Inspiring Popular Electronics Books?
January 2, 2013 9:03 PM   Subscribe

When I was learning to program I enjoyed reading popular computer science books like Godel Escher Bach in my downtime for motivation and inspiration. Can anyone suggest good popular electrical/electronics books that are similarly inspiring and are suitable to be followed along while on a train or before bed?

I am simultaneously studying from a good electrical engineering textbook, so what I'm after are interesting narratives, intuitive explanations of phenomena, biographies, histories, maybe even fiction. Ideally this will be the book that inspired you to become an electrical engineer.
posted by Joe Chip to Education (5 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some computer science perfumed with the smell of molten solder might appeal to you:

"The Soul of the New Machine" - Tracy Kidder - follows the birth of what was, at the time, a very advanced computer, and the engineers who made it happen.
"Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" - Stephen Levy - A fantastic book about the engineers and hobbyists who created the modern personal computer as we know it.
"Insanely Great" - Also by Stephen Levy, about the creation of the Mac inside Apple.
"Crystal Fire: The Invention of the Transistor and the Birth of the Information Age" - Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson. Name says it all.

Biographies of famous electrical engineers:

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius - Marc J. Seifer
Marconi: The Race to Control Long Distance Wireless - Calvin D. Trowbridge Jr.
Distant Vision: Romance and Discovery On An Invisible Frontier - by Elma G. Farnsworth, wife of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:59 AM on January 3, 2013

Also try:

The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers - Tom Standage

Seeing the Unseen: Dr. Harold E. Edgerton and the Wonders of Strobe Alley - Roger R. Bruce
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:09 AM on January 3, 2013

On a related note, though not a book, check out for numerous tales of the early days of Apple. The "on a train/before bed" aspect might be tricky, depending on your available connectivity and mobile devices.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:29 AM on January 3, 2013

If you aren't too familiar already with the guts of the internet, Clifford Stoll's "Cukoo's Egg" follows along as he starts with an accounting errors and follows it out ad absurdum into the tracking & prosecution of an early Internet hacker. It kind of builds on first principles (e.g., how shared-time systems work) and goes way out from there.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2013

Response by poster: wenestvedt thanks but that one is more computery than what I am looking for, plus I've already read it :)

Slap*Happy those look like a lot of good suggestions, I think I'll work through them in chronological order of the invention/person
posted by Joe Chip at 1:08 PM on January 4, 2013

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