Monday, July 8, 2013

the last book I ever read (dot.con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era, excerpt one)

from John Cassidy's dot.con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era:

The Internet story begins with a familiar figure in American history: the Yankee inventor. Vannevar Bush (no relation to the political family of the same name) was born into a middle-class family in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in March 1890. Adept with numbers and fascinated by gadgets, he studied engineering at Tufts University, where, in 1913, he invented a device to measure distances over uneven ground. Made from a bicycle wheel, a rotating drum, some gears, and a pen, this contraption, which was called a Prolific Tracer, earned Bush a master’s degree and his first patent. Two years later, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology jointly awarded him a Ph.D. for his research into how electrical currents behave in power lines. Bush then moved into the private sector. He returned to academic life in 1919, joining the electrical engineering faculty at MIT, where he was to remain until the Second World War.

During the interwar years, a series of revolutionary inventions transformed daily life. For the first time, ordinary Americans gained access to electricity, motor cars, refrigerators, and radios. Economists spoke of a “New Era” of technology-based prosperity. The stock market crash of October 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression put paid to such language, but scientific progress continued unabated, especially in Bush’s field of electrical engineering, where useful applications seemed to emerge from the laboratory every week. MIT has always had close links to industry, and Bush lent his expertise to numerous manufacturing ventures, including firms that later became part of Texas Instruments and the Raytheon Corporation.

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