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Computing: A Concise History (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series) Paperback – June 15, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It's a delightful small book, very nicely produced and with illustrations, perfect for a journey or to slip in a pocket for commuting. It's also, in 150 pages, a super overview of the history of this utterly transformational technology…"--Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist



"For those interested in the fundamentals of computer history, Computing: A Concise History navigates a complex world with in-depth, authoritative coverage in terms accessible to the non-expert."--John F. Barber, Leonardo Reviews

About the Author

Paul E. Ceruzzi is a Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He is the author of A History of Modern Computing, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005, both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

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Product Details

  • Series: The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series
  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (June 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262517671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262517676
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Most of us take the history of computing completely for granted. Similar to other everyday objects that have always just "been there," such as toilets, toothbrushes and cars, we just continue to use them with very little regard of how much had to happen for us to have our now seemingly indispensable cell phones, wireless laptops and interactive web pages. In regards to computing, so much has happened in so little time that some may have difficulty recognizing our current technological state in its predecessors. How did the now quaint looking Altair 8800 become our modern day laptop? How did the pipe organ sized ENIAC evolve into the microprocessor? The answers remain murky and nebulous without researching the relatively recent past. Still, the history of computing swells so much with information, inventions, directions, dead ends and successes that making anything but a strictly chronological history seem nothing less than Quixotic.

That's where the remarkably compact - in the spirit of the microprocessor - "Computing A Concise History" enters. In under 200 pages (including appendices and index) this very readable book will arm even the most technologically disinterested with a decent overall picture of how computing evolved from Babbage to Twitter. Not to mention that it remains cognizant that the history of computing has evolved as much as computing itself has evolved. It speaks volumes that the printed book cannot keep up with the electronic digital world. Technology books become obsolete almost while they're being written and even this one has aged since it appeared in 2012. Though it's definitely more current than other histories available, expect no discussion about "The Cloud" or other of the most bleeding edge technologies of the present moment.
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Format: Paperback
This short book provides one perspective on the history of digital computer.

In the Introduction, the author states his premise that there are four major threads or themes that "run through" the history of the digital computer: (1) the digital paradigm, by which binary code is used for "coding information, computations, and control"; (2) digital computers reflect the convergence of a variety of different technologies, devices, and machines; (3) the history of digital computers has been "driven by a steady advance of underlying electronics technology"; and (4) the issue of the human-machine interface has raised philosophical issues about the nature and role of digital computing in society.

In the first chapter, the author briefly discusses the origins of digital computers in mechanical computing devices in the 1600s-1800s, punch cards that were first used in the 1800s to control weaving looms and later adapted to code information, and more modern technology such as the telegraph, telephone, and early electrical devices. The rest of the book covers the development and evolution of digital computers during the period 1935-present. The author uses his four major threads or themes to organize his discussion about the development and evolution of digital comptuers.

The book provides an adequate introduction to the history of digital computers. The book is written for the general public, so a reader does not need any technical training or expertise in digital computers to read and understand this book. Given the basic, introductory level of this book, it would be appropriate for high school or college students, or anyone with a casual interest in the history of digital computers.
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There may be some quibbling with terms and exactly who did what when, but if you want to get the broad outline of how we got to where we are (and you don't want to spend an entire semester doing it) this is the book for you. Its a one-day, couple-of-hours read that covers most of the big points.
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Um, well it is indeed concise. But so limited and sketchy, and mostly restricted to a corporate history of the development of the hardware (with very little description of exactly what that hardware was), as to leave this reader unimpressed.
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Format: Paperback
This is something akin to the 'A Very Brief Introduction' style of overview, highlighting key developments in the history of computing at a top-level description like you might find in a wikipedia article. Indeed, this book does not have a very striking literary personality and could be readily substituted by spending a few hours reading Wikipedia articles on the History of Computing wiki. That said, the book is informative, and if you're in the market to learn more about the development of computation power worldwide (especially its political and corporate aspects of historical development), then this is a good option. -Ryan Mease
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Format: Paperback
Paul E. Ceruzzi provides the history of computing as we know it, including precursor machines and theories. This is a very pared down book, covering only the highlights of the technology. Basic technological terms, inventions, methodologies are explained just to the point where a lay reader should be able to grasp them.

Major developments together with the major players are identified and described.

For people unfamiliar with the history of computing and who need a convenient resource containing this history (i.e., journalists, writers, etc.) will find this little volume helpful. For those more familiar with the technology, it's a good resource for looking up names and dates, a kind of reminder.

Overall, a valuable addition to a tech library, particularly for anyone who writes in any way about the subject.

Jerry
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