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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great…

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

by Jon Gertner

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There's a lot of interesting history here, but not a lot of depth. Most of all, I feel a bit like Gertner is a bit too focused on the positive side of the Bell Labs phenomenon, but steps lightly around the monopolistic and domineering side of the operation. Still, tons of interesting background and biographical information on the various personalities involved. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
We wake up in the morning, turn on our televisions and computers that stream digital information everywhere, check our cell phones to see what has bounced off of towers and satellites, and we don't think about any of it. We don't think about how long that cell phone has been in the hands of human kind, we don't think about how television has changed, we don't think about how the satellites got put together to do what they do or where they get their power from. It's all just there. This book will make you realize what amazing things man has accomplished since the beginning of Bell Labs.

Well written and thoroughly enjoyable, this isn't your average book on technology and invention. There is no dry rambling here, everything is entertaining and engaging, bringing the reader into history so perfectly that you feel as if you were inside one of the buildings, or out in the fields on a picnic with the families of the workers. One can't help but wonder how much we could accomplish if more places of invention and progress were set up the way Bell Labs had been arranged, creating environments of free invention.

Being of the generation who was young just as the first computers were coming around, there were parts of this book that I was able to relive with a new, adult perspective, but there were also elements that came before my time where I found myself surprised at what had once been and how quickly times had changed. I think this will be a wonderful book for anyone of any age, whether the reader wants to relive their past or learn from something that happened before their time. You won't often hear this said about books dealing with invention and technology, but this one was a real page turner. I couldn't put it down. ( )
  mirrani | Mar 30, 2014 |
This is one of the better books I have read in a long time. Great characters. Great storytelling. Jon Gertner does an excellent job of telling us what the former Bell Labs meant to both innovation and American business. He gets inside the culture of Bell Labs, he explains how it was a patent machine that was forced to share its intellectual property and how Bell Labs was essentially financed by the Bell System, a government sponsored vertically integrated monopoly. Bell Labs provided key advice during WWII and after the war was was home to such innovations as the transistor, a development that laid the groundwork for the modern semiconductor. What makes this book so delightful is not just the characters, but how Gertner does an excellent job of staying focused on the bigger picture. He tellls us why the Bell Labs era came to an end and why it probably wouldn't succeed in today's business world, a venue where the emphasis focuses on earnings per share and short-term profits. www.tellingdigitalstories.com
  Mtatge | Mar 16, 2014 |
Excellent, well-written work about the amazing scientists and engineers at Bell Labs. ( )
  hvanwillegen | Mar 3, 2014 |
Highly readable history of Bell Labs and the many brilliant scientists and technicians who worked there to develop the transistor, the solid state circuit, fiber optics, satellite and wireless communications, and other technologies that made modern telecommunications not only possible but affordable to the masses. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Aug 23, 2012 |
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Highlights achievements of Bell Labs as a leading innovator, exploring the role of its highly educated employees in developing new technologies while considering the qualities of companies where innovation and development are most successful.

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