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Connections

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,486 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Connections is a brilliant examination of the ideas, inventions, and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological achievements of today. The best-selling companion volume to the "unusually intelligent television series" (Christian Science Monitor) produced by the BBC and broadcast by PBS in autumn 1979, it was conceived in the tradition of the highly popula ...more
Audio, Abridged, 3 pages
Published June 15th 1990 by Macmillan Audio (first published 1978)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Trevor
Dec 04, 2013 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: Ginnie Jones
The world seems to be infinitely complicated and quite frankly totally beyond the comprehension of any of us. As science progresses one would need to live a dozen lifetimes and would still not be able to understand all of the processes and theories that are used daily to create the world we inhabit.

You might think it is hard to program your DVD Recorder (I almost said VCR, but who has one of those nowadays?) but what if you had to build a television set from scratch? What if you had to go back
...more
Christian
Apr 14, 2008 Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only "history" book I am aware of that follows lines of thought through history, rather than an individual person or invention.

This is the proverbial butterfly fluttering its wings in the 12th century, leading to cell phone technology today.

The book can be a bit disconcerting to read, since you can read it in any order you like. This is a unique experience in my book-reading life, and the first time I read this book I read it front to back.

Later I went back and followed particular th
...more
Sesana
Dec 25, 2012 Sesana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Connections was written as a companion series to a documentary series of the same name. I've heard great things about the show, and since I really enjoyed the book, I'll track it down eventually. Burke's basic arguments here is that history is a continuum, not a series of isolated events. And so the atomic bomb owes its existence, in part, to that marvel of military engineering, the stirrup. It is indeed fascinating to trace the development of things that only seem unrelated and turn out to be o ...more
Benjamin Thomas
Jul 06, 2012 Benjamin Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I first became a fan of James Burke back in the 70's when I was in high school and was exposed to a few of his "Connections" documentaries on PBS. But then I promptly forgot all about him until last year when I was paging through my Netflix recommendations and realized the entire series was available. My wife and I watched them all and I was so intrigued that I went ahead and bought this book for my library.

I've long been fascinated with history in general, and inventions in particular so I supp
...more
Robert
This book is the "companion" to a BBC TV series first broadcast in the '70s or early '80s. I found it interesting enough but intellectually weak. It purports to trace the history of development of various "modern" inventions, such as the jet engine, the computer and television, starting with the invention of agriculture. Where we arrive at the first problem; farming allowed the first division of labour into different, specialised occupations, which in turn, allowed the development of technology. ...more
David Quinn
Oct 09, 2015 David Quinn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been burned twice by reading “How We Got to Now” (by Steven Johnson). First, I just didn’t like that book. Second, it led me to this book (by way of some goodreads reviews) which was even worse.

The book is way too sweeping in its historical retellings and the scientific descriptions are densely mind- numbing. Here’s an example which is representative of much of the book:

“On this new loom the threads were stretched horizontally on a frame. Two horizontal boards above the frame each supported
...more
Michael Larsen
Mar 18, 2014 Michael Larsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ross Blocher
Aug 20, 2013 Ross Blocher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish history textbooks were more like this! James Burke introduces Connections with the story of the 1965 Northeast Blackout. He pauses to consider how reliant we have become on technology and how little of it we understand before launching into a history of invention, from the plow to the modern day (well, 1978). If we expect to truly appreciate the convenience of our inventions, he makes a strong case that we should have some idea of how those inventions work and the physical processes that ...more
Mike
Sep 12, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Burke was originally a news reader for the BBC who went on to write a series of very interesting books/TV programmes (heck he is British). I both read and watched the "Connections" and "Connections II" (and there is a third one whose title escapes me) books and shows many years ago.

They are older so the CGI and FX are not what you could see today, but the information and linkages in the material is really very good. Not fiction, but facts and presented in rather unique ways.

I strongly reco
...more
Garth
Mar 12, 2016 Garth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim
Jul 26, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a $1.50 used book I picked up at the Library published in1978. The author has a gimmick he uses to trace the development of technology by starting with one invention and moving forward in time through related inventions or people, often ending up in an entirely different area. For example the history of weapons and armies runs from expensive trained horse mounted knights with armies numbered in a few thousands to untrained infantry with firearms numbered in many tens of thousands. The ne ...more
T.J.
Feb 08, 2014 T.J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
First, I must recommend any television program associated with James Burke, especially Connections 2, which is the reason I checked this book of my library in the first place.

This book, inspired by the original 1970s Connection program, really is like reading a complete history of everything, though its aim is little more narrowed down: how change happens. The kind of changes he details are incredible--political, cultural, technological, scientific. And what is really eye-opening is how all thes
...more
Tim Williams
Jan 31, 2012 Tim Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Based on the truly genius series shown on PBS in the US. I grew up with this and loved it from the initial showing. I still go back and watch it probably once a year as an adult. The book aligns with the first series and is just as great. In regards to the series, the second 'season' was not nearly as good. The third was better but still not quite as good as the first.

If you liked the TV series, the book is more of the same - brilliant.
Artur Coelho
Feb 23, 2016 Artur Coelho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uma coisa é afirmar que isto anda tudo ligado, insinuando os padrões inusitados e as interligações inesperadas que detectamos na nossa herança cultural. Outra é realmente prová-lo, pegando na história da ciência e tecnologia para nos mostrar os caminhos sinuosos e inusitados que nos levaram ao mundo contemporâneo. algo que James Burke sempre fez com enorme mestria, levando-nos em viagens do presente ao passado até ao regresso ao presente, mostrando que caminhos as tecnologias que hoje nos deslum ...more
Dr.J.G.
Feb 05, 2016 Dr.J.G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps even before it was a television series this was a series of columns in a scientific journal with great popular appeal, and we were fans who later stuck on when the television series was available to us (being in some professions not only does not allow one time to watch television but also makes one being looked at askance if one so much as admitted to looking in the direction of a television, or thinking of buying one). Now it is a book, and I am sure there are dvds of the television se ...more
Laura
Jul 15, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are like me and want to know how something was invented, why it was invented, who invented it, where it came from etc etc etc this is the book for you. It takes you from the very beginning through current technology (I think the 1987's). there is also a PBS series on this which someday I am hoping to watch. Fascinating.
Nathaniel
Great links from ancient history to ?odern times. Filled with litte kwon facts. The conections made by the author are his own
But intriging none the less. Certain facts certainly speak for themselves.
Chrisl
Jul 11, 2015 Chrisl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 1970s, dew500s
Quite appreciated this historical science series, print and tv, and am enjoying Steven Johnson use of the same format with his How We Got to Now.
Definitely re-read material.
Jamon
Nov 04, 2008 Jamon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
US News and World report interviewed some Business School professors on some of the greatest business books. A Dartmouth Professor recommended this book. The premise of the book is that innovations of the past built to innovations today. The author does not take into account dumb luck as much as a market need for innovation. This was a PBS series in the late 1970's. It was written in 1978 and I am told the book is out of print. It is a slow read, with so much detail and pictures. The book Talks ...more
Bruce
Oct 18, 2012 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever considered how one discovery often leads to another? The computer you're reading this review on could not have come about if someone had not discovered how electricity works, another developed the theory, and someone else then found practical ways of using it.

James Burke has given a lot of thought to such interrelations -- many times over, and with a lot more inventiveness than most people. Connections explores how, for instance, a water-wheel grain mill led to punch-card computers
...more
Michael Hughes
Nov 20, 2013 Michael Hughes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
Connections is the companion volume to the BBC television series “Connections” produced in the Autumn of 1979. I originaly read connections after watching the BBC series on my local PBS station.

Connections explores an “Alternative View of Change” (the subtitle of the BBC series). Burke thesis us that technology advancement is the result of a web of connections between separate events. Each event is the result of one person or group acting as the result of separate motivations.

Each chapter begi
...more
Malik
Jun 01, 2011 Malik rated it it was amazing
Connections is an incredibly interesting look at the process of scientific discovery through journeys that connect two seemingly disparate pieces of technology. By using these journeys to demonstrate how accident, epiphany, and circumstances can lead to inventions that change the course of history, James Burke is stating that history does in fact have something to say about the future. He claims that patterns of discovery are tied to qualities of humanity, so that we can look at the circumstance ...more
Mirek Jasinski
May 21, 2016 Mirek Jasinski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: innovation
Some 30 years ago, I eagerly awaited for the next episode of James Burke's BBC documentary under the same title. In my opinion this was one of the best documentaries ever. The same can be said about his book. He navigates through our history, pointing out important coincidences and pivot points or Black Swans (years before Taleb coined the contemporary meaning for this phrase).

Highly recommend it.
Dan Mozgai
Nov 18, 2014 Dan Mozgai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Burke is to invention as Carl Sagan is to outer space. Connections tells the remarkable history of dozens of inventions by demonstrating how one discovery, invention or innovation led to another, often seemingly unrelated, innovation. There is also a TV series by the same name that covers the same information as this book, which is worth watching as well.
Marc
Feb 06, 2016 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the TV series for years, so when my brother gave me this book, I was thrilled! But apart from reading a few passages over the years, I never got around to reading ALL of it. Now I did - and although he follows the progress of his documentary, Burke goes into greater detail, and makes the connection a little clearer than on TV. It's a good read.
Rikelle
Jun 05, 2010 Rikelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a fan of James Burke ever since I saw one of his documentaries in a college class some 15 years ago. Mr. Burke has such a fascinating way of detailing history and science. I am sure if history classes were taught like a Burke documentary it would become a very popular subject. This book is pretty much the same story as the documentary of the same name. I love how someone can be innovating something at on place and someone else can be discovering something by accident and then somehow ...more
Miguel Ibarra
Jan 02, 2016 Miguel Ibarra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non-fiction, history of technology. Burke's thesis is that history can't be teached by splitting it into epochs nor into topics, this book is an example of how to teach history by explaining the interrelationships of different times and disciplines
Nancielafferty
Dec 13, 2015 Nancielafferty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the world of inventions, as in the world in general, one thing is connected to another in ways we don't usually imagine. This book is a fun and enjoyable way to see differently how some things connect.
Sean Kavanagh
Jun 04, 2014 Sean Kavanagh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
before popular science was really a thing, James Burke did this TV series and book - and I loved it as kid - still have my hardback. Good, but perhaps of its era
Chuck Ledger
Nov 03, 2015 Chuck Ledger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago. Upon rereading it, I enjoyed it just as much. I wonder what Mr. Burke would add is he redid the book today.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

James Burke is a Northern Irish science historian, author and television producer best known for his documentary television series called Connections, focusing on the history of science and technology leavened with a sense of humour.
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“Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.” 30 likes
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