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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation Kindle Edition
|Length: 448 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top Customer Reviews
Gertner's book about this great American institution excels in three ways. Firstly, it describes in detail the genesis of what was then an unlikely research institution. Until then most communication related work was considered to be squarely within the domain of engineering. Bell Labs arose from a need to improve communications technology pioneered by its parent organization AT&T. But the real stroke of genius was to realize the value that basic scientists - mainly physicists and chemists - could bring to this endeavor along with engineers. This was largely the vision of two men - Frank Jewett and Mervin Kelly. Jewett who was the first president of Bell Labs had the foresight to recruit promising young physicists who were proteges of his friend Robert Millikan, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and president of Caltech. Kelly in turn was Millikan's student and was probably the most important person in the history of the laboratory. It was Kelly who hired the first brilliant breed of physicists and engineers including William Shockley, Walter Brittain, Jim Fisk and Charles Townes and who would set the agenda for future famous discoveries. During World War II Bell gained a reputation for taking on challenging military projects like radar; at the end of the war it handled almost a thousand of these.Read more ›
I write this review also having heard the author present his work in Madison, NJ to an audience almost totally filled with hundreds of former Labs staff and also as one who spent a great deal of time at the Labs from 1964 through 1972, while going back and forth to MIT, plus over fifty years in the industry.
The author presents the often told tales of Shockley and the transistor, Shannon and information theory, as well as all the management types who formed, directed, and molded the Lab like Kelley and others. Many of these people I knew firsthand and as any observer the view is all too often colored by one's position at the time.
The driving presumption of the author is best stated in his introduction where he says:
"Some contemporary thinkers would lead us to believe that twenty-first century innovation can only be accomplished by small groups of nimble profit seeking entrepreneurs working amid the frenzy of market competition. Those idea factories of the past, and perhaps their most gifted employees, have no lessons for those of us enmeshed in today's complex world. This is too simplistic. To consider what occurred at Bell Labs, to glimpse the inner workings of its invisible and now vanished "production lines" is to consider the possibilities of what large human organizations might accomplish.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Learned a lot and well written. A great part of history. Always INTRESTING and jnformative. This is agreat read. EnjoyPublished 7 days ago by Daniel Schmide
Fantastic book. This is my second copy because I gave my other one to a friend.Published 9 days ago by Hypervista
Worked at Bell Labs so the folklore was enlightening beyond the figures , I met during my years. Once you leave the East coast, Bell Labs is less known to the everyday layperson.Published 15 days ago by Anthony Reid
Great book, packed with stories, all put together for one big very important story of the 20th century, which has affected all of us much more than we realize.Published 1 month ago by Sarah Danielle Taraz
Great history of an iconic technical and scientific organization. From personal experience, I've always had high regard for Bell Labs. Now I know the why better.Published 1 month ago by alaz
As a former Member of Technical Staff, I wish I had known then what I know now about Bell Labs.Published 2 months ago by Halrabi
Great book. Well-written and absorbing. Wonderful introduction to an amazing cast of characters and a compelling story of technological innovation.Published 4 months ago by GSS
Deeply examines what makes something innovative, how great teams work together to make world-shattering discoveries and inventions inside one of the most influential scientific... Read morePublished 4 months ago
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