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

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Penguin, Mar 15, 2012 - Business & Economics - 432 pages
58 Reviews
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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Review: The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

User Review  - Andrej Karpathy - Goodreads

The Idea Factory is a fascinating book for anyone interesting in the process of innovation. The book follows the particular example of Bell Labs, which at its peak in ~1940-70 was a 1000+ PhD behemoth ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Charles Eliot - Goodreads

AT&T, and its Bell Laboratories research arm, were instrumental in creating the modern connected worlds, so if you've ever wondered how we got here, read this book. It's worth the read just to hear ... Read full review

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Contents

Introduction WICKED PROBLEMS
One OIL DROPS
Two WEST TO EAST
Three SYSTEM
Four
Five SOLID STATE
Six HOUSE OF MAGIC
Seven THE INFORMATIONIST
Twelve AN INSTIGATOR
Thirteen ON CRAWFORD HILL
Fourteen FUTURES REAL AND IMAGINED
Fifteen MISTAKES
Sixteen COMPETITION
Seventeen APART
Eighteen AFTERLIVES
Nineteen INHERITANCE

Eight MAN AND MACHINE
Nine FORMULA
Ten SILICON
Eleven EMPIRE
Acknowledgments
Selected Bibliography
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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