The InnovatorsPosted: December 23, 2014
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
Simon & Schuster (October 7, 2014), 560 pages
Kindle Edition $8.99, Amazon Hardcover $21.00
The Innovators is a comprehensive history of the digital age, written by a master of biography and nonfiction, Walter Isaacson. The book begins with the daughter of Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace, and her work on a machine that was an early predecessor to the computer. He takes us all the way through to the second decade of the 21st century, mentioning Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo!.
Isaacson discusses the earliest computers, the eventual mainframe, the mini-mainframe, and the personal computer. He talks about ARPANET, its evolution into the Internet, the creation of services like Delphi, CompuServe, and AOL. He tells us that the Internet as we know it today did not arise until 1993, when a change in federal regulations allowed anyone to connect to the Internet from their home.
The personalities are the stories around which the narrative revolves. Isaacson talks about Alan Turing George Stibitz in the early days. Of course he tells us about William Hewlett and David Packard. Isaacson presents the stories of Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Andy Grove in the development of the microchip. Of course Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak get plenty of attention.
Isaacson reinforces the message in Powers of Two, that creativity and innovation come out of collaboration and not from the lone genius. He tells us that there are plenty of biographies of the lone genius, including, he admits, his own (both Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein), but, he says:
…we have far fewer tales of collaborative creativity, which is actually more important in understanding how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. It can also be more interesting.
Isaacson does a marvelous job making this story interesting.