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The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

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The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out on magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out on magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were a lot of fascinating people involved, some ingenious and a few even geniuses. This is the story of these pioneers, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs—who they were, how their minds worked, and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how they collaborated and why their ability to work as teams made them even more creative.”


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The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out on magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out on magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were a lot of fascinating people involved, some ingenious and a few even geniuses. This is the story of these pioneers, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs—who they were, how their minds worked, and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how they collaborated and why their ability to work as teams made them even more creative.”

30 review for The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    John Norman

    [Note added 23-Feb-2017: This seems to have a lot of likes, but I want to make sure that people understand that my perspective is a bit specialized. The book is lively and very interesting. If you want to read a provocative and detailed story of innovation, this is a great choice. I think the full story requires some extra reading, which I note in the review. The book has its limitations, but it's still a "good read."] Regrettably, I can't give this a great review. In part, it depends on what you [Note added 23-Feb-2017: This seems to have a lot of likes, but I want to make sure that people understand that my perspective is a bit specialized. The book is lively and very interesting. If you want to read a provocative and detailed story of innovation, this is a great choice. I think the full story requires some extra reading, which I note in the review. The book has its limitations, but it's still a "good read."] Regrettably, I can't give this a great review. In part, it depends on what you want. If you want a history of innovation from the point of view of the winners -- the people who created the technology we use today -- then this book might be for you. But I would strongly recommend that you read some other books: Katie Hafner's When Wizards Stay Up Late; John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said; Steven Levy's Hackers. Isaacson hits all of the main highlights of the development of digital technology from Ada Lovelace to Google. In terms of new contributions, his treatment of Lovelace is much broader than what one normally gets, and he's very good on the women who worked as programmers for Eniac and the like. That's good. Additionally, there is new interview material that provides details that I haven't seen elsewhere: For instance, the book notes that both parents of Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the web) were computer programmers, and that TBL was an electronics nerd as a kid. The quotes from people like the founders of Google are a bit looser than usual. I like that. Yet there are three big problems here: (1) First off, this is a history of the victors, and its extremely "presentist" in that it privileges things that are our technology today. Thus people like Jef Raskin and Ted Nelson are essentially buried. Yes, there are a few words on Nelson, but he deserves more like 10 pages, and Raskin gets one mention. Raskin was the true originator of the Mac; he deserves way more credit. Another example: Gopher. The Gopher protocol, which predates the web, was extremely important, and, arguably, would have been more useful for certain kinds of information browsing. Yet another thing that is scanted (as in so many histories that involve computer-mediated communication) is the depth of social sharing on time-sharing systems; it was a big deal and seems to be just outside the view of most historians. I think Isaacson's canvas is large and this would have complicated his story. (2) The discussion of bidirectional information transfer is very weak. It comes up on p. 300 with regard to Lee Felsenstein and the free speech movement. People like Felsenstein thought computer networks would change society because they might provide for "broadcast" from the citizen. Despite the advent of blogs, twitter, etc., the dominant model has been "publication" (as Isaacson rightly points out from his personal experience editing Time online - 420-422). But I think Isaacson makes a big mistake to not talk at significantly greater length about how bidirectionality was lost in the early history of the network. To be sure, he does get into the blogging phenomenon, but it is weak because so focused on a single individual (Justin Hall). Anyway, the concern isn't even so much about individuals contributing content, but the very structure of the Internet and the policing of "uploads" (for example, your broadband provider gives you a lot less data quota for upload than download). Obviously the missing figure here is Nicholas Negroponte, who long advocated for true bidirectionally for communication - his key case was always video out of the home, so grandparents could easily send movies to their kids. A similar gap to the lack of spadework to uncover the deeper interest in bidirectionally is the discussion of how Mosaic/Netscape never had a decent editor that might provide for easily composing web pages from the browser (see p. 418). This wasn't just an issue for the Berners-Lee: It was a howl coming from the early adopters of browsers. (The lack of such editors also points out limitations in the standards track and how RFCs cannot really turn the industry.) (3) Finally, the biggest argument in the book: That innovation comes from teams and groups, not from individuals (479-488 and elsewhere). The qualifiers for this claim are huge. The biggie is that he means: "successful" innovation, i.e., innovation that has gone mainstream. Clearly there were plenty of team innovations that weren't absorbed by the marketplace. Shouldn't we then acknowledge how teams can fail? Additionally, what is meant by "teams" and "groups" isn't solid. Isaacson admits as much when disrupting his own claim by outlining "three ways that teams were put together in the digital age" (482). Sorry, you can't have your lumping claim, and then at the end of the book break it down. You can make the claim about three modalities of team innovation at the beginning of the book and then show it: But pulling this canard out at the end of the book is just not fair. In sum, if this is the only book you're going to read, it's OK. But the real story is bigger and Isaacson's take on all this is slanted and focused way too much on the technology we have, rather than the technologies we might have. I don't think asking for that is asking for a different book, either, because Isaacson is interested enough in the losers to mention them. His book would have been immensely richer by giving them their due to the tune of perhaps 50 additional pages over the whole book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A masterful tour of the creative people behind the development of computers and the digital revolution using a frame that probes the relative contributions of teamwork vs. individual genius. As I continually benefitted the ever increasing capabilities of computers from the 70s onward for my former science career and I enjoyed Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin, I figured I couldn’t lose. Plus friends praise his skills in the history of science as revealed in his books on Einstein and Steve Job A masterful tour of the creative people behind the development of computers and the digital revolution using a frame that probes the relative contributions of teamwork vs. individual genius. As I continually benefitted the ever increasing capabilities of computers from the 70s onward for my former science career and I enjoyed Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin, I figured I couldn’t lose. Plus friends praise his skills in the history of science as revealed in his books on Einstein and Steve Jobs. I wasn’t disappointed, given that he inevitably had to focus on highlights and distillations to cover his intended scope. His story of the “pioneers, hackers. Inventors, and entrepreneurs” who made the evolution possible makes for exciting reading even if you are not technically oriented. That’s because it’s a human story, mixing the personal history behind the ambition and dreams and the energy of both competitive and collaborative forces. The story begins with Ada Lovelace, who teamed up with Babbage in Victorian England to conceive of generalized programming routines that could control a calculating machine. They never built a working machine, but their theoretical concepts were seminal by the time the build-up toward World War 2 was driving scientists ever closer to a working computer to make calculations important for waging war. Turing’s innovations on code-breaking machines, mathematical advances by John von Neumann, and adaptation of punch card programming from the textile industry for calculation routines of room-sized electromechanical computers represented big breakthroughs. From there it was short jump to an all-electronic system based on vacuum tubes and then a big leap to faster and denser logic circuits made possible by the invention of transistors. Major milestones in the form of the first multipurpose memory units, the first central processing component, and first program stored in memory were paralleled by advances in software languages and operating systems to translate logical operations into machine code. The invention of integrated circuits made possible an exponential leap in computing power and opened the door to smaller, personal computers which in turn fed into the development of spreadsheets and graphical design programs for business and games for fun and soon thereafter networking and the Internet. It’s all quite a dizzying progression, one that changed the world. And Isaacson brings to life, albeit in a compressed presentation, the many individuals and teams who made it happen. There is no great insight in his use of a lens of collaborative vs. individual contributions, but it was surprising the way the combinations of skillsets played out in various accomplishments. Sometime it’s a mathematician and an engineer that make a successful team, other times it’s the addition of a people manager or business promoter that makes the difference. The synergy between Gordon Moore and Andy Groves at Intel, Bill Gates and Paul Allen at Microscoft, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple are just some of the obvious examples. Isaacson also explores the differences and similarities of the environment of various settings of great advances, including: Bell Labs, where the transistor was invented; IBM, where mainframes and business programming were developed (which denied sufficient glory to women programmers like Grace Hopper); Penn State, where the first general purpose electromechanical computer was creates; Xerox PARC, where the first graphical user interface was designed; and Apple Computer, which married hippie chic and Silicon Valley cultures. Another theme Isaacson pursues is the whole concept of artificial intelligence and “thinking machines” vs. Lovelace’s prediction that computers will forever serve to amplify human creative capabilities. The potential for computers to empower the individual drove many to pursue software development without the profit motive. The story of Steward Brand harnessing the Whole Earth Catalog and hippie culture to advance this cause was fascinating. The birth of shareware through the work of Stallman and Linux and the free contribution of the first web browser by Andreessen are great hallmarks of that tradition worth my learning more about. The story of the birth and success of Wikipedia was something I knew nothing about and fun to learn about. All in all, I found this a solid achievement in laying out such a vast river of innovation in a coherent and stimulating progression. It’s so easy to forget where all these wonders came from that it’s worth putting some names and personal stories to the history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    LillyBooks

    I loved Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs biographies. I really, really wanted to love this one. In a sense, this book is at least a four star book because Isaacson wants to prove a point and he succeeds: no one person invented the computer or the Internet, that the digital revolution is one person building on and with the backs of others. However, it is that success that made this book not as enjoyable for me because Isaacson is profiling so many people, several each chapter, that the I loved Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs biographies. I really, really wanted to love this one. In a sense, this book is at least a four star book because Isaacson wants to prove a point and he succeeds: no one person invented the computer or the Internet, that the digital revolution is one person building on and with the backs of others. However, it is that success that made this book not as enjoyable for me because Isaacson is profiling so many people, several each chapter, that their stories get lost one behind the other and the details get confusing. He is never truly able to do what he excels at: the slow, deep biography, a discussion of how each life event shaped the person as a whole. Also, even though I agree it was necessary, I wasn't that interested in reading all the technical details of how each idea and machine was slightly different than the one before it. I found myself skipping those parts. Maybe someone with a strong computer programming or mathematical bent would enjoy it, but that's not why I read an Isaacson book. One chapter soars here: the first, on Ada, Countess of Lovelace. Isaacson allows her a chapter all to herself, and it's the version of his writing I know and love. I would have much rather read an entire Walter Isaacson biography of Ada Lovelace.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Mclaws

    2nd read 10.8.2016-10.13.2016 Rereading this book was just slightly less entertaining than the first time through. I loved hearing the stories of collaboration, outright copying, business machinations and cool combinations of art and technology. I really like the whole Shockley, Noyce, transistor, microchip era. And then the section on the early homebrew groups contending ideologically with Gates and Jobs is good too. Isaacson's overt theses are that collaboration, not isolated geniuses account f 2nd read 10.8.2016-10.13.2016 Rereading this book was just slightly less entertaining than the first time through. I loved hearing the stories of collaboration, outright copying, business machinations and cool combinations of art and technology. I really like the whole Shockley, Noyce, transistor, microchip era. And then the section on the early homebrew groups contending ideologically with Gates and Jobs is good too. Isaacson's overt theses are that collaboration, not isolated geniuses account for progress and innovation. Secondly, he makes a case for why artificial intelligence/computing combined with human intelligence is much more powerful than just computers. 1st read : 10.16.2014-10.26.2014 What a pleasure. An absolute pleasure of a read. This book is all about the history of computing and the people behind it all. There was a time when kids grew up taking apart and putting together HAM radios and getting chemistry sets with cubes of germanium inside. This book made me a bit jealous of that basic understanding of technology and I have to admit that after the reading the portion on diodes, semiconductors and microchips I spent an entire Saturday online learning about the basic physics and chemistry involved in that process. Then I went back and reread the sections and I felt better about my understanding of the history and the science. Isaacson is great at bringing these hackers and geeks to life. Alan Turin, Grace Hopper, Vannevar Bush, John Mauchly, Ev Williams. A lot of new heroes were brought to life for me reading this book. I'd recommend this to anyone who has ever felt that gnawing feeling about not quite understanding the basics about the digital world that surrounds us. For me, this was a great tour that inspired me to dig deeper into some of the science and appreciate more of the history. Some ket takeaways: 1. One theme present in most of the breakthroughs was a form of collaboration or batting around of ideas. "Sparks come from ideas rubbing against each other rather than as bolts right out of the blue." "That is the way that good ideas often blossom: a bumblebee brings half an idea from one realm, and pollinates another fertile realm filled with half-formed innovations." 2. As Vannevar Bush points out, there is strength in the triangle of military, industrial, and academic research. The government should fund and help enhance hybrid research centers that emulate Bell Labs, RAND, Stanford Research Institute and Xerox PARC. Basic research is a necessity for continued breakthrough innovation. On top of all this the crowd (open source) is a necessary competitor with private tech. This is a healthy rivalry and moves us forward. 3. The best innovators are the ones that stand at the intersection of the arts and the sciences. 4. Electrons/protons + And/Or gates with diodes and resistors are the basic building blocs of all of our digital devices. "To this very moment, that is the way every single digital device on the planet works at its most basic level." - Steve Wozniak "Once you've made something with wire and nails, when someone says a chip or circuit has a relay you feel confident using it because you know you could make one... Now kids get a MacBook and regard it as an appliance. They treat it like a refrigerator and expect it to be filled with good things, but they don't know how it works. They don't fully understand what I knew, and my parents knew, which was what you could do with a computer was limited only by your imagination." - Tim Berners-Lee 5. Social and collaboration is the under-riding theme of the internet and personal computer. Starting with The Well through to Medium today. 6. The internet could've been radically different if it would've been established with two way links. Look at pages 418-419. 7. The most productive teams are those that brought together teams with a wide array of expertise, both theoretical and applied. 8. Physical proximity is always best, people should have to bump into each other and rub off on each other. 9. If you want to make money, it's all about execution. Pretty good ideas are a dime a dozen and even brilliant ideas are not worth much if you can't get your team to build it right. Things I'd like to remember: Man, Vannevar Bush is cool. Read his As We May Think article from 1945. It's kind of like the manual for everything that happened over the next sixty years and I bet there are still dozens of his predictions still waiting to be executed on. "When I got a copy of Vannevar Bush's 'As We May Thing,' I said to myself, 'Yep, there it is! He figured it out!' Bush envisioned the Internet as fully as you could, given that you didn't have digital computers." - Marc Andreessen The science behind a diode and a semiconductor is super tricky. I spent six hours last Saturday reading and watching Youtube videos about silicon, germanium, boron, arsenic, pnp, npn, diodes, electricity, and a triode/semiconductor. I still would like to see a big one in action and get a walk through of a real life example of how it stores a charge and how that charge can be used for Boolean logic processing, because I don't fully understand it yet. My kids should learn about electronics by playing with radios and transistors. My kids should get to play with (safe) chemicals. My kids should learn to code with an Arduino (or whatever the equivalent is when they are old enough). My kids should be around other kids that are making things (robots, programs, etc.) Send kids to a Montessori school (both Sergey Brin and Larry Page attribute their early growth more to Montessori schooling than their parents style). Kids should learn physics. Kids should get exposure to the arts and should be encouraged to embrace the intersection, not one particular street. All of the above things that my kids should learn should be things I know about and can do with them.

  5. 3 out of 5

    David

    The basic premise of this book, is that innovators and inventors do not create new concepts solo. They are almost always collaborators. But, there is not a surplus of collaboration described in this book. This was a fun, entertaining book to read. In the beginning of the book, the innovators were described in detail, in historical order. But, as the chronology approached the present day, less and less space was devoted to individual innovators, and more to the innovations. I really enjoyed an ea The basic premise of this book, is that innovators and inventors do not create new concepts solo. They are almost always collaborators. But, there is not a surplus of collaboration described in this book. This was a fun, entertaining book to read. In the beginning of the book, the innovators were described in detail, in historical order. But, as the chronology approached the present day, less and less space was devoted to individual innovators, and more to the innovations. I really enjoyed an earlier book by Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. In that book, I really was able to understand the man and his accomplishments. However, this book covers too much ground, and ends up being less than satisfying. I ended up understanding the life of the first personality covered in the book, Ada Lovelace, but not much else. Perhaps if the author had not tried to cover every single person he considers to be an innovator, and to go into depth about the most interesting biographies, it might have been better.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Parsons

    This book is going to be huge since it functions not only as a history of the computer and the internet but as a treatise on innovation and collaboration. I can imagine that it will be required reading for all kinds of people working in all varieties of business. Unlike his bio of Steve Jobs, which was important as immediate history but was also understandably rushed, Isaacson's new book reads like a labor of love and is much better written, more focused than "Jobs" and is thought provoking on a This book is going to be huge since it functions not only as a history of the computer and the internet but as a treatise on innovation and collaboration. I can imagine that it will be required reading for all kinds of people working in all varieties of business. Unlike his bio of Steve Jobs, which was important as immediate history but was also understandably rushed, Isaacson's new book reads like a labor of love and is much better written, more focused than "Jobs" and is thought provoking on a lot of different levels. I have already told a half dozen people I work with (at a Fortune 500 financial services company) that this book should be required reading when it comes out in October. Rarely have a I read an ARC and felt so frustrated because I have to wait for the book to come out so there are other readers with whom I can discuss it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    "Atlantean Shoulders, Fit to Bear," John Milton This 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. Walter Isaacson, who has written bios of Jobs and Einstein, has the brilliant ability to research, comprehend and assimilate all this intriguing and highly complex information and transform it into an inquisitive and fascinating look at our technological "Atlantean Shoulders, Fit to Bear," John Milton This 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. Walter Isaacson, who has written bios of Jobs and Einstein, has the brilliant ability to research, comprehend and assimilate all this intriguing and highly complex information and transform it 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.” This book is due all exceptional acclaim.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    4.2 Stars Readers can infer a number of salient points from this excellent history of digital innovation, but the main takeaway for me was this: innovative ideas are like digestive systems—nothing comes from them unless they get a big push from an asshole. Okay, so, the author would probably suggest that his REAL overarching theme is that innovation is driven not by lone geniuses, but by collaborative teams that provide an ideal mix of vision, engineering, and execution, but hey—that doesn’t mean 4.2 Stars Readers can infer a number of salient points from this excellent history of digital innovation, but the main takeaway for me was this: innovative ideas are like digestive systems—nothing comes from them unless they get a big push from an asshole. Okay, so, the author would probably suggest that his REAL overarching theme is that innovation is driven not by lone geniuses, but by collaborative teams that provide an ideal mix of vision, engineering, and execution, but hey—that doesn’t mean that the aforementioned point is NOT true (see, for example, Jobs, Steve). In tracing the path of key digital innovations—from bulky, room-size computers that could crunch differential equations at astonishing speeds to sleek personal computers, and from proprietary, government-funded interconnected academic networks to the all-you-can-eat porn buffet of today’s Internet—Isaacson persuasively hammers home that theme. More intriguingly, however, he suggests that these innovations were driven not by pure technologists, but by people who understood the need to balance technical proficiency with an appreciation—and application—of the arts. From Ada Lovelace (First Lady of Computing, offspring of that rapscallion Lord Byron, all-around saucy minx) to the aforementioned Steve Jobs (intuitive design genius, turtleneck aficionado, colossal a-hole), the people who have led us into the digital age have understood that both poetry and mathematical equations are equally, if differently, beautiful. Given that I’m the type of person Isaacson gently scolds in his conclusion (that is, a humanities person who takes pride in his lack of math aptitude), this idea is what resonated with me the most. Reading this book made me yearn to pick up a physics textbook and try to crack the code of the universe, to understand the beauty of algebraic expression, to see the art that goes into a perfect line of code. Isaacson is a tremendous chronicler of history (I strongly recommend his eloquent and insightful Benjamin Franklin: An American Life as well as his engaging Einstein: His Life and Universe), and while this hopscotch sort of narrative doesn’t afford him the same opportunity to dive deeply into his subjects as he does in his magnificent biographies, he does his themes justice even if he leaves you wanting a little bit more about certain individuals. It also makes you want Mountain Dew, candy bars, and pizza—you know, the staples of the coder diet.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Atila Iamarino

    Uma ótima biografia. vi este livro recomendado em vários lugares, imaginei que fosse bom, mas mesmo assim me surpreendi. Uma história do começo da computação, de Babbage e Lovelace até tempos recentes. Com direito ao papel das programadoras dos primeiros computadores, que não me lembro de ter encontrado em outros livros. Ele tem um tom muito mais biográfico e voltado para as pessoas por trás disso. Em contraste com outros dois livros que tratam mais ou mesmo do mesmo fenômeno, mas por outro lado. Uma ótima biografia. vi este livro recomendado em vários lugares, imaginei que fosse bom, mas mesmo assim me surpreendi. Uma história do começo da computação, de Babbage e Lovelace até tempos recentes. Com direito ao papel das programadoras dos primeiros computadores, que não me lembro de ter encontrado em outros livros. Ele tem um tom muito mais biográfico e voltado para as pessoas por trás disso. Em contraste com outros dois livros que tratam mais ou mesmo do mesmo fenômeno, mas por outro lado. O A Informação, que trata do aspecto mais científico (e da informação, claro). E os livros do Tim Wu, que tratam mais do controle do conteúdo e da publicidade. Walter Isaacson tem uma abordagem conciliadora, que passa por duas formas de descrever criações. Uma é a do "gênio", de uma pessoa responsável por uma grande invenção que muda o mundo, e ele descreve a vida e o papel de muitos indivíduos. Outra abordagem é a do grupo, de como criações dependem de uma mentalidade e da participação de muita gente e só se confirmam com a adoção por outras pessoas. As duas se complementam e deixam o livro pessoal e compreensivo ao mesmo tempo. Além de ser o primeiro livro sobre a história da computação ou da internet que realmente conecta a adoção das tecnologias com o uso para interação social.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    In his latest book, Isaacson offers the reader an insightful look into the world of technology and the numerous people whose insights and innovative ideas have changed the world in which we live. While not the biography of any one person, Isaacson personifies technology and offers stories related to its branches, from the early speculative ideas of Ada Loveless around a mechanical calculating device through to the dawn of Wikipedia and mass-user self-editing. Isaacson travels through time, speci In his latest book, Isaacson offers the reader an insightful look into the world of technology and the numerous people whose insights and innovative ideas have changed the world in which we live. While not the biography of any one person, Isaacson personifies technology and offers stories related to its branches, from the early speculative ideas of Ada Loveless around a mechanical calculating device through to the dawn of Wikipedia and mass-user self-editing. Isaacson travels through time, specifically since the pre-WWII era to the present, to offer tales of innovative ideas that built on one another. Things the reader would take for granted become major events and received excellent backstories. One thing Isaacson does throughout his tome is to dispel the myths that urban legends have spun into faux-realities, including Al Gore inventing the internet. He further lays the premise that the entire book should be taken as a set of technological building blocks, one device or idea connecting to the next, such that there are not true 'inventors' but strict innovators who seek to add a niche to a larger conversation that takes place in an evolutionary reality. Those who seek to claim inventor status are quashed in Isaacson's narrative and by the scores of men and women who have added to the technological quilt. Any reader with a curiosity surrounding technology should invest time in this book, though be somewhat leery of some technical jargon that can weigh down the narrative for the layperson. As Isaacson presents in his introduction, some of these ideas came during his research on the Steve Jobs biography, the first of his that I devoured. Isaacson's desire to downplay any one person wearing the crown of inventor, he passes out the praise to all those who played a role in their own way, and does so in an effective manner. The narrative flows nicely, even if it is weighed down with jargon in spots. This jargon is highly useful, however, as it depicts the degree to which many of the actors were ensconced in their fields. The reader can read (or listen) in awe to all that Isaacson has unearthed, proving how interconnected something as routine as internet access and application usage. Perhaps one of the best, and most varied of the biographical pieces I've read of his, Isaacson does a stellar job in presentation, content, and detail. Kudos Mr. Isaacson for this great piece. I cannot wait what, or who, you tackle next for the reader to absorb. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  11. 3 out of 5

    Jim

    2.5 Starts This book was okay. It covers a lot of history and people and therefore makes it somewhat difficult to rate. It begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who helped pioneer computer programming in the 1840s. It ends in 2014. That is a lot of history. At times it becomes confusing. There are times when there were developments taking place in multiple locations and usually each involved a team of people. Some of the names were familiar such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Ga 2.5 Starts This book was okay. It covers a lot of history and people and therefore makes it somewhat difficult to rate. It begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who helped pioneer computer programming in the 1840s. It ends in 2014. That is a lot of history. At times it becomes confusing. There are times when there were developments taking place in multiple locations and usually each involved a team of people. Some of the names were familiar such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Others were unfamiliar to me such as John Atanasoff. One of the key points (IMHO) is collaboration. Innovation, development, success came about when people collaborated. Often times one person had the initial idea and someone else picked up on it and ran with it. Xerox PARC had some great innovations but they pretty much stayed in a lab until Steve Jobs saw what they had. John Atanasoff was building a computer in Iowa when World War II started. He was working pretty much alone with the exception of maybe a grad student. He enlisted and the computer wound up in a basement and then years later was salvaged for scrap and parts because nobody knew what it was. In the meantime at the University of Pennsylvania there was a dedicated team working on ENIAC. At the same time in Bletchley Park a team of code breakers were hard at work trying to break the German Enigma code. The point is that innovations and development happened when people collaborated and worked together. It was not the result of a lone person. Another often forgotten fact is the role of women in the history of computers. There is Grace Hopper who was a programmer and invented the first compiler. There was Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, and Betty Snyder among others who were known as "the ENIAC girls". These were some of the first programmers and they were known as "computers". The book even discusses Ken Kesey, The Grateful Dead, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. You will need to read the book to learn how this factors into the innovators. There are other interesting tidbits in this book about the early history of computers (e.g. The Homebrew Computer Club, The Tech Model Railroad Club, etc.). It was a bit nostalgic and brought back memories of Heathkits, chemistry sets, and model rockets. There was actually a time when hackers were just kids who were simply trying to learn how things worked. To get inside and under the hood. Overall this was an interesting history of the people who helped bring about computers, the internet, and the web. Tools just about everyone depends on today.

  12. 3 out of 5

    TarasProkopyuk

    Наверное это одна из лучших книг, которые довелось прочесть в этом году. Айзексон не разочаровал и уже в который раз создал прекрасную книгу, в которой раскрыл ключевые принципы, факторы, и закономерности становления цифровой отрасли и огромного пласта новых специалистов о существовании которых полвека назад и сложно было бы себе представить, что такие будут. Уверен, что есть много подобных книг, но так как автор умеет подмечать важные поворотные пункты и факторы, которые становятся причиной корен Наверное это одна из лучших книг, которые довелось прочесть в этом году. Айзексон не разочаровал и уже в который раз создал прекрасную книгу, в которой раскрыл ключевые принципы, факторы, и закономерности становления цифровой отрасли и огромного пласта новых специалистов о существовании которых полвека назад и сложно было бы себе представить, что такие будут. Уверен, что есть много подобных книг, но так как автор умеет подмечать важные поворотные пункты и факторы, которые становятся причиной коренного преобразования на высокотехнологичном рынке и рынке программного обеспечения не часто встречаются книги подобные этой. А мастерство стиля автора и его аналитические способности это тот соус, который множество сырых дат и фактов превратил в шикарное блюдо. Ммм... Пальчики оближешь! :) Очень советую прочитать! Особенно для людей с здоровыми амбициями и просто тем кто ищет возможности войти в историю. ))

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Who invented the 'computer'? Many of the early calculating machines were quite specific in the type of calculations they could perform. It was a term once applied to a bunch of (mostly) women math majors using mechanical adding machines to figure out parts of equations during WWII. Mechanical 'computers' (The name wasn't applied to the devices until either late in or after WWII.) were a number of independent mechanical devices including the abacus & Babbage's device in the early 1800s. Babba Who invented the 'computer'? Many of the early calculating machines were quite specific in the type of calculations they could perform. It was a term once applied to a bunch of (mostly) women math majors using mechanical adding machines to figure out parts of equations during WWII. Mechanical 'computers' (The name wasn't applied to the devices until either late in or after WWII.) were a number of independent mechanical devices including the abacus & Babbage's device in the early 1800s. Babbage's 'computer' was called a 'difference engine' since it solved differential equations, but there were other, more specific types of calculating machines throughout history. Due to the mechanical parts, most were slow & many never really worked well. In the late 19th & early 20th centuries, telephone relay switches were used since they were cheap. Then vacuum tubes were used since they were faster, but expensive & hot. Much of the early 'programming' was done by physically plugging wires into different ports as well as using everything from punched cards (based on automated looms) to paper tape & even film reels. ENIAC was the first general computer (announced in 1946) but it took such a long time to change from one sort of calculation to another that its speed advantage in calculating was lost. It was considered 'all electrical', but many of the systems weren't. It originally had no memory, but later used a tube filled with mercury with a quartz nozzle that could store waves for a few seconds. Isaacson makes it quite clear that it is in large part the times that inspires inventions. The supporting materials & thoughts are all there & people put them together. Rarely, if ever, is there one individual who has a Eureka! moment. Generally it is teams with many disciplines who share ideas. He spends some time describing Bell Labs, the model for Apple & Google offices today. Well funded, relaxed discipline, with a mandate to invent. Theorists, engineers, chemists, mechanics & manufacturing facilities working together. He shows how war, politics, universities, & private industry all have an edge over the lone garage inventor. Coming up with an idea whose time has come is cool, but the idea isn't doodly-squat without the funding to patent, market, manufacture, & distribute. Babbage was the perfect example lone inventor who never got his work into public production. His work languished for a century before being rediscovered & used somewhat. IOW, he is the example of what not to do - work in a vacuum. His work was also too early, too much of the needed supporting technologies weren't up to speed yet. Babbage wasn't quite alone, but he built the hardware & was a man, so he gets the historical credit. Ada Lovelace worked with him & came up with some early programming principles that were finally used & revered a century later by the first programmers, again mostly women, including the iconic Grace Hopper - inventor of the 'bug' among other things such as COBOL. Women were amazingly overlooked in the history books, but they proved that software was as important as hardware. Luckily for them the men in charge didn't realize that, so they were given that unimportant scut work & they shined, even if they were forgotten for a time. Isaacson does a great job of showing how teams worked together & the problems that arose from separate, but similar discoveries. The patent process is a nightmare, often taking decades to wend through the courts before being decided, reversed, & possibly never really settled. Part of this was the new nature of the inventions. (In 2011(?) both Apple & Google spent more on defending patents than on research for the first time.) Few could understand the inventions, much less the ramifications of new tech such as the transistor or the IC. The fight between Texas Instruments (TI) & Fairchild over the latter is a great case in point. They came up with it independently, within a few months of each other, working on similar problems from different directions, & each managed to solve the others issue better than their own. Innovation happens in stages. In the case of the transistor, first there was the invention, led by Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain. Next came the production, led by engineers such as Teal. Finally, and equally important, there were the entrepreneurs who figured out how to conjure up new markets. Teal’s plucky boss Pat Haggerty was a colorful case study of this third step in the innovation process.... Haggerty was a cofounder of Texas Instruments in the 1950's who saw transistors & made a new product that consumers hadn't had before or even realized they needed. In 1954, he sold the Regency TR-1, the first portable radio. The radio came out in 4 colors & was marketed to the public in part to keep up on the news in case of atom bomb attacks by the Russians, but it really made a hit among the younger crowd who could listen to that new-fangled music (rock & roll) their parents wouldn't let them play on the big home tube sets made by RCA - who turned down an offer to take part in this new radio. 15 years later, he did it again with IC's when he told his guys to make a portable calculator. (Haggerty was probably Steve Jobs' inspiration.) While there weren't lone inventors, there were certainly giants in the field & Isaacson does a great job of bringing them to life. Many were outliers of society. Ada Lovelace wasn't as bad as her father, Lord Byron, but she certainly had her quirks. Shockley was brilliant, but he craved the lime light too much & became a racist paranoid which ultimately ruined him. Turing was gay, a crime in his society, & wound up committing suicide. What a waste! In the Video Game chapter, Isaacson finally gets around to mentioning the MIT railroad club & even references Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution which explores this aspect in even more depth. Highly recommended. The age &duration of the visions common in the computer industry are pretty amazing. In 1945 Vannevar Bush wrote an article in the Atlantic titled “As We May Think". http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a... “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library… A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory." ...Bush imagined that the device would have a “direct entry” mechanism, such as a keyboard, so you could put information and your records into its memory. He even predicted hypertext links, file sharing, and ways to collaborate on projects. “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified,” he wrote, anticipating Wikipedia by a half century. Douglas Engelbart read & was thrilled by this 2 decades later & helped bring it fruition. I was really impressed by the way he handled the Altair, the first personal computer in the early 70s. I've read about it before & never understood why it was such a hit. Software finally is coming into its own as hardware is catching up. Which brings us to Bill Gates & Steve Jobs - the change from sharing ideas to monetizing them. Gates’ savvy in changing software from an afterthought into the driving force, the prime profit maker, is truly incredible. Jobs’ focus on usability & simplicity is, too. Isaacson really brings them to life with all their strengths & warts. On the downside, Isaacson didn't get into business networks & security at all, a gross oversight. Unix dominated networks at first & Novell had a huge presence in the late 80s, but a user had no rights on either network unless specifically granted by knowledgeable techs & businesses paid dearly for them & their support. Neither had a good desktop, if they had one at all. IBM's OS/2 was far better than Win 3.1, but IBM didn't push it nor scale their servers for small businesses. Apple ignored small business & never attracted application software due to their proprietary architecture. Microsoft (MS) sold an easy to use desktop interface that anyone could network & write apps for. Any PC could act as a server & it didn't take much knowledge to set up, so most consumers & small businesses went to Windows. Security was an afterthought until the late 90s, after the WWW connected them all. We've played hell trying to implement decent security ever since, but applications kept us locked in to this OS for all its faults. Still, Microsoft now has over 90% of the desktops compared to a mere 5% by Apple & Linux has even less. He gets into the distinction between AI & computer augmentation several times, but really concentrates on it in the last chapter. He has a point that it's been just around the corner for quite some time, but I'm not as sanguine as he is that it isn't now. Great overviews of the WWW, blogs, & Wikis. This is also a great summation of the book & really tied all his themes together. He shows the combinations of people, funding, & models that worked for innovation & what didn't. Excellent job, well read, & highly recommended. If you listen to the audio book, I highly recommend getting a text copy as well. There are some good pictures & plenty of areas that deserve some study. Table of Contents CHAPTER 1 Ada, Countess of Lovelace CHAPTER 2 The Computer CHAPTER 3 Programming CHAPTER 4 The Transistor CHAPTER 5 The Microchip CHAPTER 6 Video Games CHAPTER 7 The Internet CHAPTER 8 The Personal Computer CHAPTER 9 Software CHAPTER 10 Online CHAPTER 11 The Web CHAPTER 12 Ada Forever

  14. 3 out of 5

    Paul

    Almost everything we do these days has some link to the world wide web, or involves interacting with some sort of computer, but how did these things become so pervasive and essential? In this book Isaacson writes about the people that made the companies, that made the products that we all now use. Starting on the earliest computer, the Analytical Engine conceived by Charles Babbage, which he made with Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace. It was a purely mechanical device, made at the very limits of eng Almost everything we do these days has some link to the world wide web, or involves interacting with some sort of computer, but how did these things become so pervasive and essential? In this book Isaacson writes about the people that made the companies, that made the products that we all now use. Starting on the earliest computer, the Analytical Engine conceived by Charles Babbage, which he made with Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace. It was a purely mechanical device, made at the very limits of engineering capability at the time. It took another century until the next computers surfaced. A man called Vannevar Bush was instrumental in developing a differential analyser for generating firing tables, followed in World War 2 by the Colossus at Bletchley used for attacking the Nazi Enigma codes. These new room sized contraptions used the old vacuum tube valves, and consumed vast amounts of energy and took large numbers of people to maintain and use the machines. For computers to reach the point where you could get more than one in a room, the technology would need to be miniaturised. The team in America that achieved this using the semi conducting properties of silicon would earn themselves a Nobel Prize. This moment was the point where the modern computer age started, especially when it was realised that there could have a variety of components, and therefore circuits on a single piece of silicon. These new microchips were initially all taken by the US military for weapons, but as the price of manufacture fall, numerous commercial applications could be realised. Some of the first products that used microchips that the general public saw were calculators, but as engineers started to use their imaginations almost anything was possible. The coming years saw the development of the first video games, personal computers that you could fit on a desk and the birth of the internet. Most of these innovations came out of one place in California that we now know as Silicon Valley. It formed a new way of working too, with unlikely collaborations, spin offs and the beginning of software and hardware companies that have now become household names. It didn’t take too long for people to start wanting to hook computers together. The original ARPNET was a military network, but it soon had links to academia and not long after that the geeks found it. It was still a niche way of communicating, until Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web with hypertext linking, and the world was never the same again. Isaacson has written a reasonable book on the history of computing and the internet, and the significant characters and people who discovered or made things, or who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He covers all manner of noteworthy events right up to the present day. Mostly written from an American centric point of view, it feels like a book celebrating America’s major achievements in computing. Whilst they have had a major part to play, they have not had the stage entirely to themselves; there is a brief sojourn to Finland about Linux and CERN with Berners-Lee there is very little mention of other European. There are some flaws though. He doesn’t mention the dark net or any of the other less salubrious activities that happen online either; ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. There is very little mention of mobile technology either. It was a book worth reading though, as he shows that some of the best innovations have come from unlikely collaborations, those that don’t follow the herd and those whose quirky personalities and way of seeing the world bring forth products that we never knew we needed.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Asif Kazi

    Walter Isaacson is a brilliant writer, he after writing books on Einstein and Steve Jobs was attracted to science and tech world this time he came up with the book on the whole process of innovation. This is very interesting book and it serves two purposes simultaneously; One is it teaches us the history of innovation i.e chronological history of development of the computers from the embryonic concept of computing machine of Charles Babbage and Lady Ada to the sophisticated personal computers and Walter Isaacson is a brilliant writer, he after writing books on Einstein and Steve Jobs was attracted to science and tech world this time he came up with the book on the whole process of innovation. This is very interesting book and it serves two purposes simultaneously; One is it teaches us the history of innovation i.e chronological history of development of the computers from the embryonic concept of computing machine of Charles Babbage and Lady Ada to the sophisticated personal computers and supercomputers and technologies such as internet and Artificial intelligence of today, and on the way author discuss each revolutionary leap in the journey with distinctive chapters on each breakthrough. But the book is not merely a collection of historical anecdotes( although Isaacsonian anecdotal style is absolutely brilliant) this is merely icing on the cake, the real purpose comes to the second objective of the book throughout the length of the book(more than 450 pages tome) author try to establish the point that innovation does not occur in the isolated segments but in the realms where collaboration of different geniuses is directed towards one vision and how to achieve the end result of this collaboration and what are the ways to fail great ideas running out of collaborative teams or brilliant executors and what a manager or innovator can learn to enhance innovation process. For appreciating the importance and usefulness of the book for strategic managers of the modern companies, I would advise to give it an early read to benefit from the generations old and time tested formula of success in innovation and product making vision.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Arvind

    2.5/5 First things first - This is the book to recommend to your CA friends if they have recommended you a book filled with economics/accounting jargon that made it frustrating for u. This is a history of the computer industry - both hardware and software. Picked it up a year or so earlier, found it too dry and gave it up. This was my second attempt at reading the book. Loved Steve Jobs' biography by the author recently and so decided to read the book in reverse order, with the latest technologic 2.5/5 First things first - This is the book to recommend to your CA friends if they have recommended you a book filled with economics/accounting jargon that made it frustrating for u. This is a history of the computer industry - both hardware and software. Picked it up a year or so earlier, found it too dry and gave it up. This was my second attempt at reading the book. Loved Steve Jobs' biography by the author recently and so decided to read the book in reverse order, with the latest technological development first. The second half of the book is on software technologies and you will not get the book unless you are a computer (software) engineer. However this part was fun to read for me, especially the chapter on personal computer software featuring Gates,Jobs and Linux and would rate d 2nd half 3.5/5 The first half of the book is on hardware with a lot of electrical & electronics engineering and mathematical concepts thrown in. This was the first and major problem. Really frustrating but speed-read it. Remember I dropped it earlier ! 2/5 The core theme of the book is that the computer industry has progressed not because of individuals but because of teams/collaborations. So it features a no. of personalities and their birthdates and their mom/dads and their childhood geniuses with each of them learning calculus in kinder-garten. And only to have the personality discarded after a couple of pages sometimes. This was the second problem. Perhaps any1 trying to write such a book should consult A Short History of Nearly Everything on how it is done.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Kniha Inovátoři pojednává o historii a vývoji technologií od počátků vzniku jednoduchých počítacích strojů přes objevení tranzistoru a mikročipu, nástup videoher, rozvoj internetu, osobní počítače a příchod softwaru až po dnešní online svět a boom učících se algoritmů. Kniha detailně popisuje jednotlivé milníky a snaží se k tématům přistupovat kriticky. Neidealizuje. Líbil se nám i její konec, kde autor píše, že budoucnost patří lidem, kteří se naučí nejlépe vycházet a spolupracovat s počítači. Kniha Inovátoři pojednává o historii a vývoji technologií od počátků vzniku jednoduchých počítacích strojů přes objevení tranzistoru a mikročipu, nástup videoher, rozvoj internetu, osobní počítače a příchod softwaru až po dnešní online svět a boom učících se algoritmů. Kniha detailně popisuje jednotlivé milníky a snaží se k tématům přistupovat kriticky. Neidealizuje. Líbil se nám i její konec, kde autor píše, že budoucnost patří lidem, kteří se naučí nejlépe vycházet a spolupracovat s počítači. Svatým grálem výpočetní techniky není umělá inteligence, ale symbióza člověka s počítačem.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aman Mittal

    There is no doubt that the computer and the internet are one of the most important innovations of our era. Without them, I would not have written this, and you won't be reading this either. In spite of that, computers should be considered only the second most important innovation, as important as Gutenberg's wooden printing press. Accessible to most, easy to learn, part and parcel of everyone's life nowadays. Walter Isaacson's recently published THE INNOVATORS takes a reader back in the times of There is no doubt that the computer and the internet are one of the most important innovations of our era. Without them, I would not have written this, and you won't be reading this either. In spite of that, computers should be considered only the second most important innovation, as important as Gutenberg's wooden printing press. Accessible to most, easy to learn, part and parcel of everyone's life nowadays. Walter Isaacson's recently published THE INNOVATORS takes a reader back in the times of Romantic Era or Romanticism, during which much emphasis was given to the artistic and literary originators. One of the key figures of that era was Lord Gordon Byron whose daughter turned out to be one of the first to acknowledge of what we today call 'Technology'. Ada Lovelace, is chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this she is often called the world's first computer programmer. The book tracks the stories in a linear perspective, from the 19th century-- Lovelace and Babbage to Alan Turing, ENIAC, John Von Neumann, to Ethernet and Xerox, to Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Linus Trovalds, Tim Berners- Lee, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He covers almost all of these people and how their creativity helped them harness not only their goals, but also the clear and visible difference brought in an entire culture of people as well as formulating the digital era. Many of their innovations are now important aspect of an individual's thinking, his actions and his overall growth. Imagine, the usual life without internet. This is a story of individuals with brilliant ideas. There is sometimes collaboration of people, sometimes when people work on their own and yet at the end of it all, the reader is left with more clarity on them and the various eras in which different ideas were shaped and formed. There have been countless books written on the digital era, the one that constitute us as segments but Walter Isaacson’s book is different in the sense that he takes a complete look at the innovators, the geniuses, the hackers, and the geeks and what they did and did not do to make their contributions in the digital era. The Innovators is a book which looks at everything, right from the start, to the middle and the future of entrepreneurs and creative geniuses. Along with her love for machines, Ada Lovelace is the first known specimen of "Poetical Science", a term used by Isaacson in the concluding pages of his book quite relevantly. "We humans can remain relevant in an era of cognitive computing because we are able to think different, something that an algorithm, almost by definition cannot master [...]" -Walter Isaacson This is well said, and there is no point of argument that instead of considering artificial intelligence the "holy grail" and concentrating all our efforts to make a machine better than us which is not a feasible aspect because of a reason that a machine and a human can never think on the same grounds. No matter how much more efficient a computer can become in storing numerous amount of data and calculating numbers that a human mind in normal terms cannot proceed, a computer will never be able to think creatively and sense enormous feelings using an imagination a human has. Computers are just "brilliant idiots" as they will do what you tell him to do. Even as a human, we need art as much as we need science. The art provides us the conscience that lead up to the creativity and science provides the intelligence that can add up to that creativity. These two different looking cultures do intersect and it is our job in this era to understand how they intersect since only then the next phase of Digital Revolution will bring more and new methods of merging technology and creativeness. Using machines intelligence supported by human's creativity is the only way to materialise our future. "This innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty and engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors. [...] it will come from people who can flourish where the arts intersect with the sciences and who have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens to the beauty of both." -Walter Isaacson on the intersection of art and technology.

  19. 3 out of 5

    Abhishek

    The 'Digital Revolution' has been a long journey which continues moving forward even today, which has had innumerable number of heroes, some of them crossing paths and some of them working alone. There is an underlying interconnection amongst each of the great achievements in the digital age, which can only be seen when someone takes a step back and looks at the whole big picture. That is what Walter Isaacson has bravely attempted to do in his book The Innovators. To try to capture this complex The 'Digital Revolution' has been a long journey which continues moving forward even today, which has had innumerable number of heroes, some of them crossing paths and some of them working alone. There is an underlying interconnection amongst each of the great achievements in the digital age, which can only be seen when someone takes a step back and looks at the whole big picture. That is what Walter Isaacson has bravely attempted to do in his book The Innovators. To try to capture this complex and huge story in itself is a mammoth task, but to finally manage to put quite a lot of it in a book and make sense of it all is praise-worthy. The Innovators shines on account of Isaacson's hardwork in his research and his ability to make the story simplistic but interesting. The Innovators charts the journey of the Digital Revolution from the 19th century when Charles Babbage and Lady Lovelace attempted to write a program for a machine to perform a task upto the present day where millions are connected through personal computers and the power of the Web which is only growing bigger and faster. This journey has had many splendid moments, be it the creation of the transistor, the evolution of the microprocessor, the advent of personal computer, the ability to connect computers through packet-sharing networks, the rise of software when Microsoft came into dominance, the brilliance of Apple products, the growth of collaboration through Wikipedia and many more. Walter Isaacson takes us through the entire evolution of the Digital Age from infancy into becoming an essential part of our lives. In many places, he talks about the importance of collaboration, and how the Revolution has been brought about not by one man or a few, but by many teams who worked tirelessly to attain their visions. There are quite a few places though, where I felt Isaacson ended up repeating his points a bit too often, which makes the book a good 50-pages longer than was required. Nonetheless, if you have an interest in this topic, if you would love to know how that laptop on which you are googling things came to be, then there can be nothing better recommended than The Innovators. The whole story is way too big for one book to capture but The Innovators should do more than enough to get you interested and make you seek out more!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    I remember reading, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson with great trepidation. I thought I would get bored. I thought I would not be interested in it for long. I thought these things and a lot of other things before I invested time in the book. I loved the book at the end of it, so much so that I thought there was not any need to pick up anything on “Steve Jobs”, since this book was most comprehensive. Walter Isaacson does it again this time with “The Innovators”. There have been countless books wri I remember reading, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson with great trepidation. I thought I would get bored. I thought I would not be interested in it for long. I thought these things and a lot of other things before I invested time in the book. I loved the book at the end of it, so much so that I thought there was not any need to pick up anything on “Steve Jobs”, since this book was most comprehensive. Walter Isaacson does it again this time with “The Innovators”. There have been countless books written on the digitized revolution and the Silicon Valley. Walter Isaacson’s book is different in the sense that he takes a complete look at the innovators, the geniuses, the hackers, and the geeks and what they did and did not do to get the revolution going. “The Innovators” is a book which looks at everything – right from the start, to the middle and the future of entrepreneurs and creative geniuses. “The Innovators” tracks the stories from the 19th century – to Lovelace and Babbage to the Ethernet and Xerox, the Manhattan Project, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs of course and Steve Wozniak. He covers almost all of these people and how their creativity helped them harness not only their goals, but also the clear and visible difference brought in an entire culture of people. The writing is crisp and easy to understand. There are parts that do drag but one can overlook them in the larger scheme of the theme and essence of the book. The book is written with the view point of ideas. That is the core and essence of the book. The people of course play a very important role, but it is the ideas that take center-stage in a book like this. Mr. Isaacson tells the story of individuals with brilliant ideas. There is sometimes collaboration of people, sometimes when people work on their own and yet at the end of it all, the reader is left with more clarity on them and the various eras in which different ideas were shaped and formed. One can then use the cliché and say then that the book is “well-researched”. The layout and the hyper-narration at times is perfect. The systematic building of concepts only lends to the overall effect of the book. At some point, I thought that maybe some people were not included which could have been and some which perhaps did not need inclusion. The narrative is very strong and maybe again why one can see why the author could not have included everyone in the book. “The Innovators” is one of those books that also help us to some extent see what technology could mean in the future and its implications. Overall, I would say that even if you are not a technology buff the book will appeal to you only from the point of view of knowing more about these people and the ideas they thought of. I highly recommend this one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarju Shrestha Mehri

    Walter Isaacson is such a great writer and a researcher. Coming from none technical background, this book really gave me the bigger picture of technology world; its beginning and its future. How devices we use in our daily lives are the products of many creative genius, visionaries and restless ambitious minds. Also, many of these work are the contribution of collaboration, respect and stealing the best ideas from each other. I am very impressed how Isaacson credits and acknowledged the first wom Walter Isaacson is such a great writer and a researcher. Coming from none technical background, this book really gave me the bigger picture of technology world; its beginning and its future. How devices we use in our daily lives are the products of many creative genius, visionaries and restless ambitious minds. Also, many of these work are the contribution of collaboration, respect and stealing the best ideas from each other. I am very impressed how Isaacson credits and acknowledged the first woman computer programer, Ida Lovelace. He reveals each of the major Eureka! moments with mini biographies of the great minds during the cultural revolution in technology. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and took time to reread some of the paragraph to its fascination. However, I grapple with the fact that how many women contributors are not known to the world and in middle schools. It is about time that girls see themselves like Ida Love Lace, Grace Hopper ((first Cobol programmer) and Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder (who program Eniac) as role models. The whole book is a wonderful piece of well-researched history on how the ideas from one time moved to another influencing innovations when people worked collaboratively. It is a must read for everyone.

  22. 3 out of 5

    Lei

    Another wonderful work from Walter Isaacson, a legendary of digital revolutions, full of amazing stories of innovators who made a dent in the computer history. A must read , I'll buy one to keep it at home for sure.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hussein Nasser

    An excellent book reach on history of the great innovators

  24. 3 out of 5

    Shreya Shreya

    I recommend this to everybody. I love how detailed, how interesting and how smoothly this book is written. With every chapter, I felt indebted to every single eccentric geniuses who have contributed in making this digital world. I have nothing but gratitude to everybody.

  25. 3 out of 5

    Jaanika Merilo

    Intesting, historic, good to know.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I can't say I enjoyed this books as much as Isaacson's biographies of Einstein and Steve Jobs. I guess I would have liked to stay on each story/innovation for a longer period of time, but then the book would have been too long. Considering all of the information he crammed into a single book, I say, Well Done! I would read anything by Isaacson. He is a fantastic writer. Innovators provides a history of the many important figures in technological history. He covered those who helped us create the I can't say I enjoyed this books as much as Isaacson's biographies of Einstein and Steve Jobs. I guess I would have liked to stay on each story/innovation for a longer period of time, but then the book would have been too long. Considering all of the information he crammed into a single book, I say, Well Done! I would read anything by Isaacson. He is a fantastic writer. Innovators provides a history of the many important figures in technological history. He covered those who helped us create the first fully electronic digital computer, ENIAC, at Upenn, through innovators who brought us the Mac. He provided a wonderful section on Turning (I would like to see him write an entire biography of Turning's life). He had an interesting take on Loveless. Some things he included were bits I had not heard before. Of course, once the computer was up and running, there were plenty of innovators who enabled us to use computers to connect with the entire world. From blogging to Twitter,Wikipedia, and Google, Isaacson covered many of these wonderful innovations. Absolutely worth reading. --------update------ It's been a year since I read this book, and one thing that keeps nagging at me is Isaacson's portrayal of Ada Lovelace. So many brilliant men were also fairly vocal about their intellect. Take Isaac Newton. He had an extremely high regard for his unique intelligence. He often bragged that since he was born on Christmas Day, God had bestowed him with the special gift of superior intelligence. He really did think himself superior to every other scientist. And yet, we revere Isaac Newton. But, if Ada Lovelace publicly announced that she is superior in intelligence, many make sure to take her down a few pegs. Isaacson certainly did. Some brilliant men also had strange beliefs. For example, James Watson believed that DNA came here from aliens. Isaac Newton believed that he could turn urine into gold. Yet, we still revere these geniuses and gloss over anything that was unflattering, adding it as just a side story to their genius. The treatment of Ada Lovelace in this book is why women in science are written out of the history books. Isaacson made sure to highlight any of Ada Lovelace's flaws, which served to downplay her significant contribution to science. She indeed was the first programmer in the world. She saw something that no one else in her time could see, just like Isaac Newton, just like Einstein. And yet her contribution is devalued.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Milkiways

    Issacson's The Innovators is a very well written, credible book filled with information on each individual, germination of an idea, it's implementation and development behind today's magic machine, The Computer. The writer has done an excellent job in meticulously presenting the tiniest details and have certainly done justification to each and every small to big individual with personal details who were part of this extraordinary system. It is unfortunate to see how the innovation has changed ov Issacson's The Innovators is a very well written, credible book filled with information on each individual, germination of an idea, it's implementation and development behind today's magic machine, The Computer. The writer has done an excellent job in meticulously presenting the tiniest details and have certainly done justification to each and every small to big individual with personal details who were part of this extraordinary system. It is unfortunate to see how the innovation has changed over the time... in the past if innovators are deprived and limited by the funds, their pride and discrimination then, today innovation is purely driven by wealth and fame! Another important fact, which seemed to have intense influence is deserving credit for one's own ideas... engineering and technology is purely built on existing technology! It is the designer's intuition to connect the dots, blend his/her experience and knowledge and come up with something new. In this case, how can anyone else share the perks of his intuition? of course collaborators do deserve credit for the input which made the technology possible but, how about the executioner, who could able to see the potential/hidden application which others failed to see? This is not that simple to answer that's the reason there were so many lawsuits over fame and wealth, damaged pride.. inturn centuries of delay! All in all, I was highly intrigued by the brief life stories of these great minds! This made me understand who they were and how could they be able to do what they have done. I felt enlightened by all the aspects author has pursued. It's a must read of the year for the curious brains and I'm glad I did it! P.S. one of the great contributors, Alan Turing and his journey of designing and building the universal machine is made into a movie "The Imitation Game". It was a wonderful coincidence, that I could also be able to watch this film while reading the book! :)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vasyl Pasternak

    A must read book for everyone, somehow connected to IT. A modern history, evolution of ideas are delivered in easy digestible form combined with a precision of scientific paper (over 1000 references and thousands cites).

  29. 3 out of 5

    Aaron Wolfson

    Isaacson highlights the merits of collaboration among innovators as well as between humans and computers in his history of the digital age. Such an imposing topic is destined to be incomplete, and it is, but Isaacson does a nice job of highlighting the primary contributors and showing how each innovation built off the previous ones. As with Steve Jobs, you won't learn a lot about the technology itself beyond the most basic level, but Isaacson is clearly more interested in the cultural history an Isaacson highlights the merits of collaboration among innovators as well as between humans and computers in his history of the digital age. Such an imposing topic is destined to be incomplete, and it is, but Isaacson does a nice job of highlighting the primary contributors and showing how each innovation built off the previous ones. As with Steve Jobs, you won't learn a lot about the technology itself beyond the most basic level, but Isaacson is clearly more interested in the cultural history and the interplay among the various creators, so as long as you know that going on, you ought to enjoy this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chintogtokh

    Ерөнхийдөө бол таалагдлаа. Яах ч аргагүй 1800-гаад онд механик тооцоолуур гарч эхлэхээс өнөөдрийн Google, Wikipedia яаж үүссэн тухай асар урт хугацааны түүхийг бичсэн учраас зарим талаар хэтэрхий товч байсан гэж бодогдсон. Энэ утгаар Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution номноос цар хүрээ ихтэй ч арай гүйцэхгүй санагдсан. Гэхдээ уншихад амар, монгол руу орчуулбал МТ, электроникийн салбарыг сонирхох хүмүүс ч ихсэх байх.

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