Computer: A History Of The Information Machine (Sloan Technology Series)

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9780465029891: Computer: A History Of The Information Machine (Sloan Technology Series)

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 computer's 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 insights many about the world of computing in the 1990s, such as the strategy behind Microsoft Windows as 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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Review:

This history of the computer explores the roots of the industry's phenomenal development, tracing not only the development of the machine itself--beginning with Charles Babbage's well-known 1883 mechanical prototype--but also chronicling the effects of manufacturing and sales innovations by such companies as Remington and National Cash Register that made the boom possible. The authors recount the transition from slow mechanical computers to the vacuum-tubed electronic computers, ENIAC and EDVAC, pioneered by a team led by mathematician John von Neumann during World War II. Later innovations made the computer a mass-market item, and now, the authors suggest, freedom of access to the technology is constrained only by the imperative of computer companies to make money.

About the Author:

Martin Campbell-Kelly is a reader is computer science at the University of Warwick in England.

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