The Idea Factory: Bell Labs And The Great Age Of American Innovation

Paperback | February 26, 2013

byJon Gertner

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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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From the Publisher

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 th...

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.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.4 × 5.4 × 0.9 inPublished:February 26, 2013Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143122797

ISBN - 13:9780143122791

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Customer Reviews of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs And The Great Age Of American Innovation

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Story of a Scientific Golden Age In this fascinating book, the author recounts the amazing story of Bell labs – from its creation in 1925 to its present state. Weaving together the scientific research, product development and marketing along with the intriguing and gifted personalities who were involved over the decades, the author has done an excellent job of bringing the highlights, the excitement, the breakthroughs and the evolution of Bell Labs to the general reader. Throughout these chapters, one encounters some of the world’s most brilliant minds, many eccentrics as well as some truly gifted visionaries. The foresight of upper management, the creation of a scientific research utopia, the business and legal matters and the lives of key individuals are all presented here in a prose that is clear, lively and quite engaging. In particular, the author has presented the scientific/technical developments in a very clear accessible language that any general reader could easily understand. This book should be of interest to anyone fascinated by the history of scientific research in twentieth century America – in particular, research concentrating on the science of communication. Bell Labs indeed was an idea factory in its golden age.
Date published: 2015-05-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great read. A great look into how to promote and maintain a culture on creativity and imagination. I did wish it went into more detail into the later years, instead of focusing primarily on the years before 1950.
Date published: 2014-08-30

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Editorial Reviews

“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“Riveting . . . Mr. Gertner’s portraits of Kelly and the cadre of talented scientists who worked at Bell Labs are animated by a journalistic ability to make their discoveries and inventions utterly comprehensible—indeed, thrilling—to the lay reader. And they showcase, too, his novelistic sense of character and intuitive understanding of the odd ways in which clashing or compatible personalities can combine to foster intensely creative collaborations.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“One of the best innovation-focused books I've read: It's a wide-ranging, detailed, and deeply fascinating look at the New Jersey lab which has been churning out useful discoveries since the early 1900s.” — The Boston Globe“Fascinating history . . . the research behind The Idea Factory is astonishing.” — Slate 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“An expansive new history . . . does an impressive job of illuminating many of Bell Labs’ key technological triumphs.” — Wired.com