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Fascinating history, but a disappointing book
on 21 December 2000
Blumlein is one of the unsung heroes of 20th century electronics; if you're reading this review then you're probably one of the very few who recognise his name. Even Turing has a higher profile, their common history of inventions that were unrecognised for the breadth of their usefulness until after their untimely deaths being a strange parallel between them.
He's famous for inventing major portions of almost every pre-war electronic invention that's still significant; long distance telephony, stereo sound, electronically scanned TV and finally microwave radar. Sadly this led to his death in a wartime aircrash, test-flying a highly secret H2S radar set.
It's hard to say where this book goes wrong, but somehow it never manages to capture the enthusiasm that any reader will begin to expect is due. Blumlein himself was an amateur pilot and quite an adventurer, yet the book portrays him as someone who never left the lab. Each invention is portrayed with enough detail to bore the uninterested, yet is still vague enough to annoy the technophile and certainly not to inform them.
The final section is on the fatal aircrash itself, treated with a plane-spotter's attention to detail. If only this detail could have been applied to some of the innovation earlier on, then the book might at least have satisfied those interested in the electronics.
Blumlein still deserves a better biography.