Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson was an interesting business book from the accomplished writer, leader of the Aspen Institute and former CEO of CNN as well as Managing Editor of Time. Isaacson previously wrote the bestselling biography Steve Jobs (which I wrote about here) and The Innovators features the subtitle How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. The book covers a tremendous amount of ground, with some of the earlier sections perhaps not as interesting if someone interested primarily in the more recent past, and a recurring theme throughout is the importance of collaboration.

Chapters of the book:

Ada, Countess of Lovelace - chronicles the woman born in 1815 and often credited as having the ideas behind the first computer.

The Computer - Isaacson wrote of computing efforts before and during WWII, "great innovations are usually the result of ideas that flow from a number of sources. An invention, especially one as complex as the computer, usually comes not from an individual brainstorm but from a collaboratively woven tapestry of creativity."

Programming - from this chapter it was interesting to read of the huge role played by woman in writing the first computer software.

The Transistor - Isaacson introduces the computer pioneers Robert Noyce (written about in a 1983 Esquire profile by Tom Wolfe) and Gordon Moore (source of Moore's Law) who were first hired by William Shockley into Shockley Semiconductor and left to form Fairchild Semiconductor.

The Microchip - Fairchild then became too bureaucratic and Noyce and Moore teamed up with Andy Grove and started Intel with venture capital money from Arthur Rock.

Video Games - sort of the harbinger of things to come with computers for personal use.

The Internet - started off with government funding towards the idea of enabling communications to continue in the event of a nuclear strike.

The Personal Computer - similar to the previously stated idea about collaboration at work.

Software - heavily featured the duos of Bill Gates and Paul Allen & Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Online - covered email and bulletin boards.

The Web - Isaacson noted huge contributions from Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreessen (via the Mosaic browser), Ev Williams (blogging), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) & Larry Page and Sergey Brin (search).

Ada Forever - the book then closes with a return to Ada Lovelace and a tying together of the arts and sciences.

Really an excellent book from Isaacson that anyone interested in computing technology would likely enjoy.