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Computing: A Concise History (The MIT Press Essential by Paul E. Ceruzzi

By Paul E. Ceruzzi

The heritage of computing may be advised because the tale of and software program, or the tale of the net, or the tale of "smart" hand held units, with subplots related to IBM, Microsoft, Apple, fb, and Twitter. during this concise and obtainable account of the discovery and improvement of electronic expertise, machine historian Paul Ceruzzi bargains a broader and extra necessary point of view. He identifies 4 significant threads that run all through all of computing's technological improvement: digitization--the coding of data, computation, and keep an eye on in binary shape, ones and zeros; the convergence of a number of streams of concepts, units, and machines, yielding greater than the sum in their components; the regular strengthen of digital know-how, as characterised famously by means of "Moore's Law"; and the human-machine interface. Ceruzzi courses us via computing background, telling how a Bell Labs mathematician coined the notice "digital" in 1942 (to describe a high-speed approach to calculating utilized in anti-aircraft devices), and recounting the improvement of the punch card (for use within the 1890 U.S. Census). He describes the ENIAC, outfitted for medical and armed forces purposes; the UNIVAC, the 1st basic objective machine; and ARPANET, the Internet's precursor. Ceruzzi's account lines the world-changing evolution of the pc from a room-size ensemble of equipment to a "minicomputer" to a machine laptop to a pocket-sized clever mobile. He describes the advance of the silicon chip, that can shop ever-increasing quantities of knowledge and enabled ever-decreasing equipment dimension. He visits that hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, and brings the tale as much as the current with the net, the realm huge internet, and social networking.

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Additional info for Computing: A Concise History (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series)

Sample text

Presper Eckert, the chief engineer, designed it conservatively, for example, by carefully limiting the loads on the vacuum tubes to prolong their life. That made the UNIVAC surprisingly reliable in spite of its use of about 5,000 vacuum tubes. Sales were modest, but the technological breakthrough of a commercial electronic computer was large. Eckert and Mauchly founded a company, another harbinger of the volatile computer industry that followed, but it was unable to survive on its own and was absorbed by Remington Rand in 1950.

But the transfer of the technology to the commercial world was hindered, as the value of cryptography to national security did not end in 1945. It is as critical, and secret, today as it ever was. The Colossus machines may have been destroyed at the end of the war, but even if they were not, there was no easy path to build a commercial version of them. The United States did a better job in transferring wartime computing technology to peaceful uses, although National Cash Register did not exploit its experience building the Bombes to further its business machines technology.

For its design, the company drew on the advice of von Neumann, whom it hired as a consultant. Von Neumann had proposed using a special-purpose vacuum tube developed at RCA for memory, but they proved difficult to produce in quantity. The 701’s memory units were special-purpose modified cathode ray tubes, which had been invented in England and used on the Manchester computer. IBM initially called the 701 a “defense calculator,” an acknowledgment that its customers were primarily aerospace and defense companies with access to large amounts of government funds.

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