LESSONS: An Autobiography by An with Eugene Linden Wang

LESSONS: An Autobiography

Email this review


The founder of Wang Laboratories Inc.--a leading supplier of integrated information processing systems--does not have much of a bark. His low-key autobiography strongly suggests, however, he has a very effective bite. For the most part, the author lives up to his name (which means peaceful king in Chinese) in his account of a genuinely remarkable career. Born in Shanghai in 1920, Wang lived through China's civil war, the Japanese occupation, and the death of his parents before coming to the US in the aftermath of WW II. Within three years of his arrival, he had earned a Ph.D. (in applied physics) at Harvard and taken a job in the university's Computation Lab. While working under Howard Aiken, a demanding EDP pioneer, Wang invented and eventually patented ferrite cores--doughnut-shaped devices that were for many years the basic element of computer memories. Wang struck out on his own in 1951, establishing a one-man consultancy that over time inched into manufacturing. Notwithstanding the lack of a formal business plan, he managed to prosper by entering or creating (and sometimes leaving) high-tech markets at propitious moments. At present, the company's revenues approximate $2.5 billion, meaning its annual growth rate has averaged well over 30 percent. Despite some off years, investors continue to accord Wang Labs shares a premium price/earnings multiple. Business success has enabled Wang to indulge his philanthropic impulses on an impressive scale. He provides precious few details, though, on either these or on his approach to running what has become a Fortune 150 enterprise. As a practical matter, he does a far better job of explaining the frequently elegant solutions he helped engineer for product problems. On the other hand, Wang puts the fundamentals of digital/ solid-state electronics within easy reach of a lay audience and offers valuable perspectives on the state of the art's socioeconomic significance. For all its measured tone, the text delivers worthwhile glimpses--not close. ups--of a talented and principled man.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Addison-Wesley