AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War
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AC/DC is an intoxicating mix of
technological and business history that draws clear parallels to current day
standards battles in software and electronics. Before there could be computers
or televisions, however, there had to be electricity.
This is the story of
how the great populist inventor Thomas Edison bet wrong in the vicious war
between supporters of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). The
savagery of this battle can be hardly imagined today. Untold numbers of animals
were electrocuted in the battle to dominate public opinion (the most bizarre
victim was a circus elephant who is still mourned by animal rights activists).
Even today, the use of electric chairs on death row is a result of Edison’s
campaign to prove the lethality of AC current.
More than a juicy
story, AC/DC is an object lesson in bad business strategy and poor
decision-making. Edison’s inability to see his mistake was a key factor
in his loss of control over the operating system for his future inventions, not
to mention the company he founded, Edison General, now General Electric.
Hardcover, 198 pages