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John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing (History of Computing) Paperback – December 7, 1990

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the mid 1940s, John von Neumann revolutionized the nascent field of computing by showing that program instructions could be stored in a computer's memory instead of on external panels or punch cards. In John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing, William Aspray details the design and construction of von Neumann's computer systems and explains the broader implications of von Neumann's contributions. Aspray discusses von Neumann's fame in the realms of mathematics, physics, and economics and his remarkable career, which included work as an atomic energy commissioner and as principal scientific adviser to the U.S. Air Force on ballistic missile development. By examining the interplay of science, military, and business, which formed the background for von Neumann's work, Aspray does an excellent job of placing von Neumann's accomplishments in computer science into the context of his other achievements. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

William Aspray is Bill and Lewis Suit Professor of Information Technologies in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the coeditor of Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation (2006) and The Internet and American Business (2008), both published by the MIT Press.
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Product Details

  • Series: History of Computing
  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (December 7, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262518856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262518857
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By D. W. Casey on October 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
No one has yet written a biography of John von Neumann that sums up both his intellectual achievements and his curious personality. William Aspray's book, John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing, at least makes a good effort at explaining von Neumann's intellectual accomplishments, although it is not a complete biography in explaining the man. Granted, such a biography might be impossible, given the breadth and profundity of von Neumann's contributions to thought. It is hard to conceive of another person who left more of a mark on the twentieth century world of science, with the exception of Einstein himself. For a look at von Neumann the personality, one can find good character sketches of him in Ed Regis's "Who Got Einstein's Office?" and in Joel Shurkin's "Engines of the Mind", but neither of these works presents a complete view of von Neumann's intellectual achivements. Aspray's book does a thorough job of covering von Neumann's thoughts on computing.. It is thorough in dealing with von Neumann's contributions to mathematics, to the building of the IAS computer, to problems in information theory, and outlines more of von Neumann's thought on the analogy between computer processing and the human mind than most writers ever notice. Additionally, von Neumann made contributions to meteorology that are usually overlooked, which Aspray outlines more thoroughly than other writers. The book does not address much about Game Theory (William Poundstone's book, Prisoner's Dilemma, outlines von Neumann's contributions in that field of study), which is another huge area of study that von Neumann pioneered. Aspray's book is required reading for anyone wrestling with John von Neumann's ideas, he outlines perhaps 60% of von Neumann's career better than any other writer, but one wonders when the truly comprehensive biography of von Neumann will be written.
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Format: Hardcover
John von Neumann was one of the greatest prodigies of the last century. His right-wing politics and the fact that he made seminal contributions to many fields of science account for his not having won a Nobel prize. Nevertheless many Nobel laureates considered his intellect far superior to theirs.

v.N's many talents account for nobody having yet written a biography that does him justice, as it's very unlikely that anyone with the mind to understand his seminal contributions to many branches of science would have the spare time to write such a book.

Aspray has done an superb job of describing von Neumann's contributions to computer science. By referencing many details in the exhaustive references he enables his readers to quickly find von Neumann's original work if they want to get to the nitty gritty of his contributions and spares the average reader details that would have made the book tedious and unreadable.

I strongly suspect that this will remain the reference book on J. v. N's contributions to computer science; his daughter was quite pleased with it.
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By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Unsurpassed quality is the hallmark of this fine book
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