Book Review: The Idea Factory

I just finished reading The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner. It’s a history of Bell Labs and its impact on modern technology. I love these sorts of books, that talk about engineers and scientists solving problems and discovering how the world works. Gertner’s writing moves along at a nice steady pace, and he tells the stories with a good balance of scientific detail – not so much that you need a physics degree, but enough that you understand the difficulty and significance of the work.

Most of the book talks about a different era, when attitudes about monopolies were different and pure research was funded with fewer expectations of immediate profit. That model no longer works in our modern competitive environment, and I am left wondering how we will manage to make the next fundamental leap forward (and what that leap will be) when most businesses can’t afford to take such a long view, and most research universities struggle for funding.

I also want to know who the Jon Gertner, Tracy Kidder, or Scott Rosenberg of OpenStack will be.