The Idea Factory Bell Lbs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner
Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, in 1947, at Bell Laboratories, the transistor was invented and humankind would never be the same. As this technological revolution unfolded innovative advances progressed at exponential speed. Now micro-miniaturization coupled with ingenious applications have become expected.
I loved the book’s delivery of this ongoing revolutionary story taking place in our lifetimes. I was born before the transistor and the days of television when radio tubes powered our communications. Today's applied innovations are miraculous!
Excerpts from The Idea Factory
“Inventions are a valuable part, but invention is not to be scheduled nor coerced.” The point of this kind of experimentation was to provide a free environment for “The operation of genius.” His point was that genius would undoubtedly improve the company’s operations just as ordinary engineering could. But genius was not predictable. You had to give it room to assert itself.
An industrial lab, he said, “is merely an organization of intelligent men, presumably of creative capacity, specially trained in a knowledge of the things and methods of science, and provided with the facilities and wherewithal to study and develop the particular industry with which they are associated.”
The design for the switching station had taken two thousand “man-years” of work to create and used tens of thousands of transistors. Its complexity dwarfed that of other previous Bell Labs undertakings such as the transatlantic undersea cable.
The “switching art,” as it was known at Bell Labs, was suitably captured by a specialized technical jargon describing relays, registers, translators, markers, and so forth and a bevy of convoluted, mind-twisting flow charts. Those who had mastered the switching art were members of a technological priesthood.