history of computing

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history of computing

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1zwoolard
Nov 17, 2009, 12:54pm

Hi,

I'm interested in finding books on the history of computers and programming languages, and was wondering if anyone could make some suggestions. I realize that's a vague description of what I'm interested in, but I'm trying to cast a wide net.

2frogman2
Dec 11, 2009, 1:21pm

I like the handbook of programming languages series by Peter Salus, though I only own the Imperative programming languages version.

I'd suggest some Wikipedia entries and Google searches to narrow down what you might be most interested in.

Lisp is over 50 years old now, and you can also download MIT Technical Reports from the Lab for Computer Science and AI Lab, going back to Project Mac in the 1960s.

3TheoClarke
Dec 11, 2009, 3:28pm

One source of much that your require is IEEE Annals of the history of computing, which I imagine is held in hard copy near(ish) you at UNC in Chapel Hill.

4MMcM
Dec 11, 2009, 8:44pm

I know this isn't a serious answer to the OP's quite reasonable question, but A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages is fun.

5zwoolard
Edited: Dec 12, 2009, 8:49am

I know just enough to know why some of it is funny. Thanks for posting it.

6dege
Apr 7, 2010, 6:49pm

On the topic of computer history: Fire in the valley, Where wizards stay up late and Before the computer are all very inspiring and interesting books.

7frogman2
Apr 9, 2010, 1:13pm

If you're interested in parallel architectures for Artificial intelligence, it's worth checking out some pioneering work done at MIT. Computer architecture trends are making it feasible again

Two important papers are Scott Fahlman, the other by Danny Hillis. They should both be available as MIT AI Tech Reports, free to download.

8JonathanGorman
Edited: Apr 10, 2010, 10:23am

Along the lines of Where the wizards stay up late I'd also recommend Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer . These all revolve around the rise of ARPA and focus on MIT and Berkley. These are also all intended for a more general audience.

Stephen Levy, who wrote hackers also has a good book called Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age. In a similar style to Levy is Rheingold, who wrote some good books (a few of which are now available online for free) like Virtual Community and Tools for Thought.

I haven't read enough books on the early history of computing. The only one that comes to mind is the rather disturbing IBM and the Holocaust, but that doesn't touch too much on the technology, aside from how it was employed. (Most of the machines weren't what we would describe as true computers today if I remember correctly, more code-breaking devices and sorting machines). I'd like to read some more about Bletchley Park, but just haven't found anything yet.

Now for some books geared more for professionals.
On the programming languages, I've recently read a couple of different books of interviews. Masterminds of Programming focuses a lot on programming languages, but I found it to be a bit long and probably could have used some more editing. Coders at Work doesn't focus too much on any one subject, although the interview with Fran Allen is really excellent to get a picture of the early days. Programmers at Work offers an interesting insight into the picture of programming in the late 80s.

There's other books where one can get a glimpse of the historical perspectives, but I'm drawing a blank on any books actually targeted on the history of programming languages for professionals.

Oh, and one final amusing book you might want to pick up would be In the beginning was the command line.

9kukulaj
Apr 21, 2010, 11:19am

A computer called LEO looks good, though I just found it by a search here. I read Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire - I think that's where I first heard about this early machine.

10kukulaj
Apr 21, 2010, 11:26am

... and don't miss IBM's Early Computers.

I wonder if there is anything similar on CDC and Cray. One of the first computers I programmed was the CDC 6600 at Indiana University, the summer of 1972. As I recall, it had a pipeline with imprecise interrupts. The machine I really cut my teeth on was the IBM 360/91 at Princeton, while I was a student there, 1973-1977. That also had imprecise interrupts. That means the program counter in the dump when you crash won't necessary point to the instruction that caused the crash. Makes debugging that little bit more fun!