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Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World Hardcover – June 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Edition edition (June 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578516730
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578516735
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When, in 1999, journalist Kemper started following the efforts of Dean Kamen to invent a new type of transportation device, he could hardly have known the story would turn out to be at once enormous and tiny. Kamen, inventor of the Uber-hyped Segway (a two-wheeled scooter with an impressive self-balancing system), was already wealthy from earlier inventions (e.g., portable dialysis machines, drug-infusion pumps) when he set his boutique engineering firm to work on the Segway (or "Ginger"). Shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, the project quickly took on a messianic quality, with Kamen proclaiming Ginger would be the primary mode of transportation in a decade. The combination of a cool, mysterious new toy with the timing of the late years of the Internet gold rush created a venture capital feeding frenzy, with figures like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos clamoring to be a part of project Ginger. Kemper's rigorously fair-minded book, which gives all due credit to Kamen and his team, also records Ginger's endless delays, brought about by what he casts as a mixture of Kamen's egomaniacal hubris and his company's inability to think in practical terms (the project was shockingly far along before anyone considered what state regulators might think of the new vehicles that would soon vie for space on sidewalks). The last act is well known. Kemper's book proposal gets leaked and a media circus swirls around the secret world-changing project, only to collapse in a welter of "That's it?" disappointment. The result is a book that is eye-opening and heartbreaking.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

" What really makes the book's engine rev is the outsized personality of Dean Kamen, and the clash of ..." -- New York Observer, June 16, 2003

"... he documents it well in an intense, highly readable book." -- San Jose Mercury News, June 22, 2003

"the book's portrayal of the passionate, eccentric subculture of engineering is fascinating..." -- Boston Globe, June 15, 2003

... [Steve] Kemper is at his best ... -- Popular Science, July 2003

... early chapters of "Code Name Ginger" are rich with stories about Mr. Kamen's zany brilliance and showmanship. -- Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2003

..." works best as a personality profile; second-best as a "Soul of the New Machine" type of project diary." -- Network World

...Code Name Ginger is a lively ride around the block... -- Washington Post, JUNE 8, 2003

...Kemper used his access well to write a fascinating account of the messy process of invention... -- New York Times, June 8, 2003

To his credit, Kemper retains a sense of balance, portraying Kamen as a fascinating yet flawed idealist ... -- Fortune Magazine, July 7, 2003

…delivers the exciting behind-the-scenes story of bringing a dream to the marketplace. -- BookPage, June 2003

More About the Author

I've been a freelance journalist for more than 30 years and have written two books: A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa, about the African explorer Heinrich Barth (June 2012), and Code Name Ginger: the Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World (2003), which was selected by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers award. Harper published the paperback under the title Reinventing the Wheel.

I've written for many national publications, including Smithsonian, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Wall Street Journal, and BBC Wildlife. I'm an adjunct professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, got a degree from the University of Detroit, then taught literature and writing at the University of Connecticut while earning a Ph.D. I live in Connecticut.

My website: www.stevekemper.net
My blog: http://blog.stevekemper.net

Customer Reviews

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This book is a fun read and provides great insight into the development of the Segway.
T.H.Farmer
In 1999, Dean Kamen called journalist Steve Kemper and invited him to chronicle the development of a new invention, "the biggest thing I've ever done."
Amazon Customer
Unlike many business books I have read, this one has a strong story line, fascinating characters, great pace.
Patrick Kearns

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 1999, Dean Kamen called journalist Steve Kemper and invited him to chronicle the development of a new invention, "the biggest thing I've ever done." Kemper bit, and the result is this gem of a book.
You may have heard of Dean Kamen as the archetypical American inventor, whose ideas made him a millionaire in his twenties, but who wears his uniform of a denim shirt, jeans and boots everywhere, from the workshop to the Oval Office to the boardroom. Or you may have seen the Dateline story on the revolutionary wheelchair (It climbs stairs! It rears up and balances on two wheels!) his company is even now jumping through FDA approval hoops. Or maybe you know a high-school kid competing in the FIRST robot-building team competition that is another of Kamen's brainchildren.
I loved this book, for a lot of reasons. First, it's unflinchingly honest. This is no worshipful paen to Kamen and the Segway, It is a balanced (pardon the pun) look at the inventor, his company, and the engineering and business behind the creation of the Segway, warts and all. Kemper writes an even-handed account, but the way he cares about his subjects shines through the entire book.
The author respects Kamen's genius, creativity, and sheer chutzpah, but also shines a merciless light on his many shortcomings. And Kamen IS likeable, and every bit the visionary wunderkind that the media paints. But reading how his team sometimes suffered in the Great Man's shadow made me squirm.
Although he professes to be neither an engineer nor a business guy, Kemper captures the spirit and creativity of engineering art AND business. He explores the sometimes-twisted and sometimes-sublime group dynamics that manifest when a group of people are pushing the technical envelope. He accurately describes both the "Eureka!
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Straub on July 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If Edison or Ford had allowed us a peak inside their laboratories, what would it have been like? Clearly visiting one of the various museums dedicated to them does not do justice to the events that went on there. While Dean Kamen?s legacy is not yet assured to be within this group, we fortunately will have a chronology.
Kemper has captured the mystique of the engineering marvel in a book that reads more like a novel than a traditional business book. The various, frank participant comments that he recorded allow us to gain insight into the engineering and management challenges that Segway has overcome.
Many within the startup and capital space suggest that every founder should be cognizant of when it is time to step down and allow others to run more of the show, and Kemper paints Kamen as no exception to this. The book illustrates how Kamen?s micro-management may have caused the project to take longer and cost more than it may have needed to. It also shows how Kamen?s belief in Ginger along with his charm and salesmanship may be what ended up making Segway a success in the end.
The book?s only shortfall comes from Kemper?s expulsion just prior to the Segway?s announcement and launch. Due to his loss of access to the project?s participants at this point, we are prevented from hearing reflections and thus being able to evaluate the success of the project?s culture and management style. Hopefully others from the Segway team will choose to codify their commentary on their experience at some point.
Code Name Ginger will allow you to understand what goes on from idea to creation. It would be difficult not to be drawn in to the engineer?s & manager?s struggle to overcome obstacles to bring the Segway to fruition. It is a look inside the whirlwind ?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Ginger" is a terrific insight into the real day to day process of innovation. It appears that it doesnt come easily.
Great things never do.
The book makes you feel like you are along for the ride.
You feel the frustrations and embrace the challenges the team encoutered along the path to innovation(I am a Segway owner and have met Dean).
I think Dean has nothing to be embarassed about with this book. It exposes his incredible talent,humanity,kindness,and unwillingness to fail. It showcases his ability to pick the right people-most of the time....and build a great team.
He still is truly amazing in my book.
It has given me new respect for just how hard it was to bring this kind of innovation to market.
I just wish the process of following it didnt end where it did.
A great read ...left me wanting more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Kemper provides an intriguing look behind the scenes of an interesting invention. Though the investors may end up holding the short end of the invention stick, Kemper does an excellent job of relaying the story of the invention, the investors, and the inventor, Dean Kamen. Anyone who wants to know how things move from "hey, I've got a cool idea!", to the drawing board, to "let's build one", and then to "let's build a better one," to how to get money for something, will enjoy this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian Navis on June 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've always admired Kamen and his work. To get this up close, and personal view was a real treat. Kemper captured the people and the process in a way that made the book very compelling reading. His "fly-on-the-wall" perspective was fantastic. The meetings (especially the one described in chapter 15) are painfully familiar and funny. The same is true for the interactions between engineers and marketers. Great read!
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