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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Architects of the Information Society", Simson L. Garfi

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKARINSO.RVW 990715 Architects of the Information Society , Simson L. Garfinkel, 1999, 0-262-07196-7, U$20.00 %A Simson L. Garfinkel simsong@vineyard.net
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 1999
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      BKARINSO.RVW 990715

      "Architects of the Information Society", Simson L. Garfinkel, 1999,
      0-262-07196-7, U$20.00
      %A Simson L. Garfinkel simsong@... simsong@...
      %C 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1399
      %D 1999
      %E Hal Abelson
      %G 0-262-07196-7
      %I MIT Press
      %O U$20.00 +1-800-356-0343 fax: +1-617-625-6660 www-mitpress.mit.edu
      %P 72 p.
      %T "Architects of the Information Society"

      Although concerned with MIT's seminal Project MAC and the subsequent
      Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), this book is not a history as
      such. Instead, it comprises three essays describing the development
      of multiuser computing, the development of computer networking, and
      the resulting impact of computer networking on society and business.

      The concept of multiple access computing, multiuser computing, or time
      sharing involves a number of original technologies such as interrupts,
      security, virtual memory. In addition, the project spawned research
      in areas as diverse as operating system design, processor independent
      architectures, and software portability. While these topics are
      mentioned, they are not covered. Instead, the article concentrates on
      personal or personnel matters: who did what, or went where, or hated
      whom. There is interesting social history, but little technical
      record, and this lack may disappoint the technical audience.

      A similar style characterizes chapter two. In detailing the growth of
      local networking, for example, the work only tangentially touches on
      the unexpected desire for connection of the ARPANET's original IMPs
      (Interface Message Processors) to multiple machines at a single site,
      and the IMP redesign that was required. In fact, the coverage of many
      important aspects of networking, such as the development of the
      ARPANET and Ethernet, are presented in very sketchy terms.

      Chapter three is actually a grab bag of projects that have had LCS
      involvement over the years, such as voice interface processing,
      encryption, the World Wide Web, and artificial intelligence for
      medical work. In this section the book devolves almost completely
      into anecdote, with very little structure or analysis to the stories.

      As noted, the book is not a history. However, even as an anniversary
      celebration, the shortcomings are frustrating. I can fully sympathize
      with the feeling that modern companies unfairly take credit for
      technologies invented earlier, but LCS is not best promoted by
      ignoring other centres and groups, as seems to happen at times. While
      a number of the stories presented are interesting and little known, it
      is difficult to recommend this volume to other than die-hard computer
      history buffs.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKARINSO.RVW 990715

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