• A Mind at Play

  • How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
  • By: Rob Goodman, Jimmy Soni
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
  • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (486 ratings)

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A Mind at Play  By  cover art

A Mind at Play

By: Rob Goodman,Jimmy Soni
Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
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Publisher's Summary

Claude Shannon was a tinkerer, a playful wunderkind, a groundbreaking polymath, and a digital pioneer whose insights made the Information Age possible. He constructed fire-breathing trumpets and customized unicycles, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots, but he also wrote the seminal text of the Digital Revolution. That work allowed scientists to measure and manipulate information as objectively as any physical object. His work gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass.

Now, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman bring Claude Shannon's story to life. It's the story of a small-town boy from Michigan whose career stretched from the age of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of the Apple desktop. It's the story of the origins of information in the tunnels of MIT and the "idea factory" of Bell Labs, in the "scientists' war" with Nazi Germany, and in the work of Shannon's collaborators and rivals. It's the story of Shannon's life as an often reclusive, always playful genius. With access to Shannon's family and friends, A Mind at Play explores the life and times of this singular innovator and creative genius.

©2017 Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Lucid and fascinating...Soni and Goodman open an engrossing window onto what a mind hard at work can do." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about A Mind at Play

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I wanted more information about Information Theory

I hate to give a book about Claude Shannon an average rating, but it's only because the book is about the interesting genius that I can even muster three stars. It seems as if the authors felt they didn't have enough information, so they resort to listing many of his fellow grade school students and writing too much about his parents, with little about Shannon's relationships with these people. There was so much more valuable information they could have included; he was much more than his interests in juggling and unicycle riding.

The authors tell us that Mr. Shannon was a genius, and I don't disagree with that at all, but I really wish that they had explained why. I know just a little bit about information theory, but explanations about Shannon's work and momentous contributions are almost absent from this book. Claude Shannon is a person that most people have never heard of, yet his ideas, research, and work play a part in the daily lives of most of us. A well-written book that gives us a better understanding of Claude Shannon the man along with a clear and thorough explanation of his information theory for those of us who are not mathematicians is sorely needed, but sadly, A Mind at Play was not that book for me.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Book is fine. Reader is annoyiing

I was really distracted from the story of Claude Shannon, which I wanted to enjoy, by the overly dramatic narration. The reader is an annoying combination of Mason Adams and Casey Kasem and reads like it is aimed at third graders. It is suitable for voice over a TV program or radio drama but not for a non-fiction book. Just read it! I will avoid this narrator in the future. The style is fine for fiction, not non-fiction.

4 people found this helpful

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Made Shannon life as trivial and not interesting

The content of the book gets easily boring after little time, even if the speaker performance are not bad. A lot of focus is given to small details, that make me think the authors didn’t find anything else to say and had to fill the book with whatever could be connected to Shannon.
It could have been made more interesting, like the work Shannon did.

3 people found this helpful

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Too detailed and light on what matters

i am sure they had a quota to fill regarding how many words and irrelevant details they could fit into a book. got upto chapter 4 and gave up.
if you care about anything and everything that happened in and around the life of Claude, including the people who preceded him, this is your book.

i wanted to like this and couldn't.

3 people found this helpful

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Information [Transmission] Theory

Excellent read. There were a few slow spots but plow through because the book is full of gems. A real delight to learn about Claude Shannon. It certainly convinced me that Information Theory would probably have been better named as Information Transmission Theory. Also, I really got a kick out of a story about Claude Shannon helping his daughter with her math homework and saying, "Why did they change math?"

2 people found this helpful

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An interesting biography that also explains theory

I was interested in this biography primarily because of the ubiquity of Shannon's theories in my field, and found that this book mostly satisfied that curiosity with the more mundane biographical elements serving as entertaining asides. I wouldn't say the biography is particularly deep in either the personal or professional domains, but it was an easy listen that was deep enough for the casually interested person. The story goes off the deep end a little towards the end, but is still enjoyable.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Incredible

Absolutely brilliant & totally unforgettable. This book will change how you see the world, technology & the inner workings of the mind.

1 person found this helpful

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Waste of time

This book was full of fluff. The authors have no clue of information theory. I should demand a refund!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Educational, inspiring and entertaining

I enjoyed every minute. If you think about digital age, maybe you would think about Gates, Jobs or Zuckerberg... but long before them there was Claude Shannon, a brilliant and modest genius whose curiosity and thirst for knowledge made this and all other audiobooks possible.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating in-depth look at Shannon

If you are intrigued by the mentions of Shannon in "The Idea Factory" and "The Information" you will appreciate and enjoy the depth of focus upon his life, work, and play. But for him, were those really three separate things?

1 person found this helpful