The Idea Factory
Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
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From its beginnings in the 1920s until its demise in the 1980s, Bell Labs-officially, the research and development wing of AT&T-was the biggest, and arguably the best, laboratory for new ideas in the world. From the transistor to the laser, from digital communications to cellular telephony, it's hard to find an aspect of modern life that hasn't been touched by Bell Labs. In The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner traces the origins of some of the twentieth century's most important inventions and delivers a riveting and heretofore untold chapter of American history. At its heart this is a story about the life and work of a small group of brilliant and eccentric men-Mervin Kelly, Bill Shockley, Claude Shannon, John Pierce, and Bill Baker-who spent their careers at Bell Labs. Today, when the drive to invent has become a mantra, Bell Labs offers us a way to enrich our understanding of the challenges and solutions to technological innovation. Here, after all, was where the foundational ideas on the management of innovation were born.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
Surprisingly Enthralling Book
To be honest, I at first expected a kind of dull corporate brag fest.
But to my surprised delight, this book was smoothly written, incredibly well-research and a total pleasure to read.
The reality is that the history of Bell Labs (and AT&T) traces the history of 20th century America. Jon Gertner brilliantly ties the personalities to exciting technical developments and explains it all so anyone can understand.
Yet he maintains an objectivity of the organization and its challenges that reflect so well on his journalist credentials. Bottom line, not many corporate history books have grabbing power, but I could hardly put this one down.