The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

by Tim Wu
     
 

"In This Age of an open Internet, it is easy to forget that every American information industry, beginning with the telephone, has eventually been taken captive by some ruthless monopoly or cartel. With all our media now traveling a single network, an unprecedented potential is building for centralized control over what Americans see and hear. Could history repeat

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Overview

"In This Age of an open Internet, it is easy to forget that every American information industry, beginning with the telephone, has eventually been taken captive by some ruthless monopoly or cartel. With all our media now traveling a single network, an unprecedented potential is building for centralized control over what Americans see and hear. Could history repeat itself with the next industrial consolidation? Could the Internet---the entire flow of American information---come to be ruled by one corporate leviathan in possession of "the master switch"? That is the big question of Tim Wu's pathbreaking book." "As Wu's sweeping history shows, each of the new media of the twentieth century---radio, telephone, television, and film---was born free and open. Each invited unrestricted use and enterprising experiment until some would-be mogul battled his way to total domination. Here are stories of an uncommon will to power, the power over information: Adolph Zukor, who took a technology once used as commonly as You-Tube is today and made it the exclusive prerogative of a kingdom called Hollywood...NBC's founder, David Sarnoff, who, to save his broadcast empire from disruptive visionaries, bullied one inventor (of electronic television) into alcoholic despair and another (this one of FM radio, and his boyhood friend) into suicide...And foremost, Theodore Vail, founder of the Bell System, the greatest information empire of all time, and a capitalist whose faith in Soviet-style central planning set the course of every information industry thereafter." "Explaining how invention begets industry and industry begets empire---a progress often blessed by government, typically with stifling consequences for free expression and technical innovation alike---Wu identifies a time-honored pattern in the maneuvers of today's great information powers: Apple, Google, and an eerily resurgent AT&T. A battle royal looms for the Internet's future, and with almost every aspect of our lives now dependent on that network, this is one war we dare not tune out." Part industrial expose, part meditation on what freedom requires in the information age, The Master Switch is a stirring illumination of a drama that has played out over decades in the shadows of our national life and now culminates with terrifying implications for our future.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307269935
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/02/2010
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
858,171
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

PART I The Rise 15

1 The Disruptive Founder 17

2 Radio Dreams 33

3 Mr. Vail Is a Big Man 45

4 The Time Is Not Ripe for Feature Films 61

5 Centralize All Radio Activities 74

6 The Paramount Ideal 86

PART II Beneath the All-Seeing Eye 99

7 The Foreign Attachment 101

8 The Legion of Decency 115

9 FM Radio 125

10 We Now Add Sight to Sound 136

PART III The Rebels, the Challengers, and the Fall 157

11 The Right Kind of Breakup 159

12 The Radicalism of the Internet Revolution 168

13 Nixon's Cable 176

14 Broken Bell 187

15 Esperanto for Machines 196

PART IV Reborn Without a Soul 205

16 Turner Does Television 207

17 Mass Production of the Spirit 217

18 The Return of AT&T 238

PART V The Internet Against Everyone 255

19 A Surprising Wreck 257

20 Father and Son 269

21 The Separations Principle 299

Acknowledgments 321

Notes 323

Index 355

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