Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Hardback Sloan Technology Series

By (author) William Asprey, By (author) Martin Campbell-Kelly

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  • Publisher: BASIC BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 234mm x 33mm | 699g
  • Publication date: 20 February 1997
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0465029892
  • ISBN 13: 9780465029891
  • Illustrations note: 16pp b&w illustrations

Product description

Blending strong narrative history and a fascinating look at the interface of business and technology, Computer: A History of the Information Machine traces the dramatic story of the invention of the computer. More than just the tale of a tool created by scientists to crunch numbers, this book suggests a richer story behind the computers creation, one that shows how business and government were the first to explore the unlimited potential of the machine as an information processor. Blending strong narrative history and a fascinating look at the interface of business and technology, Computer: A History of the Information Machine traces the dramatic story of the invention of the computer. More than just the tale of a tool created by scientists to crunch numbers, this book suggests a richer story behind the computers creation, one that shows how business and government were the first to explore the unlimited potential of the machine as an information processor. Not surprisingly, at the heart of the business story is IBM. A story of old-fashioned entreprenuership in symbiotic relationship with scientific know-how, it begins way back when computers were people who did the computational work of scientists, and Charles Babbage attempted in vain to mechanize the process. But it also shows how entrepreneurs like Herman Hollerith, seeing a business opportunity in a machine that could mechanically tabulate the U. S. census, created a punched-card tabulator that became the technology that created IBM. The authors show how ENIAC, the first fully electronic computer, emerged out of the wartime need of the military for computers that performed at lightning speed and did not need human intervention at any stage of the process. Most interesting is the story of how the computer began to reshape broad segments of our society when the PC enabled new modes of computing that liberated people from dependence on room-sized, enormously expensive mainframe computers. Filled with lively insightsmany about the world of computing in the 1990s, such as the strategy behind Microsoft Windowsas well as a discussion of the rise and creation of the World Wide Web, here is a book no one who owns or uses a computer will want to miss.

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Editorial reviews

A comprehensive history of the computer, much of it standard but with some surprising interpretations. The explosive growth of the Internet has raised public interest in high technology to historic levels, eclipsing even the personal computer craze of the early '80s. In the midst of this unprecedented hype, computer science lecturer Campbell-Kelly (Warwick Univ., England) and Aspray (executive director, Computing Research Association) present not just a biography but a genealogy of the computer. Their story begins in the 19th century, the Dark Ages of inefficient number-crunching, when mathematicians, including the brilliant Charles Babbage, made the first awkward and unsuccessful steps toward calculating machines. Unfortunately, all but the most dedicated techies will drown in the soporific sea of details presented here. But the narrative picks up with the emergence of the first real computers in the '50s, including dinosaurs like the ENIAC, which filled a huge basement room at Harvard and used 18,000 vacuum tubes. The authors adeptly chronicle IBM's rise to dominance in the '60s, the PC revolution of the '80s, and the software wars of the '90s, and they throw into question the cults of personality around such figures as Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, arguing that the personal computer was the result of a rich interplay of cultural forces and commercial interests. Gates's role in particular is reduced to human proportions: He's portrayed as the beneficiary of a generous deal with IBM for the licensing of MS-DOS, insuring a constant cash flow to cover up for early, otherwise fatal mistakes. The authors conclude with an uninspiring chapter on the recent emergence of the Internet. This narrative history should please computer insiders and academics but may leave the lay reader seeking relief with the nearest video game. (Kirkus Reviews)

Table of contents

Introduction; Before The Computer; When Computers Were People; The Mechanical Office; Babbages Dream Comes True; Creating The Computer; Inventing the Computer; The Computer Becomes a Business Machine; The Maturing of the Mainframe: The Rise and Fall of IBM; Innovation And Expansion; Real Time: Reaping the Whirlwind; Software; New Modes of Computing; Getting Personal; The Shaping of the Personal Computer; The Shift to Software; From the World Brain to the World Wide Web.