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Summary of

The Innovators

From Walter Isaacson

Summary Station

Copyright © 2014 by Summary Station
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Printed in the United States of America

First Printing, 2014

Smashwords Edition

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12


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Chapter 1

Today's technological advances can be traced back to the studies and inventions from the turn of the 19th century. This chapter tells the tale of a romanticized young woman by the name of Ada, the Countess of Lovelace. Born to a poet, Lord Byron, and a meticulous mother from an esteemed family, Annabella Milbanke, Ada's fanatical approach to the most complex of machinery was easily understood. Her mother attempted to eradicate her incessant imagination by immersing her in mathematics. Due to social status, she met some of the most established inventors of her time, including Charles Babbage.

A brief introduction to his most recent invention, the Difference Engine, sparked an unknown love within Ada.

Babbage took from the studies of international minds and attempted to expand on failed attempts at creating calculators. The Difference Engine was a complex combination of gadgets that completed basic equations, even "storing" the results, but it couldn't "carry" numbers. The British government funded his project, but Babbage couldn't complete it due to lack of engineering ability.

His attention was drawn to another invention, a general-purpose computer that could be programmed to perform a variety of operations. Later named the Analytical Engine, this concept was extremely appealing to Ada Lovelace. She saw infinite possibilities in such a machine, far past mathematical equations. Ada believed it could be programmed to recognize symbols and musical notes. She was confident that a general-purpose computer could one day create works of art with the correct programming.

In a translation of Captain Luigi Menabrea's detailed description of Babbage's machine, Ada Lovelace claimed her place in a world unwelcoming of women. In these notes, she explained computer operation, later forming the cornerstone of the digital age. She supported her thoughts with an elaborate table at the end of her paper. The intricacy of this graph placed Ada in history as the world's first computer programmer.

Chapter 2

The concept for the modern computer was introduced by Babbage 100 years before the world was ready.

It was not until Herman Hollerith applied a concept where railway conductors used punch cards to identify passengers. With this change, the US Census Bureau completed the 1890 census in one year rather than the eight it previously took.

While Hollerith was building his machine, Lord Kelvin and his brother James Thomas created an analog machine. Rather than rely on digits like Babbage, Lord Kelvin's machine used continuous functions based on variables to solve equations.

They weren't successful, but in 1931, MIT engineering professor Vannevar Bush conquered the task. The Differential Analyzer was a massive machine that could solve equations with up to 18 variables. Government agencies found it useful, but it was the first and last of its kind. This chapter references four main properties of modern computing as defined in the paper on Babbage's Analytical Engine:

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