43. “Code Name Ginger,” Steve Kemper

“Code Name Ginger” is the first-hand story of Dean Kamen’s invention of the Segway, from his inception of the device through its design and testing and its eventual release.

I have no idea how Kemper did it, but he managed to make not only Segways, with which my only previous non-Arrested Development experiences had been with a handful of douchebags riding them on the streets of Boston with a smug air somehow devoid of the self-loathing that I would associate with such an absurd form of transportation, seem interesting but actually to make me interested in full chapters about people grumbling over stock options or how the company should be divided up (Steve Jobs at $63 million and 10% of the company? $50 million and 10%? $38 million and 5%?). And not only THAT, but I kept finding myself swept up and in quiet moments, the terrible thought would enter my head: “I kind of want a Segway?” (There was always a question mark at the end, because just how did Kemper and Dean Kamen get that thought inside my brain?!)

Sadly, the book ends shortly after the Segway is released, which leaves unanswered the question “how did an innovation that was supposed to change the world for the better become the chariot of douches?” Was it the $5,000 price tag? The fact that it offers a response to what is for most people an invented problem (“I can stand under my own will for a long time but walking— I just don’t see that happening”)? Dean Kamen’s territorial grandstanding? It seems that Segway, Inc. was sold at the beginning of this year, which makes me sad for the people I came to know from this book.

Overall, this book was an unexpectedly compelling read. I’d recommend it.

Page count: 317
Page total: 10,925
LOC Call number: TL 410.K46 2003

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