The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Google eBook)

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Nov 2, 2010 - Business & Economics - 384 pages
8 Reviews
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 YouTube 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 exposé, 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

User Review  - Caroline Geck - Book Verdict

In this eye-opening business history, Wu (Columbia Law Sch.) examines the evolution of media industries, such as film, radio, cable, telephone, and information, with Apple, AT&T, and Google among the ... Read full review

Review: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

User Review  - Dave - Goodreads

Excellent history of the succession of information networks from the telegraph to the Internet, and the titanic businesses that built them. But it's much more than that; Wu ties all of this to the ... Read full review

All 6 reviews »


Reborn Vithout a Soul 205
PARTI The Rise
The Disruptive Founder 17
2 Radio Dreams
3 Mr Vail Is a Big Man
4 The Time ls Not Ripe for Feature Films
Centralize All Radio Activities
10 We Now Add Sight to Sound
The Rebels the Challengers and the Fall
The Right Kind of Breakup
12 The Radicalism of the Internet Revolution
Nixons Cable
Broken Bell
15 Esperanto for Machines
The Internet Against Everyone

6 The Paramount Ideal
Beneath the AllQeeing Eye
7 The Foreign Attachment
The Legion of Decency
9 FM Radio
20 Father and Son
The Separations Principle
Acknowledgments 323

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About the author (2010)

Tim Wu is an author, a policy advocate, and a professor at Columbia University. In 2006, he was recognized as one of fifty leaders in science and technology by Scientific American magazine, and in the following year, 01238 magazine listed him as one of Harvard’s one hundred most influential graduates. He writes for Slate, where he won the Lowell Thomas gold medal for travel journalism, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Forbes. He is a fellow of the New America Foundation and the chairman of the media reform organization Free Press. He lives in New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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