AC/DC tells the little-known story of how Thomas Edison wrongly bet in the fierce war between supporters of alternating current and direct current. The savagery of this electrical battle can hardly be imagined today. The showdown between AC and DC began as a rather straightforward conflict between technical standards, a battle of competing methods to deliver essentially the same product, electricity. But the skirmish soon metastasized into something bigger and darker. In the AC/DC battle, the worst aspects of human nature somehow got caught up in the wires; a silent, deadly flow of arrogance, vanity, and cruelty. Following the path of least resistance, the war of currents soon settled around that most primal of human emotions: fear. AC/DC serves as 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, General Electric.
Too short, omits most technical stuff
By Donald E. Fulton - October 7, 2006
AC/DC, subtitled The Savage Tale of the First Standards War, is a quick read that does a pretty good job telling the PR and human side of the AC/DC story, but skimps badly on technical issues related to the AC/DC battle. This book is less than half the length of the much better book on the same topic, Empires of Light --- Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, by Jill Jonnes (2003).
McNichols has two chapters on the bizarre electrocutions of animals and prisoners with details of every voltage used and electrode placement. But on a key technical point, getting Tesla's induction motor to actually work outside the laboratory, McNichols says next to nothing. The fact is that even though Westinghouse had bought the patent rights to Tesla's AC induction motor, Tesla's AC motor would not run on Westinghouse's early AC power. In the lab Tesla was running his motor on a polyphase AC generator that he had designed. McNichol says (page 83), "Tesla moved to... read more
AC/DC informs easily about early electricity experimenters and experiments
By Olive Gale Mullet - January 5, 2007
McNichols does an excellent job from explaining in clear terms about electricity, to the relevant background of the two main experimenters and producers -- exponents of either Alternating AC or Direct DC current, the competitors Edison and Westinghouse -- and finally to the modern equivalent of their wars. McNichol introduces the whole subject with his own personal dangerous episodes with both currents. Then the book has a fascinating section explaining the element, just like recent books on ice and salt. The one very difficult and long part to read is the animal experiments done electrocuting dogs and horses, to prove falsely that AC was more dangerous than DC. But the characters of Edison, whose stubbornness doomed him with only DC, and the savvy of Westinghouse to adopt AC, are vivid. Intriguing to learn that Telluride, Colorado was one of the first places where they experimented with the feasibility of AC in the mountains. And it is interesting to see the modern equivalent wars... read more
History of an important chapter of science
By Newton Ooi - July 11, 2008
This very short book provides a simple chronological history of the development and spread of electricity in the US from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Three characters are focused on; Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla. The amount of science and engineering is kept to a minimum with only the most superficial explanation of technical terms and inventions. Instead, the book focuses on the individual rivalries and relationships that dominated the electrical industry at the turn of the 20th century. The story makes for fun reading, and the author adds a little commentary to each chapter. The book could have been vastly improved by the inclusion of several dozen photos and diagrams. Many key technical concepts and inventions could have been better presented with photos and diagrams included. I consider this an appropriate book for someone interested in learning a little of the Industrial Revolution, and its affects on society.
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