character of individuals who will carry the legacy of Yankee engineering into the future.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. A. Pena 05-09-16
    R. A. Pena 05-09-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Great book for all those involved in science"

    Inspiring
    Motivational
    A great book for understanding the origins of the technology world in which we are involved. The final chapters are very useful to understand how the present scientific world has changed because of culture, politics and law. the book leaves you with many ideas about how to excel in your endeavors. The book highlights the importance of focusing on a mission and enjoying the ride.
    It is longer than other science related audiobooks. Some chapters feel slow, but their content is absolutely necessary to understand the book.
    This book is absolutely worth it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jared Rainier 04-26-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Bell Labs and the Creation of The Modern World"

    Could've easily been the title of this book. Beautiful performance and an excellent and engaging story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    sphoorti 04-03-16
    sphoorti 04-03-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Very nice book"
    If you could sum up The Idea Factory in three words, what would they be?

    The book enlightened me about the scientific contribution coming from the Bell labs: vacuum tubes, transistor, communication theory, pulse code modulation, sampling, RADAR, LASER, fiber optics, microwave communication, Unix, C, and a plethora of other technologies. The book is well written and captivating. It makes one stop and think what real contribution means. We live in the world where the technologies invested and perfected in Bell labs have become indispensable parts of our lives. The scientists at the Bell labs in early and mid 1900s created all these technologies and they engulf us not by accident but because those scientists foresaw the necessity and impact for these technologies. They were well ahead of their time. In Bell labs, the scientists truly worked on the technology that would shape several decades to come.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick H. 04-26-15
    Rick H. 04-26-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Informative"

    As an engineer, I enjoyed the narrative. A bit dull in places and it jumped around a bit. But I am glad I listened to it and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the innovation process and/or bell labs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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