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 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.
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.
Ehh... considering this book was written for a specific topic, that heavily depends on what jon writes about.
Heading back to the arena of fiction for a bit..
Performance was ok.It's not a book that needs much emotion
Umm considering this is no more Bell Labs...no.
Okay, so this review is going to be biased. I'm telling you straight forward. I've always had a fascination with the idea of Bell Labs, and admittedly, have been ennamoured with the place for years. I now work at Alcatel-Lucent (owner of Bell Labs) so I sort of achieved my goal in life. Anyway, I felt the book was a very very good review more of the people's lives who worked at Bell Labs, rather than actually focusing on the individual inventions. They glossed over a lot of big inventions such as the creation of UNIX. And the C programming language. Instead focusing on mannerisms and traits of the people who worked there. I don't mind obviously learning and reading about the great pillars of creative thought, but there are so many presented in this book.
This book is also a fun read due to the fact that I live in New Jersey, so it was like a who's who of townships, that received recognition. (even my own tiny hometown was mentioned). I enjoyed reading this, but I can see how anyone without a love of innovation, science, bell labs, at&t and such interests would be bored to tears.
I just wish they would have expanded on certain parts, especially the rivalry between AT&T and MCI.
My own score is a 3/5, but I can see anyone not interested in this may give it a 2/5.
Bell Labs played a hugely significant role in shaping our world today, a role which is surprising unknown. Gertner takes a biographer's approach to recounting Bell Labs' history. Most of the story focuses on the influential people, their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, their experiences, and how they shaped the most significant discoveries, inventions, policies, and events of Bell Labs. I think the story is probably most likely to be enjoyed by those with strong science and engineering interests.
Gertner clearly conducted deep and meticulous research to write the book. This "biographer's" approach has a humanizing effect on Bell Labs by reminding the reader (listener) that behind this mammoth, influential institution were real people. However, as can often be the case for in-depth biographies, there are some dull moments when you get lost in the details at the expense of the story line.
Some of the AT&T and Bell Labs policies, decisions, and approaches are controversial and one can make arguments regarding their merits or faults. As a "biographer," Gertner generally doesn't comment much on these types of ethical issues. He seems to lay out the facts, details, and people, and then let the reader come to his/her conclusions.
Other listeners have commented on the narrator. I tend to listen at 2X or 3X, so I can't really comment on his pauses. At accelerated speeds, he was fine.
Overall, I enjoyed Idea Factory and recommend it for better understanding the important people and events around Bell Labs.
Right up there with some of the others. Not the top of the list but interesting just the same.
Some of the text was pretty technical and probably would have been hard to understand if I read it. Chris made it clear to even the most non technical person.
Takes you through the invention of the telephone to cell phones. Explores the lives of the men that brought ideas to life. Makes you understand how important these devices are what they meant to the world. Listening was probably better than reading it. I would have found the technical side boring. Having it read allowed me to understand and enjoy the book.
I think it's among the best autobiography I've ever read.
May be the Google's story, In the Plex. But it's still different. The Idea Factory focuses mainly on the genius persons in Bell Labs, while In the Plex centers on the innovations that make Google successful.
His sound is quite good, and worth the price.
No, it's too long.
A very interesting listen that has just enough detail, but it is not technical. I was very interested in the early scientists and this touched each of the critical people with sufficient detail.
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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