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on January 6, 2000
"We Were Burning" is an amazing book for those interested in the history behind today's technology. It is extremely well researched with many details previously unknown (or only hinted about) until now. Johnstone weaves this information into a well-written format that reminds one of a good novel. Also, the book is divided into logical chapters which allows those of us with particular technology interests to focus on the sections of most importance. (I have re-read "Doctor Rocket Goes to Disneyland" at least three times by itself.)
Also, the extreme importance of this book is that it offers a comprehensive history of Japanese electronic developments for the English-language speaker. Too often we hear the of the successes of the North American and European industries, but the important Japanese contributions and accomplishments are rarely detailed. Well, no more!
Buy this book! You will be glad you did!
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on May 31, 1999
I found this book totally fascinating. Johnstone's journalistic background serves him well --- he's a great writer, and this is a fun read. Far more important than that, however, is that the book turns on its head the notion that Japan's post-war high-technology industries were built or directed by faceless government bureaucrats. Johnstone demonstrates (I think extremely compellingly) that passionate, stubborn, visionary, engineers and scientists drove much of Japan's post-war success in technology. This book is their story. I loved it.
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on April 8, 1999
This is one of the best books in the topics of research and development in microelectronics. I was so fascinated by the actual human stories of how unknown researchers and engineers were heavily involved in the process of great innovations through each carrier. In particular, as myself a research engineer, I came across one great common truth throughout the reading : g The great motivations for work are not inspired by financial richness but by individual curiosities leading to a far-sighted vision.h . Probably It may be a quite common sense among researchers and engineers. This book also brought about the fair-minded and objective look for research and development implemented by particularly USA and Japan. This vivid and unique approach could get one out from the stereo-type of idea about the general policies and individual attitudes of science and engineering at both countries. For example, the myth of MITI is not actually representing the great success of Japanese microelectronics industry. Japan could not have developed such highly creative products without having such highly-motivated personalities. However, one thing which I wonder is the difference between English original version and the Japanese one. Compared to two books, the Japanese version did not duplicate the exact same content of English version. Individual photos and some descriptions for example about the dispute between MITI and professor Nishizawa were carefully eliminated from the original English version without any excuse from the translator. I am quite curious to be aware whether the translator got a sort of permission to do so from Mr. Bob Johnstone, who is an author of this book. Otherwise, this book is highly recommended to everybody who wishes to understand the actual story behind the remarkable development of IC chip.
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on February 21, 2013
This is a pretty good book about how the electronics industry has developed in Japan (mostly) and the rest of the world. I do not like the authors use of 'hole flow' which was unfortunately taught to me when I went to AT school in the navy. Hole flow is retarded if you know anything about the molecular level of electronics. Otherwise, this book is very good and interesting.
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on December 17, 1998
This book provides a great historical perspective on the developement of electronic technology in Japan and US. The author does a great job summarizing the events that has shaped today's electronics. I highly recommend this book to people interested in history of science or Japanese electronic industry.
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on March 11, 2013
This Book well brings back memories of my youth and my Dad's work with Mitsutomi at Hycom. It reminds me of his work an the fruits of his labor, the current proliferation of flat screens and Digital communications.
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on September 16, 2000
Bookstores in the US are buldging with entertaining and informative "insider" books on Apple Computer, Microsoft, IBM, Xerox PARC etc. and a similar English-language writeup on Japanese companies such as Sharp, Sony, and Seiko is long overdue. Fortunately the Japanese stories and characters are every bit as entertaining and there are the bureaucratic villains as well. As a bonus, nice background information on the growth of the worldwide semiconductor industry is weaved into the narration. "Japan INC" seems a lot less monolithic after reading this book.
The author is married to a Japanese national and apparently devoted much of his adult life to researching this story.
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on February 14, 2002
A must read book for all electronics/computer technology professionals/hobbist. Bob's comprehensive research and writing style made it easy to read and informative.
The book gives you retrospect on what had happened and how it happened. Although they were history but it gave us lesson on the past and we can plan or predict the future. It also gives a lot of insight on technology management. What made things happened and what screwed things up. In another prospective, as a technology worker, it also taught us not to give up easily.
Highly recommended.
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on December 17, 1999
An excellent look at several decades worth of innovation. One bonus is the fascinating portrayal of leading edge developments at major US labs who then fumbled the transfer to products. I can't say enough about how well-written it is and how unique the historical perspective is. Superb!
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on May 5, 2007
Johnstone's account of the invention and development of several products on which much of modern technology is based is fascinating, and a useful corrective to myths about the lack of Japanese creativity in science and business.

However, Johnstone's focus on the engineers and businessmen has its own problems, foremost of which is that it gives the reader the impression that inspired geniuses are behind every invention, and leads him to neglect inventions which were developed at companies whose research was more systematic.

Johnstone is an entertaining writer, but sometimes rather hard to follow.
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