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A Review of The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators

by Walter Isaacson

If you have read any of the previous books by Mr. Isaacson, you know how thoroughly he researches and combines everything that he finds into a massive book with an underlying theme. In The Innovators, he gathers substantial amounts of information that deals with all aspects of the growth of computer technology. He combines it to tell the story of the growth of information technology, starting with Ada Byron (aka Ada Lovelace) and Charles Babbage.

In 1834, Babbage conceived a general purpose computer that he called the Analytical Machine, and Ada saw that this was programmable, and could be used for anything, even composing music. She published a paper in 1843. In Note G of that paper, she laid out, step by step, an algorithm that could be used to compute Bernoulli numbers. She showed the use of subroutines and a recursive loop. So she has to be considered the first computer programmer. But she also had a vision that computers would be used for so much more than calculating numbers. She thought that they could be used for nearly everything.

Mr. Isaacson continues to tell the story of individuals with brilliant ideas, and more importantly the groups of hard-working people, lead by somebody with ideas, but supported by people who could take those ideas and make them work. The collaboration factor seemed to be one of the most important parts of a successful project. Mr. Isaacson stresses that without a varied group most of the advances in hardware or software couldn’t have happened.

Another topic that runs though Mr. Isaacson’s book is the vision and “thinking-outside-the-box” that women contributed to the development of IT. Starting with Ada Lovelace, and continuing with the women who figured out the code and connected the wires that allowed some of the early computers to run. One of these women, Grace Hopper, ended up writing the first computer guide and programming manual for the Harvard Mark I computer. Most of the programmers were women, while most of the hardware people were men.

Once the book hit the fifties and sixties, everything was much more familiar. I lived through these events. I had taken college level programming classes in the late sixties. I knew what batch processing and punch-cards were all about. I understood the ideas and events. Not as history, but as memories. So The Innovators really hit home.

Mr. Isaacson is a great researcher and writer. He tells the story behind the facts. Teamwork is the best way to further knowledge, but your team needs diversity to be truly successful.

I give The Innovators 5 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! If you have any interest in what shapes the technology that controls the world around you, and how it came to be, you should read this book.

I received this book for free from edelweiss and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, in return for an honest review.


Book Description

innovators-9781476708690_hrFollowing 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.


Book Details

Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 147670869X
ISBN-13: 978-1476708690
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds


About the Author

Photograph by Patrice Gilbert
Photograph by Patrice Gilbert

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of 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. He lives in Washington, DC. – See more at: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Walter-Isaacson/697650#sthash.8ck3Bo70.dpuf

Book Description and Details from Amazon.  The Innovators