Walter Isaacson's 'The Innovators' Charts the History of Computing and the Internet

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  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    More than a decade ago, Walter Isaacson began working on a book to highlight the history of computers and the Internet, but the project was sidelined in early 2009 when he took on the task of writing Steve Jobs' authorized biography. That book, which debuted just weeks after Jobs' death in October 2011, topped best seller charts and revealed a number of interesting details about Jobs and Apple.

    Following the publication of Steve Jobs, Isaacson returned to his earlier project of documenting the history of computing, and that work debuts tomorrow as The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. While Apple and Jobs play relatively minor roles in the book, overall it offers an interesting look at how computers and the Internet developed into what they are today.

    Isaacson breaks his book into nearly a dozen different sections, highlighting a number of advancements along the way. It begins with Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage outlining their thoughts on a mechanical "Analytical Engine" in the 1830s and 1840s before jumping ahead nearly 100 years to Vannevar Bush and Alan Turing and their visions for the earliest computers that would follow soon after. Further sections address advances in programming, transistors, microchips, video games, and the early Internet before broaching the topics of the modern personal computer and the World Wide Web.

    Throughout the book, Isaacson focuses on the importance of teamwork rather than individual genius in the development of computers, frequently involving contrasting but complementary personalities of visionaries, technical experts, and managers. Popular examples include Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple, or Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove at Intel, but the observation extends further as time and time again teams have been responsible for many of the biggest innovations.
    Isaacson also emphasizes the importance of building on previous discoveries, including collaboration both within and between generations of scientists. A number of characters in the book appear at multiple stages, often first as innovators themselves and later helping to foster discoveries by the next generation.

    Other observations include the various roles of government, academia, and business in the development of computing and how they frequently came together, particularly in the early days, to lead advancements. Isaacson also uses several cases to argue that innovation works best when different business models compete against each other, particularly in software development as with Apple's integrated systems vying with Microsoft's unbundled model while the free and open-source approach maintained its position in the market.
    Packing the entire history of computing into 500 pages leaves some topics feeling brief or left out altogether, but Isaacson's book gives an interesting overview for those who may not be familiar with the technical advances stretching back decades that have given rise to the current state of the art. Focusing more on the people and relationships than the technical details, it offers some insight into how breakthroughs have been made and how some innovators have gained fame and fortune while others slipped into near obscurity.

    Article Link: Walter Isaacson's 'The Innovators' Charts the History of Computing and the Internet
     
  2. Traverse macrumors 604

    Traverse

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    This is going to be bashed hard here judging from the Steve Jobs book. :rolleyes:
     
  3. Cougarcat macrumors 604

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    Well, if Isaacson couldn't get one aspect of the history of computing right, I don't have confidence that he can do all of it...
     
  4. apolloa macrumors G4

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    I think Tim Berners-Lee and his team have done more then anyone else to change the entire world. Unbelievable just how much the World Wide Web has changed everybody's lives.
     
  5. bbeagle macrumors 68040

    bbeagle

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    For your opinion to be valued, more details are needed than just 'Isaacson got everything wrong with Jobs'. Name something specific.
     
  6. bawbac macrumors 65816

    bawbac

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    Forget about how the technological advancement was created and lets focus on the success of technology manipulation.
     
  7. macintologist macrumors 6502

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    Does this book give adequate treatment to women and people of color who were early pioneers of computing?
     
  8. slicecom macrumors 68020

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    He should have spent his time making a second edition of the Steve Jobs book instead, considering what an unorganized and repetitive mess it was.
     
  9. engg2000 macrumors regular

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    I hope he remembered to include Al Gore as the father of the internet.
     
  10. aaronvan Suspended

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    I'll probably read this, but really, what more can be said about Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Charles Moore, Steve Jobs, etc. etc.? I suspect this book is just a rehash of a lot of previous material.
     
  11. ProVideo, Oct 6, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014

    ProVideo macrumors 6502

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    His Jobs bio seemed rushed and missed a large portion of his life and career. His overuse of certain words also became annoying and distracting. "Cherubic" was one that he used several times that got on my nerves.

    It might be an interesting read to see if he does better when a deadline isn't hanging over his head due to someone's imminent death.
     
  12. Naimfan Suspended

    Naimfan

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    There. Fixed it.

    ;)
     
  13. Cougarcat macrumors 604

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    That was discussed and debated ad nauseum here when the book came out, but if you'd like to hear an excellent critique, I recommend listening to John Siracusa's episode of Hypercritical on it.

    Looks like it: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/06/345799830/the-forgotten-female-programmers-who-created-modern-tech?ft=3&f=1001
     
  14. aaronvan Suspended

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    Now I really fixed it! ;)
     
  15. apolloa macrumors G4

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    Erm, nope you haven't fixed anything I'm afraid. Attempting to change history are you?
     
  16. CalWizrd Suspended

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    Ah, the obligatory politically correct query. Vomit time.

    How about just recognizing contributions without questioning gender, race, sexual orientation, country of origin, left-handedness, etc?
     
  17. apolloa macrumors G4

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    Sigh, I miss that down vote button...
     
  18. zoetmb macrumors regular

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    Did you read what's contained in the book? The book begins with Ada Lovelace, who was a woman.

    Unfortunately, because of sexism and racism, not that many women and people of color were early pioneers of computing, although the early Mac team included people like Susan Kare, a woman who designed all the early icons.

    There's still a dearth of woman and people of color in tech companies. However, whether that's a result of racism and sexism in the industry, by academia or self-choices by women and people of color is open to question.

    Go to a high school or even a junior high school and ask who wants to go into IT fields and my bet is that a lower percentage of women and people of color raise their hands. Unfortunately, people start self-discriminating at very young ages or are stereotyped into roles by their parents.
     
  19. Naimfan Suspended

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    Nope, just think it good to underline how the transistor, computer, internet, etc., don't exist without Bell, Vail, etc., and that the telephone had a larger impact on our lives than the internet has had.
     
  20. rsocal macrumors 6502a

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    I enjoyed reading the book about Steve Jobs and, I'm sure this new book will be a decent read?:cool:
     
  21. apolloa macrumors G4

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    I would question that..... you are talking about American companies only there mate, you do realise the internet is an International Network right?

    And I would question that the impact of the internet is less then the telephone, IMO it's had a far bigger impact. It's enabled you make a comment on here for one.
     
  22. hspace macrumors regular

    hspace

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    Looks like Walter Isaacson can't stop riding the "Steve Jobs gravy train". :rolleyes: How many more Steve Jobs related books does he have planned?

    Why can't he let him rest in peace?
     
  23. nick42983 macrumors 6502

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    By "adequate" do you mean totally out of proportion to their contributions? Let people's achievements stand for themselves, affirmative action has wreaked enough destruction as it is.
     
  24. Cougarcat macrumors 604

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    It's a fair question to ask, because they are often the ones left out of such narratives, even if they did important contributions. There are plenty of women who made significant contributions that still nobody knows about.
     
  25. rsocal macrumors 6502a

    rsocal

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    This is a complete different subject and, I believe Ada Lovelace is mentioned as one of the early pioneers.:cool:
     

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