Book Review: The Innovators

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Author: Walter Issacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781471138799
Genre: Non fiction
Pages: 560
Source: Flipkart

A few decades ago, the very thought of having a world of information at our fingertips was unimaginable. The Internet and computers have changed the world forever, bringing a technological revolution with them to sweep us into the twenty-first century. However, the conception of these magnificent creations was a long process. It took the minds of geniuses whose ideas had the potential to turn heads and garner attention. These men and woman shaped the world into its current form with their ideas and inventions. Walter Isaacson begins with the story of Ada Lovelace, the woman who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He goes on to tell the stories of others like her, giants 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.

The Innovators is an appropriately modest title, because many of the problems solved seem tiny on their own: a different configuration of electrodes, putting a film on a silicon wafer. Much of this is home cooking, solving everyday puzzles with the tools at hand. The story moves from science to the military to management, and the book is half over before the first lawsuit appears, after which they proliferate. The story also tends to travel from East to West. A subtheme is the overthrow of authoritarian chief executives and their besuited courtiers. The casualizing and revaluing of the business world by Silicon Valley cowboys is a founding myth of the tech industry, even as its CEOs grow ever more powerful.

In The Innovators Isaacson identifies several virtues that were essential to his geeky heroes’ success. The digital pioneers all loathed authority, embraced collaboration and prized art as much as science. Though its lessons may be prosaic, the book is still absorbing and valuable, and Isaacson’s  narrative talents are on full display. Few authors are more adept at translating technical jargon into graceful prose, or at illustrating how hubris and greed can cause geniuses to lose their way.

Walter Isaacson is an American biographer known for his books Kissinger: A Biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Einstein: His Life and Universe and Steve Jobs. He graduated from Harvard University and during his stay, he was President of the Signet Society, a member of the Harvard Lampoon and a resident of Lowell House. He later went on to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, reading Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). He has also served as the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the Managing Editor of Time.

The Innovators is about how a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. Its a must read for anyone and everyone looking to be inspired.

Rating 5/5

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