The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

by Nicholas Carr


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The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr

“Magisterial. . . . Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today’s computing world.”—Salon
Hailed as “the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement” (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In a new chapter for this edition that brings the story up-to-date, Nicholas Carr revisits the dramatic new world being conjured from the circuits of the “World Wide Computer.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393345223
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/10/2013
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 554,924
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The Glass Cage, among other books. Former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for The Atlantic, the New York Times, and Wired. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Doorway in Boston 1

Part 1 One Machine

1 Burden's Wheel 9

2 The Inventor and His Clerk 25

3 Digital Millwork 45

4 Goodbye, Mr. Gates 63

5 The White City 85

Part 2 Living in the Cloud

6 World Wide Computer 107

7 From the Many to the Few 127

8 The Great Unbundling 149

9 Fighting the Net 169

10 A Spider's Web 185

11 iGod 211

Epilogue: Flame and Filament 231

Appendix The Cloud 20 235

Notes 245

Acknowledgments 271

Index 273

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The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Booknut62 More than 1 year ago
Nicholas Carr's book is a fascinating look at where the World Wide Web and related technologies just might be taking us. He helps readers see future possibilities and possible pitfalls in the world's evolution toward what he calls the "World Wide Computer." While the Web has brought freedom and possibility, Carr dares to point out that it might also be bringing economic inequity and a questions about personal privacy and security. According to Carr, there is great promise in the "World Wide Computer" but perhaps we need to be more sober in our advocacy for its place in the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book illustrates the progression towards centralization of computing tasks on the Internet by comparing it to the establishment of electric grids early in the early 20th century. It is a good analogy. It is also a little scary to think that all kinds of our personal information could end up stored on computers over which we have no control, as anyone who has looked at Google's "web History" feature will see.
cohenja on LibraryThing 4 days ago
This book reads differently in its two halves. The first half is a rather ordinary retelling of two tales in parallel. The first is a history of electricity, and the second is a history of computing. Though done competently, the far more interesting and provocative perspective comes in the second half. There, Carr draws many examples of the Faustian bargain we have made in the web world. We welcome the convenience of the web, but we are gladly giving up our privacy to get it.
SigmundFraud on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Don't walk, run to your nearest bookstore to read Carr's dazzling THE BIG SWITCH. If you can only read one book in 2008 this should be it. The writing is clean, pure as spring water and thoughtful. Carr makes the coming "information utility" simple for the layman to understand. The description of the development of electricity and its impact on society is fascinating and lays the groundwork for the likely outcome of the information age over the next few decades. I enjoyed this book.
alsymer on LibraryThing 4 days ago
While interesting and entertaining, The Big Switch suffers from some overgeneralizations about technology services in order to view them as a utility. Nonetheless, the book poses some interesting ramifications for the technology services and software industries by shaking the traditional software paradigm a bit and seeing what falls out.Carr's writing is clean, clear and enjoyable, which garners it, from my perspective, at least 3 stars for being a well-written business book that is worthy of finishing.
crustacean on LibraryThing 4 days ago
An excellent read. Carr has succeeded in writing intelligently about computers and computing without resorting to jargon or arcane technical descriptions. The first half of the book lays out Carr's central argument that computing is shifting to more of a centrally supplied, utility model, following the pattern of mechanical power's evolution a hundred years ago - with the Internet's "computing grid" serving as an analog to the electric grid. Our PCs are turning into network terminals, used mainly to draw data and software from the Internet. The second half of the book looks at what may happen as the computing grid - or the "World Wide Computer" - makes computing functions ever cheaper and more easily available. There are some persuasive and unsettling chapters about the effects of the next generation of computing on wealth distribution, privacy, and even the functioning of the mind. The book covers a lot of ground quickly but is rich with stories and revealing anecdotes.
CUViper on LibraryThing 4 days ago
The Big Switch talks about the business impact of the internet and computing as a service, drawing a comparison to the evolution of electricity from custom implementations to a big utility. The historical discussion is interesting, though I'm not convinced that the analogy will hold with the informational aspects of computing. In the latter part of the book, Carr talks about some of the social impacts that we're seeing, which speaks as a warning to me. The internet is polarizing beliefs and eroding personal privacy, and I don't think we've figured out the full consequence of this. The one criticism I'll make of the book is that while Carr does a good job discussing the issues, I don't feel that he really presents any novel predictions or solutions.
tgraettinger on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Thought-provoking. Motivated me to look into the Amazon storage and compute clouds.
haydenth on LibraryThing 4 days ago
In the Big Switch, Nicholas Carr walks readers through the history of electrification and computing. The early years of electrification were technologically limited - an electrical grid wasn't feasible and electricity was generated locally. Technology changed over time and electricity was rapidly centralized and networked. Power was produced remotely and delivered via a vast network of wires and cables. Over time, technology changed the way we live and do business. Based on this historical context, he draws a metaphor between electrification and the current model of computing. We're coming from a client-server model to a new model, what Carr calls "Utility Computing". He argues, like electrification, this is mostly facilitated by advances in network technology. In a utility computing environment, some firms act as utilities and merely provide a platform, while others develop applications to run on this platform. He cites Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Computing Cloud) and S3 (Simple Storage) services as examples; Amazon provides a centralized utility that users can quickly and at marginal cost, tap in to and rapidly develop scalable applications.To people in the computing industry, Carr isn't saying anything new. Many of us are in the middle of transitioning our own applications from an older client-server model to a web-based or utility based model. However, I think Carr does a great job at building the metaphor between electrification and computing. While, they are very different types of services, the historical context he clearly lays out shows how network effects can disrupt existing models of utility.However, I think Carr should have spent more time discussing some of the social implications of this technological shift. Just like how electrification changed the way we socially interact, utility computing has the power to do the same. Utility computing affords more decentralization and standardization of application development. What kind of impact is this going to have on highly complex businesses and what are the implications for users and managers? Some would argue that the technological development of Groupware in the 1980s had major social impacts on social relations in a business context. Likewise, I think utility computing will have similar effects. I wish Carr would have approached some of these more complex social questions in further detail.Otherwise, from someone working in the industry - I think Carr is right on the button and this book is definitely a "must read" for someone in the information industry.
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Very convincing and clearly gets the point across. IT has matured enough that platforms are almost interchangeable; a sign for cutting cost. Engineers (we) need to be more business oriented than ever before to remain relevant to a company's business strategy.