The Tinkerers
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The Tinkerers : The Amateurs, Diyers, and Inventors Who Make America Great

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From its earliest years, the United States was a nation of tinkerers: men and women who looked at the world around them and were able to create something genuinely new from what they saw. Guided by their innate curiosity, a desire to know how things work, and a belief that anything can be improved, amateurs and professionals from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Edison came up with the inventions that laid the foundations for America's economic dominance. Recently, Americans have come to question whether our tinkering spirit has survived the pressures of ruthless corporate organization and bottom-line driven caution. But as Alec Foege shows in The Tinkerers, reports of tinkering's death have been greatly exaggerated. Through the stories of great tinkerers and inventions past and present, Foege documents how Franklin and Edison's modern-day heirs do not allow our cultural obsessions with efficiency and conformity to interfere with their passion and creativity. Tinkering has been the guiding force behind both major corporate-sponsored innovations such as the personal computer and Ethernet, and smaller scale inventions with great potential, such as a machine that can make low-cost eyeglass lenses for people in impoverished countries and a device that uses lasers to shoot malarial mosquitoes out of the sky. Some tinkerers attended the finest engineering schools in the world; some had no formal training in their chosen fields. Some see themselves as solo artists; others emphasize the importance of working in teams. What binds them together is an ability to subvert the old order, to see fresh potential in existing technologies, and to apply technical know-how to the problems of their day. As anyone who has feared voiding a warranty knows, the complexity of modern systems can be needlessly intimidating. Despite this, tinkerers can - and do - come from anywhere, whether it's the R&D lab of a major corporation, a hobbyist's garage, or a summer camp for budding engineers. Through a lively retelling of recent history and captivating interviews with today's most creative innovators, Foege reveals how the tinkering tradition remains, in new and unexpected forms, at the heart of American society and culture.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 216 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 68.04g
  • The Perseus Books Group
  • BASIC BOOKS
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0465009239
  • 9780465009237

Flap copy

Once upon a time, the United States was a nation of tinkerers - amateurs and professionals alike who applied their ingenuity and talent to the challenges of their day. Guided by the curiosity of an inquiring mind, a desire to know how things work, and a belief that anything can be improved, they came up with the inventions that laid the foundations for the American century. Today, it seems that that can-do spirit has been overtaken by a general hopelessness around intractable problems. But as Alec Foege shows in "The Tinkerers," reports of tinkering's death have been greatly exaggerated. Just as it always has, America still cultivates visionary innovators who do not allow our cultural obsessions with efficiency and conformity to interfere with their passion and creativity. In this book, you'll find out how tinkering has been the guiding force behind both major corporate-sponsored innovations such as the personal computer and Ethernet, and smaller scale inventions with great potential, such as a machine that can make low-cost eyeglass lenses for people in impoverished countries and a device that uses lasers to shoot malarial mosquitoes out of the sky. Some tinkerers attended the finest engineering schools in the world; some had no formal training in their chosen fields. Some see themselves as solo artists; others emphasize the importance of working in teams. What binds them together is an ability to imagine new systems and subvert old ones, to see fresh potential in existing technologies, and to apply technical know-how to the problems of their day. Think tanks and companies have recognized the benefits of tinkering and have done their best to harness and institutionalize it, but they lack either the resources or the will to truly allow it to flourish. And as anyone who has overpaid for a simple smartphone repair knows, the complexity of modern systems can be needlessly intimidating. But ours is a nation that achieved its strength through the accomplishments of its innovators, and the tinkering tradition remains, in new and unexpected forms, at the heart of American society and culture.show more

About Alec Foege

Alec Foege is the author of Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio, Confusion Is Next: The Sonic Youth Story, and The Empire God Built: Inside Pat Robertson's Media Machine. A former Rolling Stone contributing editor and People magazine senior writer, Foege lives in Connecticut.show more

Review quote

Anyone who is interested in innovation in the U.S. today and the challenges to continued success in innovation will find [The Tinkerers] a worthwhile read. Chemical & Engineering News [The Tinkerers] provides a fine and lively discourse on the art and finer science of tinkering.' Midwest Book Review [Foege hopes] to inspire people to incorporate more of the tinkering mindset into their everyday livesand the lives of their children. American Scientist The Tinkerers is both tribute and rallying cry.... [The Tinkerers] is an intriguing look at America's clashing cultures of individualism, capitalism, and creativity, one that poses valuable questions. San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review An easily read, entertaining and enlightening book about the prototypical American tinkerers whose curiosity and creativity have brightened all of our lives. Post and Courier Alec Foege explores the United States' tinkering heritage and then follows this perpetually cutting-edge endeavor to present-day America showing the value of an age-old means of bringing new ideas to the marketplace. Roanoke Times"show more
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