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REVIEW: "A History of Computing Technology", Michael R.

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKHSCMTC.RVW 20041018 A History of Computing Technology , Michael R. Williams, 1997, 0-8186-7739-2, U$64.95/C$104.95 %A Michael R. Williams %C 10662
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2005
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      BKHSCMTC.RVW 20041018

      "A History of Computing Technology", Michael R. Williams, 1997,
      0-8186-7739-2, U$64.95/C$104.95
      %A Michael R. Williams
      %C 10662 Vaqueros Circle, Los Alamitos, CA 90720-1314
      %D 1997
      %G 0-8186-7739-2
      %I IEEE Computer Society Press
      %O U$64.95/C$104.95 714-821-8380, 800-CS-BOOKS c.baltes@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0818677392/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0818677392/robsladesin03-20
      %O tl i rl 4 tc 3 ta 4 tv 4 wq 4
      %P 426 p.
      %T "A History of Computing Technology"

      Yet another timeline from the Pascaline to Babbage to ENIAC? Not so.
      How refreshing, and fascinating, to see a history that really tells us
      how we got here.

      Chapter one talks about the development of numeration itself, and the
      various forms of representing numbers (as well as a few systems of
      calculation). Early aids to calculation, starting with fingers and
      moving through to slide rules, are described in chapter two.
      Throughout the book, Williams has included frequent references to how
      calculating tools and techniques have given rise to common phrases.
      The definition of "point blank" is particularly fascinating, involving
      not only a particular gunnery instrument, but also the distrust of the
      Arabic numeral zero, which paranoia would have been uniquely strong at
      that specific time. Mechanical calculators are discussed in chapter
      three, covering much more than the usual reference to the Pascaline.
      Chapter four outlines Babbage's machine; noting that he was more
      social than is usually thought, and that he succeeded in a number of
      fields (inventing, for example, the cow catcher); explains why the
      Difference Engine is known as such, and further mentions that it was
      hardly a failure, but spawned a bit of a building spree that lasted
      over twenty years. Analog, rather than digital, computers are often
      neglected, but chapter five notes a number of significant devices.
      The large mechanical or electro-mechanical machines of the 1940s are
      frequently seen as the beginning of the computer revolution, so it is
      interesting that the book is half complete before chapter six takes a
      look at the Zuse machines, the Bell relay machines, and Aiken's line.
      Chapter seven moves into the electronic world with reviews of the
      Atanasoff/Berry computer, ENIAC, and the Colossi. Given the
      importance of the work at Bletchley Park in terms of character
      manipulation (in cryptanalysis) it is interesting that other forms of
      text manipulation technology have not been addressed up to this point.
      The early computers dealing with stored programs are reviewed in
      chapter eight. As could be expected, the development of memory
      technologies is a major component of this material. Chapter nine
      finishes off with a review of some other early mainframe type

      We tend to pass over the history of computing with varying degrees of
      interest. Having a detailed examination of the development of both
      ideas and technologies of the basics of computing is both fascinating
      and helpful. Those who ignore the history of computing are likely to
      buy it again, repackaged under a new name. Professionals willing to
      understand the foundations of the industry and operations of the
      machinery will be in a much better position to judge what will (and
      what will not) be of importance in the future.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKHSCMTC.RVW 20041018

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