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The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
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The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  2,000 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews
A hundred years ago, companies stopped producing their own power with steam engines and generators and plugged into the newly built electric grid. The cheap power pumped out by electric utilities not only changed how businesses operated but also brought the modern world into existence. Today a similar revolution is under way. Companies are dismantling their private compute ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Omar Halabieh
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "What made large-scale electric utilities possible was a series of scientific and engineering breakthroughs - in electricity generation and transmission as well as in the design of electric motors - but what ensured their triumph was not technology but economics."

2- "At a purely economic level, the similarities between electricity and information technology are even more striking. Both are what economists call general p
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Reason for inclusion on Reading List: (1-2 paragraphs).

Background on future computing and networking concepts, looking toward possible directions of computing and information systems.

Brief synopsis : (1-2 paragraphs).

Carr explores the movement from ‘hard drive’ computing of the desktop to ‘cloud’ computing of the night, how our servers and operating systems will be run by net applications in the future, not by programs on a clumsy desktop. Mirrors the same revolutionary movement of power sourc
Veronica Morfi
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never thought, when I originally started this book, that I'd love it so much. But, I believe that for a Computer Science student like me, or anyone involved in any kind of IT work, this is a must read. Carr's book presents the present day technology and what's to be expected by compering it to the first steps towards the Electric era. I never could have thought that electricity and computers and networks would have so many similarities while also we get to learn even more from all of their dif ...more
Mik Chernomordikov
Наконец-то в России вышел перевод книги, которая в 2008 году рассказала миру про облачные технологии.
Считается, что это лучшая книга о революции облачных технологий по мнению Financial Times.
И она действительно написана живо, интересно и со знанием дела.

В книге приведена детальная история появления электричества в нашей жизни, ее трансформация от собственных электростанций при заводах до использования в каждой квартире во много раз дешевле. И автор прекрасно показывает аналогию с миром информа
Daniel Taylor
The way we use computers has changed forever.

Once, everything you needed for your computer was contained in the plastic or metal casing. You bought software in a box. Now your devices are access points, a way onto the internet. Software gets downloaded or used through your browser.

Nicholas Carr sees a parallel between the way computing has changed and is changing and the way electricity moved from Edison’s controlled, private network to a utility.

The old and outdated business model was that you
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Meh. An overly enthusiastic introduction to the concept of 'digital utilities'. For my money, entirely insufficient attention is paid to the potential *costs* of said utility infrastructure. Carr fails to adequately address how these utility services are expected to continue functioning in an era of severely constrained energy resources, not to mention the potential compromises in civil and personal liberties that utility internet services are enabling as we speak.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Thorough, well-researched and documented.

With a keen critical eye and deep curiosity the author provides a guided tour of the World Wide Computer and the challenges and opportunities it provides for us the minions/neurons/users/abusers of its capabilities.
Jim Nielsen
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Carr's writing on technology. I read this book over six years after it was published, but most of it was still quite relevant to today's tech scene. He has such a fascinating way of seeing through overhyped technology and revealing the often overlooked effects it has on our humanity.
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway!

The Big Switch originally hit shelves in 2008. At that time, people were not sure about the whole "cloud computing" movement. This book is the 2013 re-release with a new afterword by the author. And now everyone has embraced the cloud just 5 years later (ok, not everyone, but far more than in 2008).

This book is divided into three distinct parts that each focus on a different aspect of the grand move to cloud, or utility, computi
Author Nicholas Carr's insightful and easily accessible book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google," discusses the changes taking place in business, society, and culture due to the rapid development of computer technology across the globe.

Carr uses the electrification of America as a historical reference point to show readers how a new technology can revolutionize every aspect of a society - from factory workers' wages and socioeconomic classes to family cohesion and the so
Jul 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ask just about anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you that I could not care less about anything to do with computers. When it comes to computers, I want to know two things: "Is it working?" and "If it's not working, can you make it work?" Everything else goes in one ear and right out the other.

So it's a bit surprising that a book about computing made it onto my reading list. I think I stumbled across it on a list of "important books that you absolutely have to read," and it sounded intere
Jul 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
A facile book, a summary rather than a treatise of Internet-culture thinking. Carr predicts something possibly either apocalyptic or utopian, but doesn't offer analysis or insight or a unique conclusion.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eerder had ik The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains gelezen (zie hier) en daarin had Carr het over de impact/invloed van het Internet op ons denken, hoe we onze focus verliezen, hoe we minder lang geconcentreerd naar iets kunnen kijken, aan iets kunnen werken, enz... omdat we sinds geruime tijd gewend zijn geraakt en bijgevolg nood hebben aan afleiding, aan nieuwe stimulansen.

Maar Carr is niet tegen de technologie op zich, dat vertelt hij ook in het boek. Wel de manier waarop er
Jesse Wattenbarger
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leonidas Kaplan
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full Review: The Big Switch: From Edison To Google Review

The Big Switch: From Edison To Google
By Nicholas Carr

The Big Switch is about our technological progress from developing electricity into a utility, through developing computing into a utility, and into complete immersion with the internet and all of its knowledge.

Nicholas teaches us about the social and economic driving forces brought about through introducing electricity. At first, manufacturers relied on their own electrical production u
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The former editor of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr uses the story of electricity as a backdrop for considering the evolution and future of our digitally connected economy and society ("living in the cloud"). He makes the case that the adoption of new technology is not driven principally by the technology itself, but rather by the economics that the technology enables. As centralized, general purpose technologies, both electricity and the internet have reshaped business and culture i ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for:
Recommended to Raghu by: Reference from MIT Tehnology Review magazine
This book, though it deals with computers and technology, belongs mainly in the genre of an existential debate on the computer technology and mankind's future. I did not read the author's other famous book 'Does IT Matter?'. But the publicity surrounding that book made me want to read this new book from Nicholas Carr.
The discusses a number of issues. They can be briefly summarised as below:
1)Individual computing facilities in our homes and corporate establishments will be replaced by all of us
Peter Murray
Towards the end of the last chapter of his book, Nicholas Carr relates an anecdote about the visit of a guest speaker to the Google headquarters:[return][return] George Dyson, a historian of technology…, Freeman Dyson, was invited to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, in October 2005 to give a speech at the party celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of von Neumann’s invention [of an electronic computer that could store in its memory the instructions for its use]. “Despite the wh ...more
Tom Franklin
I'll admit it's difficult to fairly judge a book where the initial premise is that my career field is doomed and disappearing as he writes. I tried hard to not have too big of a chip on my shoulder, and to the extent I succeeded, here's what I have to say:

If Sarchasm is the enormous gulf between a sarcastic comment and a person who missed said intended sarcasm, there must be an analogous word for someone who misses the irony of their own introductory remarks. After presenting the reader with an
Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ultimately, I found this book disappointing. It is written in two parts. The first part tells of the move from individual production of electricity to the utility model where electricity was sold as a commodity. It explains how this revolutionized society as it made electricity affordable to the masses and changed the way industry produced products. In short, it remade the world as we know it.

The author then compares that change to a similar change in computing. According to the author, we are i
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective on the rise and eventual dominance of cloud computing. The author compares the rise of cloud or utility computing with the rise of central electricity generation at the beginning of the 20th century.

I must admit I was sceptical at first but the author presents a well thought out and extremely well researched argument. He predicts the end of the corporate data centre and for the migration of almost all desktop applications to the cloud. Just as no individual or major corp
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
The book provides a good analogy between the technology of the Internet and the power industry. In many ways you can see the similarities and that may potentially help provide some guidance as to the future development of the Internet. If nothing else it certainly indicates that access to the Internet will be as important as access to electricity.

The author certainly makes some assumptions that some of the small changes we are seeing today will result in large changes to the way we consume techn
Sep 05, 2008 rated it liked it
I spend a large chunk of my time online, and I threw in my lot with the emerging web culture way back in the nineties -- but I really know very little about how the web works in practical terms. So I'm an invested but ignorant audience on the subject of the economic and cultural consequences of changes in network technology.

That makes me the perfect reader for Carr's book, which is a useful layman's primer to the changes now under way. He begins by restating at some length his 2005 thesis (at th
Bruce Sanders
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book begins with a history of electric power generation. Initially, every factory had its own power generation plant and a department to run the plant. Eventually, power began to be generated centrally by utilities and transmitted to factories. This allowed factories to get rid of their power generation departments and to save boat loads of money and become more efficient. The whole story of the insights and inventions that got us from point A to B is quite interesting. The author then argue ...more
Joe Raimondo
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Carr's provocative "IT doesn't Matter' set off a firestorm a few years back, and he's leveraged that attention into becoming a leading commentator on the emerging role of technology both in business and society at large.
Carr's breezy little "The Big Switch" discusses the evolving era of "utility" computing, developing a framework for understanding an emerging computing environment where most resources will exist outside of organizations. He makes the case for such a transition manifest by contra
Sean Mandurano
I read this several weeks ago and am just getting around to this review, so, sadly, it is not entirely fresh in my mind..

Carr starts this turn of the century lets-scare-everyone-about-the-future-of-technology book with several great historical advances that he analogously compares to our Moore's Law interpretation of the advancement of computers and their overawing control over our society and economy. I am inclined to rate this book slightly higher than three stars purely based on the amount of
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
"But electricity and computing share a special trait that makes them unique even among the relatively small set of general purpose technologies: they can both be delivered efficiently from a great distance over a network. Because they don't have to be produced locally, they can achieve the scale economies of central supply." (15)

"The proliferation of single-purpose systems has resulted in extraordinarily low levels of capacity utilization. One recent study of six corporate data centers revealed
Kathryn Bashaar
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love Nicholas Carr's writing. He has a very lively style, and he goes just deep enough into the technology that the lay reader can understand it, but not so deep that a non-expert feels overwhelmed. In this book, he makes an analogy between how electricity became a utility and how computing power is becoming a utility. I honestly hadn't known that, in the early days of electricity, the generating plant had to be very close to where the electricity was needed, because the problem of long-distan ...more
Stephen Redwood
Sep 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: technology
Burden's waterwheel changed industry, Electricity changed the world, computing changed it again, then the Internet blew open the doors and dramatic change is about us all over again. That's the essence of the book. It may sound a bit obvious, but actually the stories about Burden, Edison, Insull (who scaled the electricity grid), Hollerith (tabulating machine), Watson (IBM), Gates, Brin and beyond that carry the narrative are interesting and bring the whole thing alive with the kind of nuggets t ...more
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Nicholas Carr is the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Shallows, the best-selling The Big Switch, and Does IT Matter? His acclaimed new book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, examines the personal and social consequences of our ever growing dependence on computers and software. Former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall S ...more
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