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The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,629 Ratings  ·  1,155 Reviews
The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out on magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Simon and Schuster
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Joe Vander Zanden I'd argue this book is not intended to be technical. Its a historiography covering almost 200 years of developments in information technology and…moreI'd argue this book is not intended to be technical. Its a historiography covering almost 200 years of developments in information technology and entrepreneurship. Assuming constraints of page count and intended audience, there will be a trade off between breadth and depth. I suspect Isaacson's intent was to educate a lower information reader on a topic that will continue to impact their lives. This is a great book for sparking your interest in the topic. The depth of the ideas discussed are elucidated in greater detail within other texts on the subject.(less)

Community Reviews

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John Norman
Nov 17, 2014 John Norman rated it liked it
Regrettably, I can't give this a great review.

In part, it depends on what you want. If you want a history of innovation from the point of view of the winners -- the people who created the technology we use today -- then this book might be for you.

But I would strongly recommend that you read some other books: Katie Hafner's When Wizards Stay Up Late; John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said; Steven Levy's Hackers.

Isaacson hits all of the main highlights of the development of digital technology from
A masterful tour of the creative people behind the development of computers and the digital revolution using a frame that probes the relative contributions of teamwork vs. individual genius. As I continually benefitted the ever increasing capabilities of computers from the 70s onward for my former science career and I enjoyed Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin, I figured I couldn’t lose. Plus friends praise his skills in the history of science as revealed in his books on Einstein and Steve Job ...more
Oct 22, 2014 April rated it it was ok
I loved Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs biographies. I really, really wanted to love this one. In a sense, this book is at least a four star book because Isaacson wants to prove a point and he succeeds: no one person invented the computer or the Internet, that the digital revolution is one person building on and with the backs of others. However, it is that success that made this book not as enjoyable for me because Isaacson is profiling so many people, several each chapter, that the ...more
Kevin Parsons
Aug 10, 2014 Kevin Parsons rated it it was amazing
This book is going to be huge since it functions not only as a history of the computer and the internet but as a treatise on innovation and collaboration. I can imagine that it will be required reading for all kinds of people working in all varieties of business.

Unlike his bio of Steve Jobs, which was important as immediate history but was also understandably rushed, Isaacson's new book reads like a labor of love and is much better written, more focused than "Jobs" and is thought provoking on a
Jacob Mclaws
Oct 26, 2014 Jacob Mclaws rated it it was amazing
What a pleasure. An absolute pleasure of a read.

This book is all about the history of computing and the people behind it all. There was a time when kids grew up taking apart and putting together HAM radios and getting chemistry sets with cubes of germanium inside. This book made me a bit jealous of that basic understanding of technology and I have to admit that after the reading the portion on diodes, semiconductors and microchips I spent an entire Saturday online learning about the basic physic
Sean Gibson
Jun 26, 2015 Sean Gibson rated it really liked it
4.2 Stars

Readers can infer a number of salient points from this excellent history of digital innovation, but the main takeaway for me was this: innovative ideas are like digestive systems—nothing comes from them unless they get a big push from an asshole.

Okay, so, the author would probably suggest that his REAL overarching theme is that innovation is driven not by lone geniuses, but by collaborative teams that provide an ideal mix of vision, engineering, and execution, but hey—that doesn’t mean
Oct 11, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
In his latest book, Isaacson offers the reader an insightful look into the world of technology and the numerous people whose insights and innovative ideas have changed the world in which we live. While not the biography of any one person, Isaacson personifies technology and offers stories related to its branches, from the early speculative ideas of Ada Loveless around a mechanical calculating device through to the dawn of Wikipedia and mass-user self-editing. Isaacson travels through time, speci ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who invented the 'computer'? Many of the early calculating machines were quite specific in the type of calculations they could perform. It was a term once applied to a bunch of (mostly) women math majors using mechanical adding machines to figure out parts of equations during WWII. Mechanical 'computers' (The name wasn't applied to the devices until either late in or after WWII.) were a number of independent mechanical devices including the abacus & Babbage's device in the early 1800s. Babba ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2015
Almost everything we do these days has some link to the world wide web, or involves interacting with some sort of computer, but how did these things become so pervasive and essential? In this book Isaacson writes about the people that made the companies, that made the products that we all now use.

Starting on the earliest computer, the Analytical Engine conceived by Charles Babbage, which he made with Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace. It was a purely mechanical device, made at the very limits of eng
Aman Mittal
Nov 04, 2014 Aman Mittal rated it it was amazing
There is no doubt that the computer and the internet are one of the most important innovations of our era. Without them, I would not have written this, and you won't be reading this either. In spite of that, computers should be considered only the second most important innovation, as important as Gutenberg's wooden printing press. Accessible to most, easy to learn, part and parcel of everyone's life nowadays.

Walter Isaacson's recently published THE INNOVATORS takes a reader back in the times of
Sarju Shrestha Marzullo
Walter Isaacson is such a great writer and a researcher. Coming from none technical background, this book really gave me the bigger picture of technology world; its beginning and its future. How devices we use in our daily lives are the products of many creative genius, visionaries and restless ambitious minds. Also, many of these work are the contribution of collaboration, respect and stealing the best ideas from each other.

I am very impressed how Isaacson credits and acknowledged the first wom
Vivek Tejuja
Oct 10, 2014 Vivek Tejuja rated it really liked it
I remember reading, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson with great trepidation. I thought I would get bored. I thought I would not be interested in it for long. I thought these things and a lot of other things before I invested time in the book. I loved the book at the end of it, so much so that I thought there was not any need to pick up anything on “Steve Jobs”, since this book was most comprehensive. Walter Isaacson does it again this time with “The Innovators”.

There have been countless books wri
Hussein Nasser
Dec 21, 2015 Hussein Nasser rated it really liked it
An excellent book reach on history of the great innovators
Jan 04, 2016 Lei rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful work from Walter Isaacson, a legendary of digital revolutions, full of amazing stories of innovators who made a dent in the computer history. A must read , I'll buy one to keep it at home for sure.
May 12, 2015 Milkiways rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Issacson's The Innovators is a very well written, credible book filled with information on each individual, germination of an idea, it's implementation and development behind today's magic machine, The Computer. The writer has done an excellent job in meticulously presenting the tiniest details and have certainly done justification to each and every small to big individual with personal details who were part of this extraordinary system. It is unfortunate to see how the innovation has changed ov ...more
Aaron Wolfson
Isaacson highlights the merits of collaboration among innovators as well as between humans and computers in his history of the digital age. Such an imposing topic is destined to be incomplete, and it is, but Isaacson does a nice job of highlighting the primary contributors and showing how each innovation built off the previous ones. As with Steve Jobs, you won't learn a lot about the technology itself beyond the most basic level, but Isaacson is clearly more interested in the cultural history an ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Chintogtokh rated it really liked it
Ерөнхийдөө бол таалагдлаа. Яах ч аргагүй 1800-гаад онд механик тооцоолуур гарч эхлэхээс өнөөдрийн Google, Wikipedia яаж үүссэн тухай асар урт хугацааны түүхийг бичсэн учраас зарим талаар хэтэрхий товч байсан гэж бодогдсон. Энэ утгаар Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution номноос цар хүрээ ихтэй ч арай гүйцэхгүй санагдсан. Гэхдээ уншихад амар, монгол руу орчуулбал МТ, электроникийн салбарыг сонирхох хүмүүс ч ихсэх байх.
Viet Nguyen
This book describes "how a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution." It is a fascinating read about the stories behind many inventions.

Several lessons can be learned from the book about how innovations come from ideas and what kind of thoughts and personalities are put into them.

- Innovation is the result of collaboration. Ideas are built upon ideas. Innovation hardly comes from a sole genius.

- The most productive team of innovators combines wide array of specialit
Mar 26, 2016 Dkovlak rated it really liked it
This book is an excel lent recap of the history of the development of the computer and related software from the initial the 1830s (believe it or not) to 2014. (That is not a typo. The original ideas for a computing machine came in the 1830s.)

The author does a wonderful job of researching every little contribution to the computer's development. It is very much like a textbook. Some of the early history (until the 1970s) was not very exciting to me.

However, when the author was talking a
O incursiune fascinantă în epoca digitală, cu toate întâmplările, șansele și pasiunea neobosită care au concurat la crearea celei mai avansate modalități de expresie umană, cartea Inovatorii a lui Walter Isaacson, editor general al revistei Time și autorul cărții Steve Jobs (apărută și la noi, tot la Editura Publica, în 2012), este o narațiune aproape literară, cu o acțiune care începe în secolul XIX și ține pînă în prezent, iar cei care au contribuit la această revoluție devin personaje într-o ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Fairly good history of the development of the computer and interwebs. It talkes about each major development and sketches out the actors involved and there were many in each stage. It starts with Ada Lovelace (Byron's daughter) and takes the story to the first computers like and we meet figures Like Alan Turing and Claude Shannon and Mauchely and Eckhart. We move on to the wizards at Fairchild Semiconductor and Pioneers like Noyce, Brattain, and Gordon Moore. We meet the developers of the first ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

The Innovators is a fascinating and entertaining non-technical history of computers and the internet. Isaacson approaches the emergence of the digital generally in a chronological narrative with mini-biographies of the key figures from Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, John von Neuman, Alan Turing, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the founders of Google, Wikipedia, and Intel, among others.

Isaacson writes very well with tremendous enthusiam for
Feb 08, 2015 Ken-ichi rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, xmas2014
I was unaware of the hype surrounding this book, but was made immediately so when my dad, newly literate in his retirement, was baffled that no one else in the family had heard of it. If other people like it then it can't be good, so I went in a skeptic, but came out pretty pleased. This is a solid, well-researched history of the personal computer and the Internet that does a reasonably good job of arguing that technical innovation is not about singular geniuses who pluck inventions from the aet ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Fantastic read. Although at times I think Isaacson is simplifying a bit too much for the sake of brevity, he provides a wonderful service here in handing us the sweeping narrative of the Digital Age. The story itself is riveting, and Isaacson basically just gets out of the way of it.

Throughout he takes time to suggest lessons about innovation. To some, perhaps, that will seem annoying and intrusive. To me, it was the best part of the book. Innovation happens when collectives of humans with comp
Clif Hostetler
Aug 13, 2015 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is the definitive history of electronic computers and the internet (i.e. the digital revolution). Other histories will provide more details of limited segments of time, but this provides a good overall view from the 1800s to the present.

This book reads much as a series of mini-biographies with connecting narrative. The one thing they all had in common was intelligence, i.e. lots of it. Some came across as interesting people with whom conversation would be a pleasant experience. Others
June Ding
Mar 14, 2015 June Ding rated it really liked it
An important book to learn about PC and Internet history. No one probably can do a better job than Issacson. It tells the stories of dozens of people behind those great innovation of our age and the social and cultural environment that cultivated them. It is impossible with the modern innovation to pin point one hero. All these ingenious ideas evolve over time, build on top of each other, and rub against often times other contentious ideas. There is seldom a light bulb moment. I lost track of th ...more
Jan 16, 2015 judy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I thought I was going to hate this book. It starts with Byron's daughter and moves, predictably, to Turing, Grace Hopper and ENIAC. I could do that in my sleep. Suddenly a bright light went on and it became one of most fascinating books I've read in ages. We all know Jobs and Gates but can any of you tell me who invented the mouse and why? That's what this book does. It fills in all the little steps in developing our beloved computers--parts that most of us don't think about. We meet the people, ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's nothing really wrong with this overview of the development of the digital revolution, but it didn't particularly grab me though. It's a perfectly serviceable introduction to the history of computers, feeling more like a textbook until maybe the final chapter where Issacs lends his own spin on the importance of collaboration over indivuals.

Throughout, there's a long list of folks that are introduced and then dispensed with so frequently that I started to feel like even naming these peopl
Dec 14, 2014 Viju rated it it was amazing
The Innovators is a well–researched, well-detailed, and well-written piece of literature on the Digital Revolution. While the book does have its slow moments, it is a compelling piece of read in the overall of scheme of things. If you are an engineer or a computer scientist, you’ll be amazed to see how much you do not know about the inventors and their inventions. If you are not an engineer or a computer scientist, you will see how products that you use in your day-to-day life came about to be a ...more
Sarah Beth
Oct 22, 2014 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
I won a copy of this book as a giveaway on Goodreads.

The Innovators is a serial biography of the many who contributed to the Digital Revolution beginning with Ada Lovelace in the 1800s and ending with Google in the late 1990s. Isaacson's whole premise is that innovation relies heavily on creative teams and collaboration, all building off of the work of others, rather than a single person working in isolation. "Innovation is usually a group effort, involving collaboration between visionaries and
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Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of "Time" magazine. He is the author of "Steve Jobs"; "Einstein: His Life and Universe"; "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"; and "Kissinger: A Biography," and the coauthor of "The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made." He lives in Washington, DC.
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“But the main lesson to draw from the birth of computers is that innovation is usually a group effort, involving collaboration between visionaries and engineers, and that creativity comes from drawing on many sources. Only in storybooks do inventions come like a thunderbolt, or a lightbulb popping out of the head of a lone individual in a basement or garret or garage.” 7 likes
“progress comes not only in great leaps but also from hundreds of small steps.” 6 likes
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