The high-tech revolution continues to charge toward consumers at an ever-increasing pace. In Inventions That Built the Information Technology Revolution, author Rhys McCarney aims to put the upheaval into perspective, explaining the hardware inventions that laid the groundwork for the movement and the evolution of the software that has become ubiquitous to everyday life.
The back cover notes that, among other achievements, McCarney has a Ph.D in physics, is on the editorial board “of a major scientific journal,” and worked 30 years at a “premier industrial laboratory” and federal research center, but doesn’t offer specifics. His compact volume reaches back to the beginnings of the telecommunications industry, with the simplicity of telegraph and radio, and traces its growth from the landline telephone to the miniature smartphones omnipresent today. He also offers the timeline of how Radio Shack, IBM, Microsoft and Apple gained (and sometimes lost) market share in the home computer market and shows how the software field grew from financial programs to complex, high-speed games.
Readers will recognize names of multi-millionaire high-tech gurus—Zuckerberg, Ellison, and Bezos. The author is unapologetic, however, in decrying the division of labor versus wealth in the industry, giving examples of research scientists who spent years working on hardware contributions that received nominal payoffs while software designers who piggybacked onto that hardware, needing less time and facilities, made millions.
While the book presents high-level concepts, its writing style is accessible. And although there’s nothing groundbreaking here, readers will appreciate finding the information compiled in one place. The description of the patent process—particularly the notion of the “submarine” patent, which takes a secretive path to publication—is a welcome addition; nuggets such as simplified explanations of fiber optics and the laser are also appreciated.
With its solid, utilitarian explanation of this topic, Inventions That Built the Information Technology Revolution is sure to intrigue those who enjoy reading about high technology or who seek an introduction to its basic principles.
Also available as an ebook.