MacDirectory Magazine

Summer-Fall 2011

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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Page 38 of 115

BOOK REVIEWS THE INFORMATION WORDS BY RIC GETTER Take an abstract concept, and indeed a rather dry concept at that. But rather than trying to explain it, tell its story by infusing it with history and true human interest. That is the magic of James Gleick's writing and that's what lifts from a back shelf of academic arcana to a well-deserved spot on the bestseller lists. This isn't unusual for Gleick, once a science writer for the . In 1988, his groundbreaking introduced a vastly new concept with a book that was greeted with international acclaim. To begin his story, Gleick turns to one of the most ancient yet most effective methods of moving information quickly and accurately across vast distances: African drums. He explains how this system that has often been described as "primitive" is actually quite brilliant and would have been the envy of Western society. (The drums, we discover, abbreviate and emulate the rhythms and patterns of the spoken word.) Another considerable challenge Gleick notes is codifying the spoken word into a written language, a process that spanned several millennia. What makes so gripping is how Gleick centers his story on the people behind the great breakthroughs (as well as several notable failures). We meet people like Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace and daughter of famed poet Lord Byron. In her brief but utterly brilliant lifetime, she befriended Charles Babbage and became one of the few visionaries who could understand his revolutionary proto-computer, the Difference Engine. And then, she took its potential even further than its creator imagined. Without having the actual machine in front of her (the project was never funded), she devised a way for it to use formulas to solve a variety of mathematical problems rather than just generate arithmetic tables. Though she lived nearly a century before the first working computer was built, she is credited as being the first computer programmer. The author catalogs and weaves together the histories of the numerous and diverse components of what we call "information" into a story that utterly engrossing. Quite frankly, it's one of the few books you'll read about in this section that is hard to put down. takes an abstract concept we are totally immersed in, provides us with a rich and unique perspective, which yields a completely new and fresh understanding. In a sense, Gleick shows us how to see both the forest the trees giving the entire information ecosystem a far deeper and richer meaning than we would ever have imagined. by James Gleick; $29.95 (hardcover), Pantheon Books ( 2011; 526 pages, ISBN: 978-0-375-42372-7 MacDirectory 37 h A o T n l: o I Tn hf eo or rm ya , A t e Hd i Ao F i s t o N T i m e s M a k i e w Y o r k C n i h c e n g a N e w S a e c o s : r y , T h e T h e I n f o r m a t i o n a I n f o r m a t i o n T h e I n f o r m a t i o n : A T h e o r y , A H i s n d t o r y , A F l o o d

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