Thursday, October 11, 2012

Michael S. Malone

A Review

Michael Malone has written a wonderful journey through Western Civilization using the skills and tools needed to past that history from generation to generation as the framework to build his story.

I began reading, expecting to be bored to death.  However, I found myself sneaking reading times - staying a bit longer at a restaurant, postponing the start of other tasks, staying up a bit later - all in order to get through the book.  Malone begins with the development of speech and moves forward through history.

I found the chapter discussing the “Art of Memory” to be the most fascinating - having never encountered it before.  In one chapter the author discusses the influence of well-known inventors, such as Thomas Edison, Thomas Watson, and the work of John Shaw Billings and Herman Hollerith and the development of the Hollerith Punched Card Tabulating Machine in preparation for the 1890 census.  In a similar vein, it was also interesting to read the history of George Eastman (the founder of Kodak).  Having spent years in the computer industry, it helped to see how the influence of many of these tools also drove the future development of the computer industry.  The connections drawn in the book are not always linear - as people living in the same century often influenced each others work - occasionally forcing the author to move in circles as he discusses multiple tools and lives developing tools for recording history.  

Readable and enjoyable, the book might interest anyone that wants to look at world history from a larger perspective.  Though the book discusses technology, it does not get “geeky” and is accessible to the average reader.  The book reads like a good novel - with a bit of humor, human interest, and even a bit of mystery.  It was well worth the time I spent reading this past week.    
This review is based on a free electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

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