The Innovators

“Creativity comes from drawing on many sources.” – Walter Isaacson


Lessons learnt: Innovation is building on the shoulders of giants. Innovation needs a big idea and great execution. Innovation takes collaboration.


If you are interested in how the computer age came to be, this is your book. From the early 19th century through to the present day you will explore the invention of thinking machines to present day laptops. In The Innovators How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution you will follow the technology through the ages and follow Walter Isaacson as he dives into the intrigues that made possible our present-day technology.

The book starts with Ada Lovelace and how she works on a translation of a manual for the very first mechanical machine. In her translation she adds notes that are (said to be) the first conception of what a computer is, something that is able to “store, manipulate, process and act upon anything that could be expressed in symbols: words and logic and music and anything else we might use symbols to convey”.

Walter Isaacson is most famous for writing a biography of Steve Jobs. And throughout this history of technology, you will learn more about the important people than only the technologies they came up with. In it, you will most likely see that it has taken a lot of coincidence and good luck that we have the current computer age at our disposal. Isaacson does a great job in showing that it’s just humans, each with their own complex life, that have made this possible.

One of the most interesting of the stories is that of ‘computer’, and I’m not talking about your personal computer. It’s the story of how a group of women were doing all the calculations mid 20th century that the men found to be below them. They used large machines to do difficult calculations and figured out how to make it more efficient in the process. They were on the forefront of technological design and showed that men are not all that.

The later chapters of the book describe the lives of people like Alan Turing (enigma code and the Turing machine), Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web), and Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar). It takes apart their motivations and thought patterns. At the same time, the book links back to the earlier chapters and shows how new technologies are only the evolution of older ones.

“Knowing that great conceptions are worth little without precision execution”. –  Walter Isaacson

When you are done with The Innovators you will have a better understanding of how our current computer age has evolved. It has taken over 200 years, which may sound long, but at the same time is a microscopic dot in the time our galaxy has been around.