Recently I’ve given some time over to catching up on some reading. Which has included Walter Isaacson’s tremendous book Innovators. I picked this up more because I liked Walter’s approach to the Steve Job’s biography. I thought this was going to be more focused on individuals and how they brought through new technology innovations. But actually it is a very good potted history of the development of modern computing. Whilst I work in IT and thought I knew key contributors, from Babbage, Lovelace to von Neumann and Turing. I was rather surprised at how many signficiant contributors I didnt know, or only vaguely aware of. For example the work of Douglas Engelbart who pretty much lead the design for the mouse. What about Vint Cerf who made key contributions to TCP/IP? Stephen Crocker who was responsible for the RFC that we all associate with the IETF now?
Not only is the history interesting, the book looks at the dynamics of innovation and how much innovation comes from the individuals working away on their own and having a eureka moment compared to that constant dialogue between people which sounding off each other lead to new ideas? The later is beautifully illustrated with the development of the transistor and the work of John Baarden and Walter Brattain. It’s interesting that as the history moves into the pre-internet era that more and more of advancements are a result of collective effort, but also recognised as such. I wonder whether that is because technologies made collaboration easier, or the effects of socio-cultural developments that meant people recognised the collaborative efforts?
I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in IT has developed or even just interested in the interplay of personalities and events such as World war II that influenced scientific advancement.