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

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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.

542 pages, Hardcover

First published October 7, 2011

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About the author

Walter Isaacson

130 books15.7k followers
Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He is the author of 'Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Visit him at Isaacson.Tulane.edu and on Twitter at @WalterIsaacson

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,525 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
October 22, 2019
I feel bad that I joked about this book in my review of Ninth House and made it seem like a boring read all about how transistors are made. It seemed funny at the time, but it was entirely misleading. This book was not boring at all. In fact, I would say some chapters were difficult to put down!

The Innovators is NOT a comprehensive history of all computer and Internet-related technology; I feel the need to stress that now. It takes a very specific route - from Charles Babbage to Google, by way of Turing, Hopper and Berners-Lee - a route which is about showing the major players in America's journey to the Digital Age. It is very easy to read it and think "Wait!! What about so-and-so and whatshername" and "Ohmygod, it's all about freaking America!" It's limited, is what I'm trying to say, and Isaacson is pretty open about that from the beginning. He knows he'd need a good 10,000 pages to come close to adequately portraying this history in full, so he's stuck with a few big names.

What he sacrifices in breadth, he makes up for in depth, which is personally how I like my books to be. This was a fascinating book about several fascinating people, some of them not fascinating in a good way. Though it also sent me down a number of Internet rabbit holes, it has to be said. I felt compelled to look something up and then would end up neck-deep within mathematical theory…

I find the story of how we got from a Victorian polymath to the current ever-expanding technologies of today deeply fascinating. I love how the author shows how it was such a collaborative effort. It is actually impossible to truly pin down who invented the computer or the Internet because it all relied on so many different people's inventions and ideas. I loved reading about all the different influences-- rural tinkerers taking machines apart, America's nuclear program, anti-establishment hippies... and Ada Lovelace.

Say what you will, but Ada Lovelace is a fascinating person. Whether you give her more or less of the credit for inventing computer programming, she was clearly a genius, and a kinda odd individual. But it's just a real good story, isn't it? That one of the two earliest computer visionaries and programmers was a woman called Lady Lovelace, the daughter of none other than Lord Byron. How delightful.

I definitely think sometimes the amount of time allotted to certain people had more to do with whether Isaacson could get/read an interview with them, than to how important they actually were. It is odd to me that Atanasoff (who never got his machine to work) was given more than three times as much page time as Konrad Zuse, who built the world's first programmable computer. It also reads a little strange when Isaacson skims over the Manchester Baby, the world's first electronic stored-program computer.

But I'm nitpicking. I really enjoyed reading The Innovators and learning more about all these incredible people. I was especially glad that Isaacson gave the female programmers the attention they deserved. Many people don't know this, but almost all of the first computer programmers were women (because men didn't realise the importance of "software") and, despite working hard on machines like the ENIAC, they were still excluded from men-only celebratory events. Glad to see them given names and voices in this book.

I liked this so much I think I'll read Leonardo da Vinci soon.

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Profile Image for John.
407 reviews399 followers
February 21, 2021
[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 Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet; 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.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews867 followers
May 16, 2020
<Jobs' author Isaacson tackles tech history>

“But the main lesson to draw from the birth of computers is that innovation is usually a group effort, involving collaboration between visionaries and engineers, and that creativity comes from drawing on many sources. Only in storybooks do inventions come like a thunderbolt, or a lightbulb popping out of the head of a lone individual in a basement or garret or garage.”

Walter Isaacson's The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution is an enjoyable and worthy study of an oftentimes overlooked history. There were several things I appreciated about Isaacson's approach. Echoing the quote above, there is a consistent theme in this book about how nerdy talent was gathered to generate ideas and power innovation. Hearing about the eccentricities of this nerdy talent was sometimes as interesting as the innovations themselves. I also liked that Isaacson began with Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, and didn't just drop her in the first chapter, but found ways to show how her contributions are still relevant. Finally, there was nearly a whole chapter on Pong. No way anybody could come up with a better game than that! 3.75 stars

Why Pong scored so highly for Atari | Games | The Guardian
Profile Image for LillyBooks.
982 reviews52 followers
October 22, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Jacob.
407 reviews115 followers
October 17, 2016
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.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
804 reviews2,536 followers
October 8, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
July 5, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,726 reviews12.8k followers
April 29, 2019
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:
Profile Image for Kevin Parsons.
162 reviews9 followers
August 10, 2014
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!
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,719 followers
June 26, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews516 followers
September 1, 2018
"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.
Profile Image for Barbara K..
397 reviews73 followers
July 6, 2021
I would not have guessed when this book was selected by our three-person, in person, buddy read group that it would be such a fun read. Isaacson, as always, does his homework and writes clearly. He highlights some consistent themes about the value of diversity (in terms of skills and general outlook), persistence in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles, and vision, out of the profusion of people and ideas that formed the background leading to our current digital age.

Lots of people. Lots and lots of names, some familiar, many not. For me the two who stood out most were the visionaries, Ada Lovelace and Vannever Bush. Although I was familiar with Lovelace's reputation as the first person to expand on the potential contained within the idea of a computing device, in about 1845, until this book I was unaware of the extent to which she predicted certain key elements of today's software, such as subroutines. And a response her contention that computers could never go beyond what they are programmed to do was the basis of Alan Turing's "Imitation Game", designed to test the difference between human and computer statements.

Vannever Bush, an engineer and administrator of many projects that were involved one way or the other with the development of modern computer technology, in a 1945 article predicted the "Memex", a concept that has taken life in today's personal computers and cell phones. “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”. He even predicted hypertext!

One last individual who deserves a call out here is poor Al Gore, so often pilloried for taking what is commonly assumed to be too much credit for the development of the internet. Turns out that as a Senator he was actually committed to the idea and directly responsible for the funding needed to bring it to fruition.

I'm sure that for many readers reading the book will recall our first forays into the world of personal computers. I found myself smiling as I remembered taking the case off my first PC to add memory chips. By contrast, remembering the earlier punch cards, the "Fatal Error Line 3" message, and the long waits to have the cards re-run, generates a feeling that is definitely less warm. No wonder the PC and a canned spreadsheet program (Lotus!) was a such a joy by comparison. The fact that it can all now be done on my phone still stuns me.

Thanks to our buddy group, and thanks to Isaacson, for a highly enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,362 followers
February 22, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Asif.
19 reviews12 followers
September 26, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Lorna.
681 reviews366 followers
April 9, 2019
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson was a well-researched and delightfully told beautifully as only Mr. Isaacson can do. I am not a scientist, nor do I even pretend to understand the complex technological science that is encompassed in this meticulously researched book, but I get the thrust of the history of the digital age and all of the people that made most important contributions. I would be remiss if we didn't start with how Isaacson became interested in this book. Having been a fan of Walter Isaacson for some time, I was drawn to his fascination to those individuals that excel in creativity and innovation in many different disciplines. Isaacson has written marvelous biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs. It was in working on those books that he began to recognize that there was a commonality in how they approached their craft. Isaacson dramatically shows us how each person's innovations formed a basis for the next scientist to build upon. As Isaacson states, "The collaboration that created the digital age was just not among peers but also between generations. Ideas were handed off from one cohort of innovators to the next." What I found most interesting was the interface between science and the arts. As Walter Isaacson said in the Introduction, "Finally, I was struck by how the truest creativity of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered."

This book is a history of the digital age from its very beginnings beginning with Ada Byron, the daughter of Lord Byron. Her mother was determined that she study mathematics as it was an antidote to "poetic tendencies" and her "Byronic tendencies." However, Ada with Charles Babbage in the early 1800's were able to set forth many of the basics that were built upon over the subsequent digital age. The science that develops over the subsequent years culminating in the Silicone Valley is well done, right down to the issues of patents and lawsuits. It is a wonderful book that will make us all stop to look back in awe at where we have come in such a short period of time and ponder our future.

"The tale of their teamwork is important because we don't often focus on how central that skill is to innovation."

"The collaboration that created the digital age was not just among peers but also between generations. Ideas were handed off from one cohort of innovators to the next.

"The people who were comfortable at this humanities-technology intersection helped to create the human-machine symbiosis that is the core of this story."

"Leonardo da Vinci was the exemplar of the creativity that flourishes when the humanities and sciences interact. When Einstein was stymied while working out General Relativity, he would pull out his violin and play Mozart until he could reconnect to what he called the harmony of the spheres."

"The reality is that Ada's contribution was both profound and inspirational. More than Babbage or any other person of her era, she was able to glimpse a future in which machines would become partners of the human imagination, together weaving tapestries as beautiful as those from Jacquard's loom."

Profile Image for Frank Naitan.
14 reviews4 followers
October 1, 2019
This book is the only way to go! Any other book just tells you what to do, this book teaches it to you in an entertaining way.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,028 followers
April 2, 2016
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".
“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
Profile Image for Jefi Sevilay.
590 reviews54 followers
July 9, 2019
Öncelikle artık kitapları satın almadan önce konularını bir okumalıyım çünkü yine beklediğimden bambaşka birşey çıktı. Walter Isaacson'un Steve Jobs biyografisini okuduğum ve çok beğendiğimden bu kitabın da biyorgrafik bir eser olduğunu düşündüm.

Halbuki çıkış noktası çok farklıymış. Aslında geleceği değil, geçmişten günümüze dijital dünyayı yaratanları yansıtıyor. Zaten kitabın adı da bu değil. Innovators olduğu için en iyi ihtimalle "Yenilikçiler" olmalıydı ancak yayınevimiz Domingocuk kitabın adını istediği gibi değiştirme hakkını kendinden bulmuş demek ki.

Asıl konumuz Yenilikçiliğin (yani İnovasyonun) bireysel mucitlerin değil, kolektif bir çalışmanın ürünü olduğu ki son derece doğru. Hepimiz Steve Jobs'ı biliriz, ancak Wozniak'a bu kadar hakim değiliz. Bill Gates'i biliriz ancak Paul Allen'ı tanımayız ki bu insanlar bu markaları yaratanlar. Bunlar haricinde de yüzlerce-binlerce kişi teknolojiyi bugünkü noktaya getirmek için canla başla çalıştı ve vitrinin en önünde duranlar kadar anılmayı hakediyorlar.

Her ne kadar bilgisayarların olmadığı dönemi hatırlayan bir ihtiyar olsam da günlerden bir gün evimizin bir köşesine oturduğu günü gören şanslılar arasındayım. Ancak "armut piş ağzıma düş" şeklinde kucağımızda bulduğumuz teknoloji tabi ki bir anda yaratılmadı. Bilmediğimse, bilgisayarın temellerinin 1845 gibi eski bir tarihte atılmış olmasıydı. Henüz elle tutulur donanımlar bugünkü gibi olmadığı için kitabın ilk bölümleri de daha çok matematik ve felsefe üzerine. Açıkçası bazen o kadar teknik bilgiye boğuldum ki bazı kısımları atlamak zorunda kaldım.

Millet olarak hazıra konmaya bayıldığımız ve fikir geliştirenleri özenle baltaladığımız için genellikle işin fiziksel zorlukları ve sonrasında gelen tatminden çok Steve Jobs'ın, Bill Gates'in ne kadar parası var, ben bu parayla neler yapardıma daha çok odaklanırız. Bu konuda Emin Çapa'nın "Türk Hamamlarında Suyun Kaldırma Kuvveti Neden Yok" konuşmasına bayılırım. Özetle "Elma bir tek Isaac Newton'ın mı kafasına düşmüş de yerçekimini bulmuş. Temizliğiyle övünen Türk milletinin hamamlarında suyun kaldırma kuvveti neden bulunmamış" konusuna değiniyor. Çok doğru. Bu aydınlanmaların arkasında o kadar ciddi bir uzmanlık var ki her kafasına elma düşünenin yerçekimini hesaplayabilecek denklemleri yazabileceğini zannediyor, bir de bunu küçümsüyoruz. (Konuşmayı dinlemek isterseniz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__yTo...)

Tabi bilginin ve bilimin baltalanması sadece bizde olmuyor. Mesela Alan Turing'i eşcinsel olduğu için intihara sürükleyenlerin varsa cehennemde özel bir yerleri var. Geçen gün arkadaşlarla hala dünyanın düz olduğunu kuvvetle savunanların kafa yapısını tartıştık. Ortaçağda kiliseler 400 yıl boyunca dünya düz diye bağırdı. 400 yıl bağnazlık olmasaydı bugünkü teknolojik ilerlemeyi düşünebiliyor musunuz?

Biz hep buralar dutluktu deriz. İşte Silikon Vadisi'nin yerinde de kayısı ağaçları varmış ve Don Hoefler 1971'de Electronic News dergisinde Silikon Vadisi ABD adında bir köşe yazmaya başlayınca buranın adı Silikon Vadisi olarak kalmış. Not: Silikon Vadisi'nde ortalama 143 milyarder yaşıyor ve ortalama değerleri 6 milyar dolar!

Birkaç sene önce Coursera.org'da iki online kurs almıştım. Bunlardan biri Michigan, diğeri Pennsylvania Üniversitelerinde inanılmaz değerli kurslardı. (Ücretsiz ve Türkçe altyazılı olarak da katılabileceğiniz bu kurslara bakmanızı şiddetle tavsiye ederim.) Buradaki derslerden bir tanesi de sınıf ortamında yapılıyordu ve siz de dersin içerisinde gibi dinleyebiliyordunuz. Bu arada da tabi diğer öğrencilerin sorularını da dinleyebiliyordunuz. Bu kurs sırasında farkettiğim birşey vardı. Türkiye'de ders tek yönlü. Yani siz hocayı dinliyor ve notunuzu alıp sınavınızı geçiyorsunuz. Ancak bu derste öğrencilerin de birbirlerini beslediklerini farkettim. Bunu neden yazdım? Çünkü Atari'yi kuran Nolan Bushnell'in sınıf arkadaşları Netscape'i kuran Jim Klark, Adobe'nin kurucularından John Varnock ve Pixar'ın kurucularından Ed Catmull. Zaten kitap boyunca görüyorsunuz ki bu isimler hep birbirlerini beslemiş.

İnternetse (ilk adıyla ARPANET) ordu, üniversiteler ve özel şirketlerden oluşan bir konsorsiyumla geliştirilmiş. Düşünebiliyor musunuz TSK, ODTÜ ve Koç Holding birlikte bir proje yapacaklar. Neden olmasın ama olmuyor işte. Birlik beraberlik yok. Tersine hükümetler üniversitelerin bilgi üretmemesi için özellikle çaba harcıyor, ülkenin en büyük bilim kuruluşuna hayvanat bahçesi müdürü atıyor.

Teknolojinin geliştirilmeye başlandığı ilk anlardan itibaren Hukuk ve Patent'in en önemli iki kavram olduğunu görüyoruz. Yenilikçiler buna o kadar fazla güveniyor ve inanıyor ki 16 yaşında genç bir geliştirici bile haklarını biliyor ve koruyor.

Steve Jobs (yalnızca biyografisinde değil her zaman) saykodelik ilaçların, LSD'lerin ve hippi kültürünün hayatına etkisinden bahseder. İyidir kötüdür birşey diyemem. Ancak hiçkimse gidip de boş işlerle uğraşarak Steve Jobs'ın uyu��turucu geçmişiyle uğraşmaz. Bizde olsa magazin "gazetecilerinin" gözleri dört dönerdi kesin.

Bir de "kendin yap" kültürü ABD'de çok gelişmiş. 1970'lerde bile yalnızca birkaç anahtar ve lambadan oluşan DIY bilgisayarların 450 dolarlara satılıp insanların kendi kodlarını yazmaya başlaması bile teknoloji açısından geleceğin nasıl şekilleneceğine bir bakış gibi.

Tabi ki en bilindik figürlerden biri Bill Gates. Öncelikle nasıl bu kadar başarılı olduğunu anlamak için Malcolm Gladwell'in Outliers kitabını okumanızı tavsiye ederim. Bir de imkanlar açısından şunu düşünün. Bill Gates, 16 yaşında kendine üstü açık kırmızı bir Mustang alıyor. Yaptığı yazılımla 18.000 dolarlık bilgisayar kullanım hakkı alıp (o zaman kimsenin evinde bilgisayar olmadığı için okullarında bilgisayarlar belirli bir ücret karşılığında saatlik olarak kullanılıyor) bunu adaletsiz olarak dönüştürüyor. Sonra avukat olan babasına bir sözleşme hazırlatarak bundan sonraki her işte yetkiyi üzerine alabiliyor. 16 YAŞINDA! Düşünün ki Gates okulun son döneminden önce bir işe giriyor. Annesi ve babası müdüre giderek bu işin okulun son döneminden daha faydalı olacağına müdürü ikna ediyor ve izin alıyor. Ortağıyla birlikte Mustang'e atlıyorlar ve şehrin 250 km güneyindeki Bonneville'de ucuz bir daire kiralıyorlar. Bunun burada bu imkanlarla yapılma ihtimali nedir? Gerçekten içim acıyor. Lise öğrencilerini üniversiteye giriş sınavlarıyla, testlerle, dogmatik bilgiyle, ezberci eğitimle o kadar boğuyoruz ki sonrasında bir fikir kırıntısına bile sahip olanları rahatlıkla ezebilelim. Yok, mümkün değil olmayacak.

Oda arkadaşı Gates'i şöyle tanımlıyor. "36 saat ya da ne kadar dayanabiliyorsa çalışır, sonra on saatliğine kendinden geçer, ardından dışarı çıkar, bir pizza alır ve aynı döngüye geri dönerdi. Ve bu çalışmaya gecenin üçünde başlamak anlamına gelse de farketmezdi." Gates'in bilgisayar devriminin onsuz gerçekleştiğini farketmesi Aralık 1974'te gerçekleşiyor.

Çok uzun yazdım, bunun için özür diliyorum ama bu tarz kitaplarda çok fazla not alıyorum ve paylaşmak istiyorum.

Son olarak Larry Page'in tezi Google'ın başlangıcı ve sordukça yeni sorular buluyor, çözdükçe de bir sonraki sayfaya geçiyorlar. Matematik ortak payda. Yani zamanın bakanı gibi sistemsiz birşey aslında değil. Hatırlayalım: "Bu bulut sistemi dedikleri birşey var. şimdi, son zamanlarda herkes oraya birşey atıyor, gelen oradan işine yarayanı, alıyor kullanıyor, ben böyle anlıyorum belki farklı birşeydir. şey yok artık, böyle, sistematik birşey yok, abur cubur dolduruyorsun, herkes ihtiyacını oradan alıyor ama hiç de karışmıyor. istediğini buluyorsun. bu bilişim, fazla kafa yorarsan sıyırırsın. kullanacaksın, nimetlerinden kullanıp, yararlanıp işini göreceksin, kafayı taktın mı o zaman işin kötü. çok fazla, hikmetine fazla şey yapmamak lazım." İşte bu neden bir arpa boyu gidemeyeceğimizin kanıtıdır.

Daha aslında yazacak çok şeyim var ama son sözüm yanlış yerde doğmuşum.

Herkese keyifli okumalar!
Profile Image for Jean.
1,709 reviews742 followers
October 26, 2014
“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. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Dennis Boutsikaris did a good job narrating the book.
Profile Image for Jim.
562 reviews85 followers
October 7, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,133 reviews
October 6, 2015
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.
Profile Image for John Blumenthal.
Author 12 books98 followers
April 17, 2019
I must confess that I did not finish this book—the technical stuff did me in. This has happened several times before. (Note to self: do not try to read books involving motors, cathode tubes, quantum mechanics or how to screw in a lightbulb.) Science has never been my forte, although I am fascinated by it so I buy these books (Innovators, Tesla, Einstein) and always regret it.

I did learn a thing or two though. For example, I discovered that a woman named Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer, worked on an early analytical machine and foresaw the development of modern computers. And this was in the 1840s. Also, the book informed me that women were generally better than men at creating software.

I often use these two tidbits of information to impress people at parties and dinners. Unfortunately, on one occasion, I recounted these fascinating facts to a gentleman who had read the entire book, and rather than being forced to admit my woeful ignorance, I excused myself and walked off to the bathroom.
Profile Image for TarasProkopyuk.
686 reviews94 followers
November 7, 2016
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 ищ��т возможности войти в историю. ))
Profile Image for Joseph Sciuto.
Author 8 books126 followers
September 17, 2019
Walter Isaacson's "The Innovators: How a group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution," is the most IMPORTANT book I have read since I read "Emperor of all Maladies: A biography of Cancer," by Siddhartha Mukherjee. What is unusual about that statement, is that I have been very critical of internet during different stages of my life, but Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite historians and so I decided to read the book

Mr Isaacson's biography on "Einstein" allowed me, after nearly six decades on this planet, to understand Einstein's amazing theories with very little effort. His Biography on "DA Vinci" is one of the greatest biographies I have ever read about another human being. In fact, his revelations about DA Vinci go hand and hand with "The Innovators" and his name is brought up repeatedly and the final picture in this amazing book is a DA Vinci drawing of the Vitruvian Man.

DA Vinci, unlike Michaelangelo, loved to collaborate with other artists, musicians, actors, and scientists and that is one of the reasons he is considered one of the greatest, complete, geniuses who has ever lived and Michaelangelo, a loner, is a mere shadow in the presence of DA Vinci.

"The Innovators" is a story that began over 150 years ago with Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, whose interest in both science and the humanities, foresaw what would eventually lead to the digital age (computers, the internet, the web). Her interest in calculating machines, algorithms, poetry, and music and her collaboration with Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor would be the genesis of the digital age and the vision and foundation that would eventually morph into the world wide web.

Over the next 150 years there would be notable names as the military (government) Academica (MIT, Yale, Stanford, Harvard) and entrepreneurs (Gates, Allen, Jobs, etc.) contributed to this amazing revolution in science but it was never one individual but a collaboration of thousands of gifted men and women. There was never a great leap, but a steady, at times painstaking, process from rudimentary computers to high speed computers to personal computers, and then to the software and operating systems, and finally to the world wide web and companies like Google.

Computers were originally seen as machines that would create communities of people in which they would make it easy to exchange ideas. It was to be free, and in fact the creator of the world wide web never patented his creation. Of course, over time the free exchange of ideas and inventions were patented and individuals like Jobs and Gates became billionaires, creating empires.

Mr. Isaacson's book is like an encyclopedia, mixed with the poetry and music, that Mrs Lovelace first envisioned. It is about the creative process, teamwork, and contributions and insights from many different fields of science and the humanities. It is like a giant collage that looks like Mr. DA Vinci's "The Vitruvian Man." It is an extraordinary book and a very important book.
Profile Image for Boudewijn.
648 reviews80 followers
April 3, 2020
In this book, Walter Isaacsson explores the lives and works of famous and less famous hackers and pioneers, that are responsible for our digital revolution. Starting by Ada Lovelace and ending with Larry Page and Sergej Brin, in a clear and easy to understand writing style, he takes us on a comprehensive tour through the giants of the digital age.
Profile Image for A Man Called Ove.
915 reviews219 followers
December 16, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Aman Mittal.
Author 1 book66 followers
November 5, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Abhishek Dafria.
468 reviews19 followers
September 20, 2015
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!
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
January 5, 2019
Executive Summary: A very well written and fascinating look at the rise history of computers and the internet and those who helped to shape it.

Audiobook: For any nonfiction book I simply want a narrator who reads at a good pace and tone and is mostly unremarkable. Dennis Boutsikaris was that for me. He did a good job at keeping me focused on the history and not his narration.

Full Review
I added this book to my list after listening to Mr. Isaacson better know work: Steve Jobs. Jobs was fascinating and that book was well written, but I always feel like he gets way too much credit as an innovator.

This book was a nice counter to that. While Jobs is mentioned as appropriate, he focuses mostly on the people whose technical knowledge led to the personal computer, the internet and eventually the smart phone.

That said, he does spend time talking about the important of those like Jobs. People who are are to recognize, nurture and market a good idea so it has a chance to make an impact. In fact one of his main themes in this book was how much better innovation works in a team setting than it does with a lone genius.

The book is pretty extensive in its coverage. It starts back with Eda Lovelace and ends with the rise of smart phones and social media. There were a lot of details and people I was already familiar with from other computer history books I've read, but there was a lot of material in this book that was new to me.

I'm awful at names, so I can't rattle off all the key people, but the way Mr. Isaacson's went about telling the history worked really well for me. I love that he spent time on both the hardware and software and even did a brief chapter on video games.

Overall I found this an excellent book both for people completely unaware of computer history or for people like me who are looking for a deeper dive than some other books on the subject.
Profile Image for Lucy.
132 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2018
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.
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