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AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War
     

AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War

5.0 4
by Tom McNichol
 

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AC/DC tells the little-known story of how Thomas Edison wrongly bet in the fierce war between supporters of alternating current and direct current. The savagery of this electrical battle can hardly be imagined today. The showdown between AC and DC began as a rather straightforward conflict between technical standards, a battle of competing methods to deliver

Overview

AC/DC tells the little-known story of how Thomas Edison wrongly bet in the fierce war between supporters of alternating current and direct current. The savagery of this electrical battle can hardly be imagined today. The showdown between AC and DC began as a rather straightforward conflict between technical standards, a battle of competing methods to deliver essentially the same product, electricity. But the skirmish soon metastasized into something bigger and darker. In the AC/DC battle, the worst aspects of human nature somehow got caught up in the wires; a silent, deadly flow of arrogance, vanity, and cruelty. Following the path of least resistance, the war of currents soon settled around that most primal of human emotions: fear. AC/DC serves as an object lesson in bad business strategy and poor decision making. Edison's inability to see his mistake was a key factor in his loss of control over the ?operating system? for his future inventions?not to mention the company he founded, General Electric.

Editorial Reviews

Every time we switch on a light bulb, turn on a computer, or activate an ATM, we demonstrate the spoils of "the war of the currents," the ruthless battle fought between the proponents of AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current). Its victims included countless animals sacrificed to electrocution and, oddly enough, the inventor of electricity himself, Thomas Edison. As Wired contributing editor Tom McNichol tells it, the struggle over this late-19th-century operating system provoked electrifying aftershocks and cautionary tales.
Publishers Weekly
A little more than 100 years ago, two titans of industry faced off in one of the most vicious battles the marketplace had ever seen. On one side, Thomas Edison, inventor extraordinaire, the creator of the phonograph and the electric light; on the other, George Westinghouse, tycoon and titan, backing the mysterious eastern European inventor Nikola Tesla. They fought over the very nature of the electrical system in America: would it be built on alternating current (as Westinghouse proposed), or direct current la Edison? Though a battle over electrical standards sounds dry, this tale is anything but. McNichol's solid if brief survey of this relatively unknown moment in the history of technology ranges from macabre electrocutions of hapless animals (and eventually prison inmates) as demonstrations of the "Death Current" to the gleaming "electrical wonderland" of the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. Though the author focuses on when it's wise to fight a standards battle and when to give in, some might wish that he had another 200 pages in which to flesh out the story. His book tantalizingly scratches the surface of Edison's ingenuity and force of will, Westinghouse's shrewd business sense, and most of all the sheer eccentricity of Nikola Tesla. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
A little more than 100 years ago, two titans of industry faced off in one of the most vicious battles the marketplace had ever seen. On one side, Thomas Edison, inventor extraordinaire, the creator of the phonograph and the electric light; on the other, George Westinghouse, tycoon and titan, backing the mysterious eastern European inventor Nikola Tesla. They fought over the very nature of the electrical system in America: would it be built on alternating current (as Westinghouse proposed), or direct currentà la Edison- Though a battle over electrical standards sounds dry, this tale is anything but. McNichol's solid if brief survey of this relatively unknown moment in the history of technology ranges from macabre electrocutions of hapless animals (and eventually prison inmates) as demonstrations of the "Death Current" to the gleaming "electrical wonderland" of the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. Though the author focuses on when it's wise to fight a standards battle and when to give in, some might wish that he had another 200 pages in which to flesh out the story. His book tantalizingly scratches the surface of Edison's ingenuity and force of will, Westinghouse's shrewd business sense, and most of all the sheer eccentricity of Nikola Tesla.(Sept.) (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781118047026
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
01/06/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
618,364
File size:
412 KB

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"You'll never look at your wall socket the same again."
—Evan Ratliff, coauthor, Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World

"From the twisted copper wires of electricity's early years McNichol spins a story buzzing with genius and fraud, ambition and infamy, hilarity and humiliation. It's a joy to read: a comic operetta of American industrial history, full of great men, small minds and an alarming number of dead dogs."
—Craig Stoltz, health editor, Washington Post

"Few writers explain technology as well as Tom McNichol. No one's as good at finding the humor in it."
—Jeffrey O'Brien, senior editor, Wired magazine

"A fascinating history of the battle that decided what comes through the wires when we flick a switch. A great story of how far people will go to prove they're 'right' – and make a buck."
—J. J. Yore, executive producer, public radio's Marketplace

"A tale of astonishing genius and greed, a perfect reflection of the competing forces that built corporate America. McNichol offers us a ringside seat at the birth of a superpower, and it's a bloody, messy, and altogether fascinating spectacle."
—Brooke Gladstone, cohost, NPR's On the Media

Meet the Author

TOM MCNICHOL is a contributing editor for Wired magazine. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. His radio commentaries and satires have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace. He’s the author of Barking at Prozac (Crown Publishing, 1997), and his work appears in the anthology Afterwords: Stories and Reports from 9/11 and Beyond (Washington Square Press, 2002).

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AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really captivating book. Inventions that changed the world. Genius Inventors and visionary businessmen who backed them with capital. The harnessing of electricity and incredible inventions for getting it to the country and the world. The great debate ( war) over Thomas Edisons DC or Nikola teslas AC. The lengths to which the more established Edison went to win this war are shocking ( no pun intended ) and this book serves to broaden our horizons about how this country was electrified.
mrpenguine More than 1 year ago
Great book, a fun read with great insight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(My horse dakota just died:'( .....) your next lives are boundless energy.metoring.fairjugment. empathy.love. cunning..insight. trusting your clan.......(sorry i couldnt do each one individuly)