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The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Make America Great Hardcover – January 1, 2013
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The word tinkerer has migrated far from its original definition as a repairer of utensils. In Foege’s formulation, being a tinkerer is as much a state of mind––creative, obsessive, and unorthodox––as being someone who fixes or improves gizmos. Imagining a better gizmo is the tinkerer’s hallmark, and the gizmo in Foege’s demonstrations can be a device, methods of production, interstate highways, financial derivatives, even music. Individuals historical and contemporary furnish facts for Foege’s search for what constitutes tinkering, which he feels is, to America’s economic detriment, in decline and ought to be revived. Via journalistic portraits, including one of tinkerer nonpareil Thomas Edison, Foege extracts traits that cultivate tinkering. Foege’s positive examples include the inventor of the Segway pedestrian vehicle, Dean Kamen, and the more famous Steve Jobs, both of whom characterize Foege’s idea of the tinkerer as someone who doesn’t take to formal education and creates gadgets and, more important, organizations that promote a tinkering spirit. (Ironically, Edison serves Foege as a negative example because of Edison’s failure to commercialize his phonograph.) A lively exploration for those interested in technological innovation. --Gilbert Taylor
Chemical & Engineering News
[The Tinkerers] provides a fine and lively discourse on the art and finer science of tinkering.'”
Midwest Book Review
[Foege hopes] to inspire people to incorporate more of the tinkering mindset into their everyday livesand the lives of their children.”
The Tinkerers is both tribute and rallying cry.... [The Tinkerers] is an intriguing look at America's clashing cultures of individualism, capitalism, and creativity, one that poses valuable questions.”
San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review
An easily read, entertaining and enlightening book about the prototypical American tinkerers whose curiosity and creativity have brightened all of our lives.”
Post and Courier
Alec Foege explores the United States' tinkering heritage and then follows this perpetually cutting-edge endeavor to present-day America showing the value of an age-old means of bringing new ideas to the marketplace.”
A celebratory exploration of American tinkerers and the spirit of innovation that moves them....[a] lucid meditation on innovation.... [Foege] effectively argues that real tinkerers need their own space and the freedom to fail.... Tinkering remains a force to be reckoned with in the 21st century.... Laudatory history mixed with a provocative treatise on creating neat new things.”
Once you acquire the tinkerer's mindset, as described in Alec Foege's engrossing book, the world becomes a gigantic spare parts bin, inviting you to become a creative participant, rather than a passive consumer, in your manufactured environment.”
Mark Frauenfelder, Editor-in-Chief, MAKE
Tired of all the over-hyped, same-sounding books on innovation'? Here's a smart, fresh, fascinating take on why tinkering' is such a deep part of American enterpriseand how it is fundamental to shaping our economic future.”
Alan M. Webber, co-founder, Fast Company magazine
For anyone who likes to question, pull things apart, and put them back together, this book is for you!”
Tiffany Shlain, Filmmaker & Founder of the Webby Awards
[A]n entertaining, easy-to-understand, engaging tale.... You can't help being fascinated by some of the details [Foege] uncovers.... The Tinkerers grabs your attention from page one, and doesn't let go until the end.”
[Foege] shows us how tinkering remains, in new and unexpected forms, at the heart of American society and culture.”
The Tinkerers by Alec Foege is a highly worthwhile read on the extraordinary history, impact and revival of the American tinkerer spirit.”
An enthusiast's book about enthusiasts.... [A] kaleidoscopic view of the myriad forms innovation can take. Alec Foege's book is a useful contribution to understanding our era.”
Foege still believes in tinkering, and so should we.”
At a time when domestic manufacturing is in decline and the national mood is somewhat grim, Foege makes a case that a return to tinkering might show us the way forward.”
New Yorker, Page-Turner blog
An easily enjoyable read.”
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In part, I suppose, it's because my conception of a tinkerer doesn't quite jibe with the author's. definition, which is to create something new from what's available. I can't disagree with that, but in my mind tinkerers are folks such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison (both noted in the book), Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, probably Henry Ford, and on and on up through today's computer world.
My eyes began to glaze over when the author cited Thomas MacDonald as a tinkerer. Well, perhaps he was. being an engineer and interested in road construction, but in my mind he was essentially a policy wonk (but certainly a fabulous one) who helped to form what eventually turned into the Interstate highway system. And if you really want a sense of the guy, read The Big Roads. But to label him a tinkerer? Not in my view.
Likewise, maybe the folks who created credit default swaps were clever and ingenious, but tinkerers? By the author's definition, yes; my view: nope. Another eye-glazer, as was a section on a guy who is widely regarded as nothing more than a patent troll.
There's some interesting stuff in the book, and some suggestions about educational changes that might foster more tinkering from kids as they grow up, but ho-hum.
In short, not an awful book, but not partticularly intriguing.
Great things do not come from degrees, I guess, is the moral of the story. Great things come from thinking, self-reliance, and independent thinking- much of what is usually not implemented in the current school systems, especially public schools. I learned a few interesting facts while reading this, too, for example, the mp3 being invented originally in Germany.
Worth the read.
I loved the last chapter particularly as it illuminated so well something that is clear to me but not so respected in the market sometimes. A study is quoted as saying that managers tended to like specialist as employees but generalists as colleagues. Guess why?
Long live the Generalist, Versatilist and Tinkerers.