Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Article excerpt

Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray. Computer: A History of the Information Machine. New York: Basic, 1996.

The cliche "Necessity is the mother of invention" seems particularly apt for discussing the development of the computer, whose history begins in the nineteenth century. During that century, as this book tells us, the Industrial Revolution caused population and urbanization to increase. This required that business and government greatly expand and search for better ways to collect and process information. Enter Charles Babbage, an Englishman credited with inventing the world's first mechanical computer that could calculate and print. On this side of the Atlantic, Herman Hollerith, seeing a business opportunity in a machine that could mechanically tabulate the U.S. census of 1890, created a punch-card tabulator that eventually became the technology that created IBM.

In the twentieth century Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, so successfully applied his marketing and sales abilities that in 1924 he stated, "Everywhere ... there will be IBM machines in use. The sun never sets on IBM. …