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Review of ‘The Innovators’ by Walter Isaacson

innovatorsBack in 2012 some of you likely read Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Steve Jobs. He had previously written biographies of Franklin and Einstein which I have read and enjoyed. So I eagerly anticipated his new book, The Innovators, which tracks computer development from Charles Babbage’s difference Engine and Ada Lovelace, the first “programmer” (in the 1840’s), up through Google. Many of us remember some of what happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but this is a fascinating look at the details. There are also good sections on Alan Turing (required reading before viewing the new film). There is a lot of material on the Internet and I finally learned what Al Gore’s role really was. The premise of the book is that rarely is a single inventor responsible for a major technological event, but that they build upon ideas of others, or on work with colleagues. Those who remember James Burke’s book, and then TV shows, Connections, saw the same argument. The book is 560 pages but never dull. I “read” it on 15 CDs. The reader is very good and I spend enough time in my car that even though it is about 18 hours I got it done within 3 weeks. I put him in a class with David McCullough and strongly recommend it.

September 7, 2015