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
The history of Bell Labs was mostly new to me and I was not disappointed. It was pretty incredible to read about the plethora of revolutionary patents, ideas, and theories as well as the people behind them. All of this was well written, well read, and well researched, but at times I felt that the telling of the story was a little biased and could have benefited from a more critical approach, e.g. many pages were used to describe Bell Labs important collaborations with the military but none were used to discuss the role that AT&T played in the violation of privacy rights by cooperating with the the government to illegally eavesdrop on American citizens. This is not to say that the author wasn't critical at all - he did analyze the ugly sides of some of the labs innovators and did give some great analysis of how Bell Labs might operate in today's world - but there were a couple points where I thought he could go further. Nonetheless though, this is a recommended listen, especially for those new to the topic.
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