“The Innovators” is a book by Walter
“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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