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Customer Review

on March 25, 2010
In our society, batteries are indispensable, yet they are usually taken for granted. Few people may know that batteries have a fascinating history of their own. In this book, the author recounts the history of electricity - from the first millennium B.C. to the twenty-first century. The first two thousand years or so are covered in the first fifty pages of the book. A more detailed history is provided from about 1800 onwards. In relating this history, the author has devoted much space to the uses that were (and are being) made of electricity. Extensive discussions are included on the telegraph, the telephone, wireless communication, radio, vacuum tube technology, transistors, integrated circuits, printed circuit boards, miniaturization, military applications and a great variety of miscellaneous gadgetry. The evolution of what we now call "batteries" is told in parallel with these technological developments. However, the last couple of chapters focus almost exclusively on recent advances in battery technology, as well as astonishing information as to what the consumer may expect in the next few decades.

Since this is a book aimed at the "nontechnical reader", as pointed out in its introduction, these discussions slant mainly on the human side (social, military) rather than on the hard scientific/technical details of construction and operation, although some such descriptions were attempted. Unfortunately, where they were attempted, I found that some (but by no means all) were seriously lacking in clarity. I read some such descriptions several times in order to try (unsuccessfully) to make sense of them. That can be rather frustrating for a technically-minded reader. Perhaps these descriptions should have been either left out or abbreviated so as to give the reader a more superficial but clear and accurate idea and nothing more.

The writing style is friendly, widely accessible, lively and quite engaging. This is a book that can be enjoyed by any non-technical reader who is interested in the history of electrical/electronic technology. Readers who are more scientifically inclined can enjoy it as well, as long as they are aware of the shortcomings in some of the technical descriptions.
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