The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

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Penguin, Mar 15, 2012 - Business & Economics - 432 pages
The definitive history of America’s greatest incubator of innovation and the birthplace of some of the 20th century’s most influential technologies

“Filled with colorful characters and inspiring lessons . . . The Idea Factory explores one of the most critical issues of our time: What causes innovation?” —Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review

“Compelling . . . Gertner's book offers fascinating evidence for those seeking to understand how a society should best invest its research resources.” —The Wall Street Journal

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.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bederson - LibraryThing

Excellent - helped break a long standing bit of lore I had learned from my father. I had always learned that Bell Labs greatly supported tons of pure research. Investigation for its own sake and that ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Razinha - LibraryThing

This book is highly recommended for a technology geek, history geek, history of technology geek, anyone interested in technological innovation, or just plain Ma Bell fans. Mr. Gertner has amassed an ... Read full review

Contents

Praise for The Idea Factory
One OIL DROPS
Two WEST TO EAST
Three SYSTEM
Four
Five SOLID STATE
Six HOUSE OF MAGIC
Seven THE INFORMATIONIST
Thirteen ON CRAWFORD HILL
Fourteen FUTURES REAL AND IMAGINED
Fifteen MISTAKES
Sixteen COMPETITION
Seventeen APART
Eighteen AFTERLIVES
Nineteen INHERITANCE
Twenty ECHOES

Eight MAN AND MACHINE
Nine FORMULA
Ten SILICON
Eleven EMPIRE
Twelve AN INSTIGATOR
Photographs
Endnotes and Amplifications
Sources
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

Jon Gertner grew up in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, just a few hundred yards away from Bell Labs. He has been a writer for the New York Times Magazine since 2004 and is an editor at Fast Company magazine. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.

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