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

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

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Inventions & inventors
  • ISBN: 9780143122791



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We wake up in the morning, turn on our televisions and computers that stream digital information everywhere, check our cell phones to see what has bounced off of towers and satellites, and we don't think about any of it. We don't think about how long that cell phone has been in the hands of human kind, we don't think about how television has changed, we don't think about how the satellites got put together to do what they do or where they get their power from. It's all just there. This book will make you realize what amazing things man has accomplished since the beginning of Bell Labs.Well written and thoroughly enjoyable, this isn't your average book on technology and invention. There is no dry rambling here, everything is entertaining and engaging, bringing the reader into history so perfectly that you feel as if you were inside one of the buildings, or out in the fields on a picnic with the families of the workers. One can't help but wonder how much we could accomplish if more places of invention and progress were set up the way Bell Labs had been arranged, creating environments of free invention.Being of the generation who was young just as the first computers were coming around, there were parts of this book that I was able to relive with a new, adult perspective, but there were also elements that came before my time where I found myself surprised at what had once been and how quickly times had changed. I think this will be a wonderful book for anyone of any age, whether the reader wants to relive their past or learn from something that happened before their time. You won't often hear this said about books dealing with invention and technology, but this one was a real page turner. I couldn't put it down.