Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Synopsis

Computer: A History of the Information Machine, Second Edition traces the story of the computer, and shows how business and government were the first to explore its unlimited, information-processing potential. Old-fashioned entrepreneurship combined with scientific know-how inspired now famous computer engineers to create the technology that became IBM. Wartime needs drove the giant ENIAC, the first fully electronic computer. Later, the PC enabled modes of computing that liberated people from room-sized, mainframe computers. This second edition now extends beyond the development of Microsoft Windows and the Internet, to include open source operating systems like Linux, and the rise again and fall and potential rise of the dot.com industries.

Excerpt

The introduction to the first edition notes the risk of obsolescence facing anyone who writes about the recent history of the computer, given the rapid pace of technological innovation and changing patterns of usage. Indeed, the eight-year period between the first and second editions has witnessed momentous changes in computing technology, who uses it, and what it is used for. This has been a period in which the Internet has become ascendant in Western society and the computer is increasingly used as a communication machine. The earlier traditions of the computer—as a mathematical machine and as an information machine—have not been so much supplanted as they have been supplemented by this new tradition of the computer as a communication device. These past few years have provided additional evidence of the universal character of the computer, as a machine that can be used in seemingly endless ways. What will come next is hard to predict, but that there will be a next tradition to layer on top of these earlier traditions we have no doubt.

We generally are pleased with how well the first edition weathered the changes of the past decade. The first ten chapters have required little revision. We have corrected a small number of factual errors and changed several examples to better set the stage for the final two chapters. The focus of chapter 11 has changed from explaining the new emphasis on software innovation as the personal computer matured to the theme of broadening the appeal of the computer. Sections from the original chapter 11 on the software industry, the graphical user interface, the Macintosh, and Microsoft’s Windows have been shortened and revised. New sections have been added on CD-ROMs and consumer networks. Chapter 12 also has been extensively revised. We have retained sections, in slightly altered form, on the search for a world information resource, the ARPANET, and e-mail. We have greatly expanded our coverage of the World Wide Web and its predecessors, and we trace its history through the . . .

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