No industries had greater impact on everyday life and work in the second half of the twentieth century than consumer electronics and computers. Yet the epic story of the founding of the Information Age remains almost completely unknown. Now Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr. systematically records for the first time from a global perspective the origins and evolution of these transforming industries. In this marvelous chronicle of the trailblazing high-technology companies and products that laid the foundation for the Electronic Century, Chandler shows with unerring command of fact and data precisely where, when, how, and by whom technical knowledge was initially commercialized. In richly textured magisterial prose, Chandler describes how Radio Corporation of America shaped the consumer electronics industry from its beginnings in the 1920s to the 1960s. He explains how catastrophic management decisions that brought about the collapse of RCA opened the door to Sony and Matsushita and ultimately to Japan's worldwide conquest of consumer electronics markets. At the same time, Chandler shows that the computer industry has been a strikingly American triumph. Readers will discover a wealth of penetrating insights in Chandler's riveting account of the rise of the mainframe, the minicomputer, and the microprocessor. What is more, Chandler documents the surprising and little-known fact that first mover IBM dominated the computer industry from the 1950s to the 1990s and that the Japanese, first by making IBM plug-compatibles and later with their large systems and servers, became its major competitors.Only by following the history of firms that commercialized thesenew technologies and knowing the details of competitive success and failure can managers truly understand their industries. "Inventing the Electronic Century" is timely and essential reading for every manager and student of high technology.
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Start-ups get all the attention, but the credit or blame for much of the 20th century's gadget frenzy lies squarely with giants like IBM and Sony. Business historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr. thoroughly documents the rise and fall of big players in the consumer electronic and computer industries in Inventing the Electronic Century.
It's not light reading--Chandler draws on mountainous reserves of knowledge of business, politics, technology, and social trends to reach his conclusions, and the narrative relies equally on boardroom stories and commercial data. Still, the book's compelling, often cautionary tales should help managers and investors see patterns underlying their own industrial behaviors, and perhaps emulate Sony more than RCA.
The scope of the book can be daunting, and in many ways parallels the global changes seen throughout the century, including the rise of the Japanese economy, the capricious American commercial sector, and the relative stasis of postwar Europe. Committed and patient readers will gain insight into the nature of the tech industry in Inventing the Electronic Century, and then start inventing the next one. --Rob LightnerAbout the Author:
Alfred D. Chandler Jr., widely acknowledged as the dean of American business historians, is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Newcomen Award for The Visible Hand (1977) and the author of two other seminal works, Strategy and Structure (1962) and Scale and Scope (1990). He is the Straus Professor of Business History Emeritus at the Harvard Business School.
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