Monday, 27 April 2015

Book Review: The innovators: how a group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks created the digital revolution

The innovators, by Walter Isaacson

Review by Kico Borràs
This new book by the author of the very famous biographies of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs has been a pleasure to read. It is not a novel, but the story of about twenty different scientists that one after the other and without any scheduled plan achieve in a little less than a century a revolution that we can enjoy today. No iphones, tablets or modern cars, for example, would be available today without those geniuses, most of them unknown to the general public.

The book starts with Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, who in the nineteen century wrote the first computer programs for a machine that her friend Charles Baggage never achieved to build: his Analytical Engine. She created her programs using some techniques still used today. Later the author continues with the pioneers that build computers first without and then with transistors. Arriving at the PC era and the Internet he talks about well-known eminences such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds who offered the mass public today's home computers.

As a conclusion, Walter Isaacson explains that those people have worked collaboratively. None of them could have achieved his inventions without the work previously done by others. He explains how innovation actually happens in the real world and explores the social and cultural forces that provide the atmosphere for innovation. In some cases it was the government of the USA who prepared the right ecosystem for innovation. In others it was community organizers, communal-minded hippies, do-it-yourself hobbyists, and homebrew hackers, who were most of them suspicious of centralized authority. It is a must-read book to anyone interested in technology.