Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

A peculiar asymmetry warps most histories of technological innovation. The innovators are treated as visionary heroes, while the users and consumers of the innovations are treated as a faceless marketplace that finally grasped the importance of the proffered invention.

Everybody knows about Apple Computer’s Wozniak and Jobs. Yet who’s written the profiles of Apple’s first thousand customers? Yes, Intel’s Noyce, Hoff and Faggin pioneered the microprocessor. But who were the early adopters that gave Intel insight into what that chip could really do? Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston revolutionized personal computing software with the invention of VisiCalc. But who knows what 50 financial services firms first transformed themselves by using that software spreadsheet in unexpected ways?

Of course, these innovations today would be described as brilliant failures had they failed to catch on. But since it’s seemingly so much easier to describe the achievements and personalities of the innovators than the character and risks taken by the innovation adopters, history is accordingly skewed.

That’s why A Nation Transformed by Information and Systems, Experts and Computers represent a healthy change of historical perspective and pace. These university press anthologies are filled with details-some pieces excruciatingly so-of how, in fact, innovation is the relentless co-evolutionary synthesis of innovator and adopter. Indeed, one could make a very powerful case that, at the earliest stages of a new technology or technique, the brilliant customer is at least as important as the brilliant innovator.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Business

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me