The Innovators by Walter Isaaacson: Great Read for the Technology Crowd!

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators:  How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 2014).  I found it a fine read with many interesting tidbits on the major figures of the digital movement.  A New York Times book review by Brendan Koerner, a contributing editor at Wired, is well done and balanced.  Koerner concluded:

“The book evinces a genuine affection for its subjects that makes it tough to resist. Isaacson confesses early on that he was once “an electronics geek who loved Heathkits and ham radios,” and that background seems to have given him keen insight into how youthful passion transforms into professional obsession. His book is thus most memorable not for its intricate accounts of astounding breakthroughs and the business dramas that followed, but rather for the quieter moments in which we realize that the most primal drive for innovators is a need to feel childlike joy.”

I would add that I found a number of gems in this work. First, Isaacson treats many of the movers and shakers such as John Von Newman, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs fairly while providing insights into their idiosyncrasies and character flaws.

Second, Isaacson gives due credit to the women who were intimately involved with the development of computing programming such as Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, and Grace Hopper.

Lastly, I liked revisiting the agonies and  ecstasies of the early days (for me the 1960s – 1970s) of computer development.   Isaacson describes small issues like the difficulty of handling “floating-point” numbers with some of the early programming languages as well as big issues such as the importance of packet-switching for the development of the Internet.

In sum, I highly recommend it.


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