Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.
What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?
In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.
This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.
For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how they happen.
©2014 Walter Isaacson (P)2014 Simon & Schuster
Isaacson's THE INNOVATORS is a series of inspiring stories about technologists and their innovations. The stories are woven together to give the book a cohesive flow and it reads like a novel. For technology fans, some of the stories won't be new... but the way the stories are told and juxtaposed with other innovators' achievements makes this book unique. These are geeks' stories told lovingly by someone who clearly respects them and what they've done. I listened to the audible.com version of this book and found the narration well-done. I highly recommend this book to those interested in technology or innovation.
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 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.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
“The Innovators” is a serial biography of the large number of ingenious scientist, and engineers who led up to Jobs and Wozniak. Isaacson covers the transistor, the microchip, microprocessor, the programmable computer and software. He also covers videogames, the internet and web, search engines, touch screens taken together it is called the digital revolution.
The digital revolution has changed many things for all people. Some people call this the third industrial revolution. The first based on coal, steam and iron, the second on steel, electricity and mass production.
The author tells the story of how the digital revolution happened, through the accomplishment of many individuals. Isaacson draws attention to organizations that, for a time hosted groups that were more than the sum of their individual parts. At the “idea factory” that was AT&T’s Bell Labs the physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley created the transistor, the fundamental building block for the microprocessor. It has been called the most important invention of the 20th century. The creative teams at Intel, the key company in development of the microprocessor industry and Xerox-PARC probably the single most fertile source of electronic innovation in the 1970s, they created the Ethernet, the graphic user interface, and the famous mouse. Texas Instruments created the personal calculator. The creation of demand for personal devices has blossomed.
It was Robert Oppenheimer, who at wartime Los Alamos so effectively found ways of getting scientists with radically different fields, skills and personalities to work together in designing the atomic bomb. Bell Labs, Intel, Xerox-PARC continued this team approach with great success. Silicon Valley took team innovation, venture capital, Stanford and University of California Berkeley Universities put them together to create what is called the “Ecosystem”. The authors shows how Silicon Valley took this “Ecosystem” of innovation and turned it into a powerful pool of creative revolution
The author tells of Gordon "Moore’s Law” predicting the doubling of a microprocessor’s power every year and half focused energies on a goal that was authoritatively said to be attainable. Bill Gates foresaw that hardware could be commoditized.
Isaacson tells of mathematician Ada Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron, as she set out to create analytical engines. Isaacson weaves his enormous amount of research into deftly crafted anecdotes into gripping narrative about these imaginative scientists who transformed our lives. The book is a fun and informative read. Dennis Boutsikaris did a good job narrating the book.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
This book is a grand and gratifying overview of the Innovators who have played a major role in forging today's dynamic technology and our high-tech society, with its main focus on the last 80 or so years.
Only Walter Isaacson, who has written bios of Jobs and Einstein, would have the brilliant ability to research (on the shoulders of a wealth of prior research), comprehend and assimilate all this intriguing and highly complex information and transform it all into an inquisitive and fascinating look at our technological Innovators, coherent and clear enough for the average reader to understand AND enjoy.
I took away a much more informed perspective of how we got here and a distinct reverence for the innovators in the text and generally for the human capacity for incredible intellect and curiosity as well as our enduring and limitless creativity.
The following quote gives the best overview, in my opinion, of the book to an average reader (such as I):
"Most of the successful innovators and entrepreneurs in this book had one thing in common: they were product people. They cared about, and deeply understood, the engineering and design. They were not primarily marketers or salesmen or financial types; when such folks took over companies, it was often to the detriment of sustained innovation. “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off,” Jobs said. Larry Page felt the same: “The best leaders are those with the deepest understanding of the engineering and product design.”
Another lesson of the digital age is as old as Aristotle: “Man is a social animal.” What else could explain CB and ham radios or their successors, such as WhatsApp and Twitter? Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose: to create communities, facilitate communication, collaborate on projects, and enable social networking. Even the personal computer, which was originally embraced as a tool for individual creativity, inevitably led to the rise of modems, online services, and eventually Facebook, Flickr, and Foursquare. Machines, by contrast, are not social animals. They don’t join Facebook of their own volition nor seek companionship for its own sake.... Despite all of the proclamations of artificial intelligence engineers and Internet sociologists, digital tools have no personalities, intentions, or desires. They are what we make of them.”
Dennis Boutsikaris, an accomplished actor, is always a first-class narrator.
This book is due all exceptional acclaim.
If you know little about the history of computing this is a great listen. It covers a lot of ground, and the narration is superb.
My only gripe is that if is very superficial in many areas. Many innovations outside the USA get little or no credit (like those my the Japanese, Germans, Australians, Koreans, or Taiwanese), and if you are already familiar with computing history then you may already know much of the content, in which case it may bore and frustrate you.
Recommended for those not so hardcore into computer science, or looking to stoke a passion in that field.
The tales of Lady Loveless and Babbage.
Timing. He gives the words a chance to sink in, especially at key moments.
It inspired me to continue deeper into the field of robotics. Thank you!
Audiobooks are awesome.
This book is great, the way each biography and technical development interlaces and the insightful narrative made me feel like a witness to history.
Isaacson is a master distilling the essence of each person and the relevance of each technological achievement, putting it all in perspective in a neat well-narrated package.
l'enfer c'est les autres
This book is biography for how we got to the current internet age and all the major steps that took to get there. The author starts the story with Lady Ada Loveless and Charles Babbage's analytical machine up to the development of the internet. That's the problem. There's just too many good stories to tell and the author seldom gets into the nuts and bolts of the story leading the listener wanting more.
As in any good narrative of a biography there needs to be some themes that tie the stories together. The author pretty much tries to tie his story together with a couple of themes, "execution trumps creativity" and "cooperation leads to creation".
In general, biographies don't excite me. They deal with personalities and superficiality. The author's biography on Einstein is the one exception. The author not only taught me about Einstein the man, but what his work was all about. He explained the physics (in that biography) even better than Brian Greene does when he was talking about how Brian Greene explained the physics. Unfortunately, in this book the author seldom gets into details. A couple times he did get into the weeds. His section on Lady Loveless was marvelous and she becomes a recurring character in the book. I only wish he had explained what all the other characters were creating instead of what they did.
I think there are much better books out there that cover the same kind of material better and I would recommend them instead. I would start off with the wonderful book "The Master Switch" by Tim Wu. It delves into why Google is so important and how it got that way much better than this book does.
Or, that the programmable computer was foreseen in the 1800's. What a story, what a journey. I enjoyed the history, the people, the story behind the story. What more can I say, read this.
This is my favorite audiobook ever. I don't know what else to say. If you favor artificial intelligence over official intelligence you may not like this book.
As ICST (Information & Communication Science & Technology) professionals, we sometimes might have an inferiority complex towards the longer-established disciplines such as physics and mathematics. Part of the difference lies in the narratives that have been built around the "great men" of these sciences, from Pascal, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz to Einstein and Stephen Hawking. This book makes up for the difference by contributing to build this narrative around a few of the great men (and women) of Information & Communication Science and Technology. Not all of them arelarger than life figures, or true geniuses, but they probably contributed to the progress of humanity more closely and directly than their forebears in the physical and mathematical sciences. They deserve to be honored and this honor should extend to all scientists and engineers who dedicate their life to this domain.
"Much more than a history of technology"
WI really knows what he is doing! This is a really good book. The account builds steadily in interest and insight. He adds just the right amount of personality and opinion.
The performance is first class.
"Thorough and wide ranging"
I enjoyed the level of detail and Isaacson's holistic approach. A good historical perspective with little bias- but I would need to investigate further for that claim to be substantiated.
I will definitely be coming back to this work again.
"In inspirational listen for anyone"
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for inspiration and an understanding of how the digital world of today was created.
It really is a story of innovation, mainly located in America since that's where the majority of the computer revolution happened. The author brings out in great detail why this was the case and what he feels are the ingredients for innovation. Having listened through the whole book I agree with all his sentiments and have been thinking hard about how to apply them in my day to day work and business.
Had I listened to this book when I was younger I would have worked much harder to understand maths and the sciences. The book shows how central academics and scientists have been in creating the magical world we take for granted today. Apart for one or two minor swear word towards the end of the book (when quoting more modern characters) the book would be a great encouragement for youngsters with a technological mindset.
The narrator does his job brilliantly and expresses the characteristics of the many characters in subtle but defining ways. For example when quoting a joke, the narrator himself will chuckle as if it is being said for the first time. His relaxed speaking style creates an authentic intellectual aura around the exploits of the many inventors.
"Wonderful if u are a science geek"
This book covers the innovation of computers starting from analog relays to the latest microchips...
Covers the story around the shift from hardware primary to software primary and few on the people who bring the software to life.
Even though I'm a computer student it's great to go through the history and see how the chips grown and computer comes to the world.
I like it very much.
Tech isn't an area that really interests me but I found this book fascinating. If you really want to understand the modern digital world and how we got here, this book is a must.
Really well written and performed. The most informative book I think I've ever read.
"Isaacson does it again"
He's an excellent author. The book was thorough, but not overly so. A truly compelling overview that extracted valuable lessons from the history of innovation. Highly recommend.
"Interesting and engaging story"
As a former IT geek who was always more interested in the history and development of computing that the current scene this book was right up my street. Covering from Ada Lovelace onwards this was a fascinating look at the development of computing.
whilst the technical information was there it was not too heavy so as to be impenetrable. That said I think some knowledge of the language of computers is going to make this far more enjoyable.
"Well read, we'll written."
If you enjoyed previous works by Isaacson, then you'll like this too. Concise, interesting, informative and fun, really recommended if you are wanting a short history of computing.
"One of my favourite books ever"
Just loved it. But I love science and art and the Internet and mathematics and the culmination of all these, and humans and their effect on all of the above. So it was the perfect book for me. Very well researched, very we read, very well written and nice smart conclusions.
As a software professional this book gives interesting insights into the history of r industry.
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