Computer: A history of the information machine

Basic Books

Mark Haddon

"Computer whizzes and novices alike will find a wealth of new information and insights in this colorful, engrossing history of computers".

Publishers Weekly



The book tries to cover the complete history of computing in 300 pages. This is a tall order, but overall it is successful in providing a good introduction into the subject. It is broken into four sections. The first section covers "Before the computer" and explains that a computer was a human being who carried out mathmatical calculations and were often used to work out logarithmic tables and naval charts. Charles Babbage is covered quite extensively at this point. Section 2  onwards provides the reader with an almost exclusive America centric view of the history of Computers. It takes you through the introduction of punch card tabulaters, the birth of IBM and the building of the first electronic mainframe computers.  It goes on to describe the early mainframes such as the Univac and explains the growth  of IBM and the growing importance of the development of software. The final section covers the growth of the desktop computer and introduces a guy by the name of Gates!.

As a European reader it is frustrating that this book is spoilt by the heavy American focus. For example we now know that the first programable electronic computer was "Colossus" and not the American ENIAC, but Colossus is mentioned briefly only twice and Alan Turing is given two sentences. There is no reference to ICL or the French Bull computer companies. This is a shame as one of the joint authors is English.

On balance the book is worth a read, but beware of America re-writing history!!





Reviewed on 26/10/2004 by Peter


Reviewed item details

ISBN 0-465-02990-6

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