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Publisher Description

The definitive history of America’s greatest incubator of innovation and the birthplace of some of the 20th century’s most influential technologies

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.

Business & Personal Finance
March 15
Penguin Publishing Group

Customer Reviews

Celluloid Hero ,


Anyone who is interested in this subject, or was lucky enough to be involved in any of the later parts of the history of Bell Labs will find this chronicle of the lab and its major characters a delightful and fascinating read. People who like books recommended by Oprah, not so much.

WaynePL ,

Ever wonder how IT all started?

Well researched, well written. Story flows and gives a great peek into a world that will likely never exist again in corporate America. Also a great look back at the birth of modern electronics.

MWO 2012 ,

Surprisingly Enthralling Book

To be honest, I at first expected a kind of dull corporate brag fest.
But to my surprised delight, this book was smoothly written, incredibly well-research and a total pleasure to read.

The reality is that the history of Bell Labs (and AT&T) traces the history of 20th century America. Jon Gertner brilliantly ties the personalities to exciting technical developments and explains it all so anyone can understand.

Yet he maintains an objectivity of the organization and its challenges that reflect so well on his journalist credentials. Bottom line, not many corporate history books have grabbing power, but I could hardly put this one down.

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