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The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

“The Innovators” is a book by Walter Isaacson offering an encyclopedic account of the technological breakthroughs. The book is one that anyone interested in the chronology of technology would pick due to the way that it has meticulously documented...Read More

~Posted on Aug 2018


“The Innovators” is a book by Walter Isaacson off...

“The Innovators” is a book by Walter Isaacson offering an encyclopedic account of the technological breakthroughs. The book is one that anyone interested in the chronology of technology would pick due to the way that it has meticulously documented the events, inspirations as well as the happenings that amounted to the technological changes that are witnessed in society today. He documents the individuals as well as the business and technical breakthroughs that they came up with to make programming, computers, networks, software, internet and graphics among other possible. Upon realizing that the book is written by Walter Isaacson, the same writer that wrote the bestselling biography of Steve Jobs the charismatic business genius of the 21st Century made me settle for the book with ease. Having a high interest in technology and its history and also for inspiration to get and remain innovative, it is the best choice to make. Mr. Isaacson’s book is incredible containing a series of biographies of a large number of ingenious scientists, business people, engineers and innovators who may have been central at setting the pace for the likes of Steve Jobs. He documents the individuals that over the last century led to the production of transistors, microchips, microprocessor, programming in computers and software, personal computers and also the graphic interface. It is these technologies that also set the stage and made it possible for further innovations such as the video games, internet Web, search engines and the ability to make games on mobile phones among other technological wonders of the 21st century. In the book by Mr. Isaacson, it came out strongly that significant technical and business evolutionary milestones came up as a result of combined efforts by the innovators, scientists, and engineers.

Mr. Isaacson can describe the major technical and business evolutionary milestones that took place in the course of history by telling hundreds of stories of the inventors and their discoveries. He further organizes the book in a manner that supports his suggestion that we should not be focusing on the lone geniuses or even the self-sufficient imaginative individuals but rather should be focusing on the organizational forms that the innovations took place. To further indicate the milestones in technology, the book is organized into chapters that are unique to digital technologies such as, “The Computer,” “Programming,” “The Microchip,” “Video Games,” “The Internet,” among others (2). He further indicates the individuals that made major contributions in every chapter or rather for every technology. It is even more efficient when it indicates and grips with the creative teams and groups where the ideas rose from the exchanges among its members and whom the inventiveness flowed from within the knowledge, skills temperaments and styles of working that came together to bring about significant changes and advances in technical and business world (10).

Mr. Isaacson draws attention to the entities that took time and also hosted groups that were more than the sum of their individual's parts to lead to the changes in technology and the evolution of business. Such demonstration in the book is the greatest of all time the “idea factory” of which the AT & T’s Bells Labs where during and even after the second world war had hundreds of scientists and engineers. They represented and presented a broad range of disciplines and expertise and given the opportunity, resources and the means to explore and improvise. A physicist named John Bardeen and Walter Brattain were very much instrumental in aiding William Shockley and formed a team meeting almost on a daily basis to retain the cohesion within the group. In the book, Isaacson refers to it as “a quintessential display of finish-each-other’s-sentence creativity.” It is the culmination of their skills, expertise, and knowledge that resulted in the creation of the transistor (100). The transistor is the fundamental building block of the microprocessor. In fact, it is what has been termed as the greatest invention of the 20th century since it is this that aided for the growth and advancement of technology. It also shaped the perception of entities and also the innovators as the need for partnerships and alliances to achieve a common goal were emphasized.

It is the culmination of the individual efforts that led to the creation of the Intel a well. Intel is a major company in the development of the microprocessor industry and also the Xerox PARC, which is arguably the single most fertile source of electronic innovation in the 1970s and beyond. It led to the inventions of the Ethernet, the graphical user interface and also the mouse. Steve Jobs as if to reiterate the importance of innovators was working together not only in business but also in the innovation process told Isaacson that his role model was Robert Oppenheimer. Robert Oppenheimer effectively came up with ways of getting scientist with radically different skills and personalities to come together and work as a team in designing an atomic bomb.

Isaacson asserts that it is teams that innovate but is also careful to attribute the influential role of what he refers to as the “ecosystems.” To demonstrate that, he claims that the Silicon Valley ecosystem included some venture capital and contends that without it, there would never have been digital innovation due to the commercial reality of such innovations (225). The Silicon Valley therefore also brought together some universities such as that of Berkeley and more so Stanford that licensed the intellectual property produced by the professors and students alike. It is the network created that led to the sharing of faculties and facilities that resulted in the emergence of a constant flow of computer scientist and engineers. However, at the political pole in Pentagon, the Bay Area ecosystem spurred the digital innovation that contained the hippies, Homebrew hackers, and hobbyists that saw the personal computers and the emergence of the Internet as the potential sources of Power to the people.

Isaacson also credits the advent of the visionaries that mobilized people to follow their visions of a world re-made by computer technologies. It is these visioners that also shaped up the dynamics of business as it brought massive changes to the technological world. Some of the visionary individuals that Isaacson refers to as prophets were self-fulfilling such as Gordon Moore that came up with a law predicting the doubling of microprocessor’s power. He focused on a goal every year and a half to attain something bigger. It is the Moore’s Law that gave assurances and motivations to Bill Gates and others to come up with further technological advances. Bill Gates foresaw that the hardware would soon become commodified generating law profits while the software companies would eventually rule the commercial roost (359-430). It is this that changed the business outlook ion the technological world and also led to the massive changes that came with the Microsoft Company led by Bill Gates. Steve Jobs also had an aesthetic and technical vision and foresaw the software and hardware bound together in a sealed, integrated system, and it is this prophetic vision that propelled the development of Mac and its successors. Apple became the sensation it was out of combining its previous profitability in hardware with the vision of Microsoft meaning that working together even in borrowing of ideas was fundamental.

Isaacson asserts on the need to look at history from the beginning in as much as it is easier to look at it backward. It is clear that is only possible to have innovations that we enjoy today only of the industries, businesses, and innovators harness and grow their developments. It is this that inspires the coming together of innovators for virtually every major company that can be termed as mover and shaker in making the technical and business evolutionary milestones a reality. Therefore, significant technical and business evolutionary milestones came up as a result of combined efforts by the innovators, scientists, business world, engineers and other stakeholders.

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