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  • The Innovators

  • How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
  • By: Walter Isaacson
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 17 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (667 ratings)

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Summary

2015 Audie Award Finalist for Non-Fiction

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

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I like it, but ...

Liked it a lot, but gives the impression that very little has been done outside USA, is that correct?

10 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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A brilliant story in every way

Where does The Innovators rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The best.

Walter Isaacson's incredible story telling was brought to life through the best narrated audio book I've listened to.

This will be a book I listen to several times.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely! Such an engaging story!

2 people found this helpful

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As a techie this is a bible!

I simply loved this book. Techies should sit back and soak it up. The primary knowledge bombs around creativity and teamwork that deliver technological innovation and create the digital world go further back than you’d think. Enjoy!

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic condensed and quite full story of the digital age!!

The Innovators

Industrial Age
to Ground concepts, super simple1!!
Simplify endeavours: -this has been the goal of new Ages!!!
1. breaking into easy small tasks that can be accomplished on an assembly
Textile industry:
2. mechanise steps so that they can be performed by machines!!

Charles Babage build on these:
- machines could be programmed and reprogrammed
Aida:
- process anything that can be noted be symbols!

Aida: new subject first overrated to be already iterating and remarkable, and to undervalue the true state of the case

Can we do the same with reasoning!!!
Can we split reasoning into chunks to be executed by a machine on an assembly line?

Free will and Quantum computing!!
Because events at subatomic level are not predetermined!
If we can build. A computer to act on quantum states-it might also have free will!!!!!

Claude Shanon turned in the most influential Master Thesis of all times

Bell Labs!!
Theorist, hands on engineers, business like problem solvers!!!

The power of an invention is estimated by its historical impact!!!

Von Baumann
Get to the essence
The ability to pick out in a particular problem the one crucial thing that is important

Kelby

Read every single patten issued

It is not like one day the light bulb would go on and you have the whole idea
If could do that, they maybe I could do that, which would let me do this

Two Gambits working for TI
Inventing new devices, another popular way to use those

Hand held, same take
Efficient for battery
Small enough to put in pocket
Cheap to buy on impulse

Understand which industries are symbiotic to capitalise on who they will spur each other

AI gpu, cloud, VR
Oil auto

Artur Rock!!
Good feel for personalities!!
Bet primarily on the people rather than the idea
Talking to the individual is more important then finding out what they want to do

When the company is successful it is a privilege to invest in it!!!

Intel
Intel was the anthesis of corporate culture

- rejection of hierarchy
- Freedoms to achieve task

Unwillingness to be bossy, neither was a decisive manager!!!! Careful with that!
Guided, but didn’t drive

Andy Grove


Effective management

Peter Druckers the practise of management
Outside, inside, person of action

CEO in turn each other
The alteration of the executive team
Colorado the

Visionary who knows how to inspire people and sell it when it is getting of the ground!!!

Pioneer each new wave of technology- brilliant scientist

Competitors - hard charging, non nonsense manager, drive as a business

Meritocracy culture!!
The more open,

Avoiding chain of command

Responsibilities are let to young engineers

Here are your guidelines:
A),b)c)

Units as separate agile teams

Noise - pasture

If you suggest to people what they will be, they will figure it out

Grove
Failures and sloppiness should be accountable

Driven, focus,
Grove irrepressible
Blunt, no bull-shit style

Steve Jobs - brutal honesty, clear focus,
Drive for excellences
Goal - innovation, experimentation, and entrepreneurship

Success- >complacency -> fail our

Only the paranoid survive

Retain the rights to the chip

Ripe for digital distribution

The video game

Interactive in real time
Intuitive interfaces
Delightful graffiti displays

Atari
Entrepreneurial trait!!!

Distort reality!!!! To motivate people


An important trait: decisive
Clear crisp,fair

Promoting collobaorarice creativity

Rational, and precise analysis

The most important thing in building a network: getting everyone to buy into the idea!!

Each researcher give presentations

AT&T explained to the inventor of the internet how the telephone worked!!
They didn’t question their own believes

Create a grid of all possibilities to define the characteristics of a devices that doesn’t yet exist!!

Cf materials and material sciences!!!

Questions: what would be your great achievement!

Leadership traits

Radar for talent ability to get together
Highest quality team

Provoke creative abrasion and then articulate the points of the idea

Taylor was Better at dealing with people under him, not above.. hmm, should you do both, should you capitalise on your strengths Pesho up you be the ultimate communicator


The innovators dilemma!!

The best way to predict the future is to invent it!!!!

Simple things should be simple, complex things should be possible a

Hired only people who had stars in their eyes wrt the PC

Potential to amplify human reach and new way of thinking!!!

If you encourage the person the play with the computer (the new product) you will grow it and the community


Microsoft don’t think of original ideas and don’t bring culture into their product!!!!!!!

Emotional incentive beyond financial reward can motivate!!!!!!!

The secret is to combine

Best work when some is driven by passion when they are having fun!!!

Self-interest esteemed Gaines
everybody wants to feel important!!!! Hence, elevate status!!!!


Emotional incentive beyond financial reward can motivate!!!!!!!

The secret is to combine
Best work when some is driven by passion when they are having fun!!!

The digital art skill

Massive decentralised non-hierarchical collaboration!!!!!!
The first rule is to make decisions like an engineer based on technical merit than personal consideration-> trust -

Leaders in volunteers environment have to encourage others to follow not boss them around

Self-interest esteemed Gaines
everybody wants to feel important!!!! Hence, elevate status!!!!

People see who’s active and who they can trust!!

Idealism vs Prgamatism
Black and white vs gray
Binary vs quantum
Two sides va range of responses

It depends should be the most important answer to any big questions

Every advancement is because of specific new social-cultural development:
Version
Apple- seem less experience
Microsoft - more user choices
Linux - completely unfathered and open to change

All combinations

Each model put the other into check to prevent the other from becoming ever so dominant

The internet
Developed at the same time, discarded from each other!! Do I have to go over the same mindset shift to bind two technologies

The street finds its own ways of using things!!
Appropriation!!

Von myster cvc
Consumers don’t want information just piped to them, but also a chance to connect with friends and create their own content

We are going to turn the video game junky into an information junky!!!!!!!
How did he figure this out?


Punch card era -> computers have to be more intuitive and accessible

Two lessons:

People with shines, but desire for connection!

Network
1. Tech has to be Simple to appeal to the masses
2. People like to be part of communities!!

Tim Burners Lee
Computers:
1. Good at step by step problems
2. No good at random associations and creative connections

Computers can become more powerful if they are able to link otherwise unconnected information

Limitations what you can do with computer are limitations of imagination

Unlike the Steve’s Bernes Lee didn’t have the same community!!!!!

Community is critical! Could it be solved now through the internet?

Treat computer as a refrigerator!!!
You can do so much more with it?!? What?!?!
The whole earth catalog of the -19 century!!!!

Google is that for us now!!! What would it be in the future?

The surest way to predict the future is to invent it!!
Ask the right questions: what could the future be?
How does the brain conjure up connections?!?


How people work together - brainstorm fill halves, but how could we do that if we are separated

Inquire within, brains ability to make random associations, and collaborate
Inquire

Stores info without using data structures like matrices or trees?!

Or did it just use graphs?!?
Web of info!

CERN connected diversity!!!
Microcosm of the rest of the world
He wanted to enable people interaction and collaboration system to store

Brainstorm and keep track of the memory of the project
Allows us to work and design together!! Parts of it in their heads

Innovation was created by weaving together two previous inovatjons!

Hypertext and the internet
Brilliant collaborator found himself in need of partner to turn a concept into a reality

The visionary product designer with the diligent project manager
Tim’s Interest can from a moral deeper place of sharing and collaboration

The first browser
Programming bing!

2months
2-3 days code around the clock!
Digital Age secret
Fanatically headed use feedback and soaked suggestions and complaints
Continual improvement - bug report within 2 hours

VC:
Startups which focus on running code and customer service than charts and presentation

Tim Berbers Lee was annoyed because he saw the potential! That people should be able to edit,

Edit vs display enabled sever places to be publishing houses!

Zanedu feature laced two-way links!!
That requires central system!!! It can now be solved with Blackchain!!!
Could have prevented growth, which is why TBL rejected it
Add buyers were enthralled by the amount of eyeballs they could command

That is not sustainable
Sites go up, every month, advertisers remains constant.

Until then and now again!! Consumer are conditioned that content should be free

TBL envisions blockchaon in 1999!! With micro-wallets
TBL would have created crypto currency in 1993!!!! To pay for people who created content!!!

Imagine if the internet really was pay per view!!!
That would stimulate everyone to be a producer in one way or another to allow for views of other things

Basic lesson for innovation
Don’t stay too focused!

Wikipedia

Think about the value of user generating content

Idea: audible Bg allows anyone to upload their voice recordings


Why do people contribute?

Commons based peer production
Diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals rather than market prices or managerial commands
Psychological reward of interacting with others
Personal gratification of doing a useful task!

All have small joys
Dopamine crack when you make a smart edit and it appears instantly in an edit

Being published was pride allowed only to select few
No need to be credentialed or anointed

Even more satisfactory is the creation of information rather than just passively receiving it

Peer-production allows people to be engaged

Free access to the sum of all knowledge

Empowering people to be part of the process of creating and distributing knowledge

When you help build something you own it, you are vested in it!
Far more rewarding than having it handed down to you

Larry Page Sergei Brin and Search
Lary Pages hero was Nicola Tesla, who was outmanoeuvred by Thomas Edison
You have to be more like Edison!
If you invent something, you have to produce

Lary Page +Steve Jobs + Alan Kay likes music
Larry page Computer Science + Business !!!
Carl older brother of Page sold to yahoo for 413M

Course on designer how to design things to be easy and intuitive!

Command keys slow people than a mouse click?!?
Went to summer school to learn about a healthy disregard to the impossible!
Motivated him to launch product which were on the border line between audacious and insane!
Push futuristic ideas

Stanford is the intersection between business and innovation

Professor whose focus is equally on scholarly papers as well as start-up business plans!!!

I have made a mistake here!!
This is what I should have looked for!
Stanford is both an academy and an incubator!
You want what you are working on to apply to a real problem!!!!!!! I totally agree about that!!
1995 enrol to grad school

Sergei Brin gregarious
Sergei Brin when to Montessori school focusing on invidious last thinking! You have to plot your own path
Credit to success

Montessori school
Not following rules or orders and being self motivated
Questioning what is going on in the world and doing things a little differently
Had computers from very young!

Inspired by Memoirs of the physicist Richard Feynman! Talked about joining the powers of art and science the same way Leonardo da Vinci did!

Sergei Brin has quirky acrobatic desires
Complementary skills

Larry is not sociable
Listen with focus! Steer shallow conversations in philosophical discussions
Brin - charming brahs blurt out ideas and requests

Brin OK with something worked, Page would ask why

Intense talkative natures filled the room
Page insightful comments made everyone lean in

Computer engineer and the hardware
The other has mathematical!

Impressed by how smart one of them was
And outgoing personality bring people together

Sergei would walk into Professor offices and talk to them which was unusual
Tolerated it because he was smart and knowledgeable

Page HCi
Make something intuitive and the user is always right

Not how computer will automate, but how do you want to interact with a computer

HCI + Data mining
Two papers on Market Basket analysis together with first hire at Google!

H-index
Page would wander
Page’s idea came after a lucid DREAM!!!!!!
You have to be a little silly for the goal you are going to set
Healthy disregard of impossible
You should try to do things other people would not

The optimism of youth if often highly underrated
Wise enough to not tell him!

He had all of the resources of Stanford to launch a prototype!
Search engine wasn’t even on the radar!

Number and quality of pages

High quality search engine downed on them later!
When a really great dream shows up - grab it!!

It is all recursive, it is all a circle, but you can solve it!!

Blaming the user is wrong!!!

Improvements on Google

1. Processing power and storage capacity
100pages/second
2.fanatic in studying userbehaviour so they could constantly tweet algorithms! If clicked on top result and didn’t return it is exactly what they wanted!! Id they searched and revised the query right away, means they are dissatisfied
Scroll -> unhappy with order

Cold email -> instant reply and meeting on the Palo Alto Porch

The pitch was not some vapour, but a working demo better than existing product a with woo smart founders

Interesting:
They knew it was good enough, it would spread by word of mouth so every penny was spent to build computers

Deliver something of value
Compelling enough that people would just us it!

Jeff Bezos invested in Google
A higher form of human computer symbiosis

The number of document a has been increasing in many magnitudes, but the users ability to search through them has not!

Create a world in which humans, machines and networks were intimately linked

Inquire within about everything

Computers are great at storing and processing vast amount of information!!!

What remains is inference!!!

Hard problem are easy, and easy problems are hard!

Bill Gates -> eventually we will reverse engineer the brain!

Reverse engineering someone else’s product

40years to map brain!!!
Ha Hahahah! Now we have AI!!

It will be much faster!
1millimitwr Round worm
302 neurona 8k synapses
8.6x10^10-11
1.5x10^14

Singularity - Von Neughman
Computers are smarter than humans but can also design themselves to be even smarter!!
Leonardo da Vinci!! The human mind will never design anything more perfect than nature!!!!

Human Computer Symbiosis
Machines partner a to human
Human bring creativity and originality
augmented intelligence

Kasparov!!!
Spend time thinking out strategy instead of calculating moves!!

Idea!!! Strategy thinker for SMEs to computer potential impact of decisions!!!
Make the computer more humble so that it is like a conversation with a knowledgable colleague!!

Humble ! Per stage likelihood this could be useful
Intuition plus strength of a machine

Lessons
1. Creativity is a collaborative process
1. Teams
2. People don’t invent things on the internet, they expand on already existing ideas
3. Digital age is expand ideas of products innovators
4. Best innovatorsExpanding on generation ideaBest innovators understood the trajectory of technological change and took the buton from innovators who preceded them
5. It is rediscovering and augmenting old ideas
2. Most productive teams were those that brought people with wide array of specialties
3. Physical proximity is beneficial?
1. People are more collaborative and innovative when they are together
2. Pixar and Apple offices to create serendipitous encounters
4. Best leadership combine people with complementary styles
Complementary styles

US
Rectitude
Thinker
Vision and passion
Sage consolidators

ARPaNet
Visionary
Crisp decision making Engineers
Politically adroit people handlers
Collaborative ointments

5. Pair visionary with Operations
1. Visionaries without execution is hallucinating
6. Internet collaboration with thousands of collaborators
1. Collective wisdom of the crowd
7. 3 ways teams are assembled
1. Government funding and organisation
2. Private enterprise research Centers
1. Key driver is profit
3. Peers freely sharing and collaboration
1. Other forms of rewards
8. Foster collaboration and establish a vision
1. Bring strong teams around them and inspire loyalty!
9. Product people!
1. Cared about design and tech
2. Engineering and design

Product people are the leaders

Cared about and deeply understood the engineering

When sales take over it is to the detriment of innovation

When sales guys run the company, product guys don’t matter so much and turn of

Lary Page: the best leaders are those with the deepest understanding of engineering and product design
10. Man is a social animal
1. Create community
2. Enhance communication
3. Foster collaboration on projects
4. Machine are not social; hence they are a beast or a God 😂
11. Final Lesson
Rational and analytics

Judgment
Intuition
Creativity
Empathy
Moral compass

Storytelling
Nurture humanity
Technology on its own is not enough!!
The innovation happens at the intersection
Science and the humanities understand how they intersect!
Poetical science

The next stage will bring new ways of marrying technology and humanities
Media
Fashion
Music
Entertaining
Literature
Arts

First Round of innovation was pouring old wine into new digital bottles!!
Now it is time enabling fres opportunities for creativity

Interplay
Link Beaty and engineering
Humanity to technology
Poetry to processing
Rebellious sense of wonder which opens them to the beauty of both

1 person found this helpful

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Thoroughly enjoyable and educational

I really enjoyed Walter's biography of Steve Jobs also as an audio book. This wasn't a comprehensive history of computing but it did cover some of the key people involved from the 1800s to present day. Walter is great at storytelling and as with his book on Jobs this is clearly very well researched.

I'll be listening again in a couple of years I'm sure.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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A good listen

And enjoyable and interesting delve into the people involved in some of the innovations that have shaped the modern world.

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Fantastic history/timeline of the tech revolution

Brilliantly curated to weave a seamless tapestry of the evolution of the technology revolution. Delivered by a master orator! Highly recommended!

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  • Mark
  • 21-10-14

A History of the Ancient Geeks

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.

53 people found this helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 06-10-15

With Atlantean Shoulders, Fit to Bear

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.

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  • K
  • 10-10-14

Inspiring stories about technology & innovation

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.

44 people found this helpful

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  • LMB
  • 24-07-17

Who is this for?

The research behind this book is impressive and useful for those teaching a history of the industry. But it is dry and dull. It is like listening to the required standard textbooks in Uni. It was nearly impossible to fight my mind from drifting. I hardly made it through 3 chapters, and I wanted to learn the content. Maybe this is easier to learn from in print. But in audio form, it can only compete with the audio version of a Drivers manual.

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  • Jean
  • 26-10-14

Fascinating

“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.

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  • Luis De Leon
  • 08-10-14

A short history of digital technology.

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.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Gary
  • 16-10-14

Much breadth with little depth

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.

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  • Shane
  • 14-11-14

History of Computing 101

Would you listen to The Innovators again? Why?

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.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Innovators?

The tales of Lady Loveless and Babbage.

What does Dennis Boutsikaris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Timing. He gives the words a chance to sink in, especially at key moments.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It inspired me to continue deeper into the field of robotics. Thank you!

Any additional comments?

Audiobooks are awesome.

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  • Elaine D. Kirchen
  • 20-10-14

Wonderful Biographer Writes Boring Book

What disappointed you about The Innovators?

Mr. Issacson's talent is wasted on a rambling historical account of computers, software, etc. He drones on about early innovators when he could have focused on the interesting people in the business today. He wasted his time.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Biography of Nelson Rockefeller.

Have you listened to any of Dennis Boutsikaris’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Dennis Boutsikaris performed miracles with nothing to work with. I would absolutely listen to him again.

What character would you cut from The Innovators?

The entire book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Rodney
  • 12-02-18

Mostly good, at times annoying

I really enjoyed the Isaacson bio of Jobs and Franklin, and while this book was different, I still looked forward to listening to it.

First let me say if I was scoring it, it'd be more like 3.5 stars - but that's not an option and based on the hyperbole of the other scores I rounded down. I don't by any means dislike the book, it's just written in an obnoxious annoying style where the author continually shoe horns in his politics all while trying to impress his fellow writers with long passages that attempt to sound poetic, but instead come off as pompous and a waste of time. Also the author is completely obsessed with gays, everytime someone who is gay comes up in the story the author feels the need to stop the story to tell you about how gay they are - completely unnecessary and it slows the pace of everything to a crawl all so he can show everyone how progressive he is. However if he was truly progressive he wouldn't be hung up on people's sexuality.

Also the book misses one HUGE part of the story that got us to where we are today. Obviously in a book of this scope you can't touch on everything, but to completely leave out Jack Tramiel, the head of Commodore, it's pretty remarkable. Tramiel and Commodore did more than anyone else (including Apple) to bring the personal computer into peoples home by waging a huge price cutting war with everyone. It's a massive oversight and would be slightly more forgivable if he didn't spend the first hour of the book on a completely worthless, pompous and boring subject.

With that said I know it sounds like I hated the book, but I really didn't. When the author stuck to telling the story instead of preaching his leftist politics, the book is very interesting and well written. It covers a lot of content, some of which is new to me, and that's a big to me since I'm extremely well read in the subject of computer history and the origins of the internet and I've been working in the field for 25 years so I've seen the rise of the internet and how it came to be. Even knowing most of the content already when the author sticks to the narrative it's still interesting in how he brings things together.

The authors politics however definitely bring the book down a notch for the reason above, it's not so much that it's unlistenable, it's just obnoxious he feels the need to stop the flow to lecture to you on things that are his opinion and not part of the story. The best analogy I can give you is that he comes off like Bob Costas, so take that as you wish.

Overall I'd give it 3.5 stars as stated above. If you're a left winger you'll love it even more.

The reader does a very good professional job - and as a heads up you can easily listen to this book at 1.25x speed and it sounds greats, just a little tidbit if you want to shave a few hours off the total listening time (I like long books, but have found listening a bit faster than normal helps hold my interest as my mind doesn't wander as often).

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