[Chicago] Good readings on the history of computing

Lance Hassan lance at roytalman.com
Wed Sep 25 18:27:29 CEST 2013

Well...re: Neal Stephenson...dated and relevant in light of some current and some ongoing events. Also not a bad primer in cryptography with both technical and more illustrative perspectives (walking through London, stepping off curbs and crossing streets as a basis for a coding system).  It was a white hat hacker who turned me onto this one originally.

Thank You,
Lance Hassan
Roy Talman and Associates

From: Chicago [mailto:chicago-bounces+lance=roytalman.com at python.org] On Behalf Of Daniel Fehrenbach
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 9:51 AM
To: The Chicago Python Users Group
Subject: Re: [Chicago] Good readings on the history of computing

@Randy - I had Dr. Chuck as a professor at Michigan, hope that his Coursera stuff was as engaging as he is in person

A lot softer than a lot of things mentioned previously but Neal Stephenson has a, really outdated but readable essay on operating system history as seen through his experience http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html.

On Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM, Randy Baxley <randy7771026 at gmail.com<mailto:randy7771026 at gmail.com>> wrote:
This makes me wish I had unlimited time and also had my young eyes back.

I lived some very good pieces of all of this.

I hate to keep recommending Dr-Chuck but his course on Coursera in Internet History, Technology and Security is an enjoyable romp.

On Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 9:21 AM, Jordan Bettis <jordanb at hafd.org<mailto:jordanb at hafd.org>> wrote:
On 09/24/2013 02:40 PM, Jason Wirth wrote:

> Does anyone have suggestion for articles on the history of computing?
> Note, Python specific stuff would be great but it doesn't have to be
> python specific, and almost by definition probably won't be.

I can recommend a few books that I've read:

*Computing in the Middle Ages* by Servero M Ornstein

This guy became a programmer on a drum memory machine, went to Lincoln
Labs at MIT when they were building SAGE. He was part of the transition
from Lincoln Labs to MITRE and worked on the TX-1. He then worked on
LINC (Which became the PDP-8), went to BBN and worked on ArpaNet, then
to Xerox PARC and worked on Alto.

The book is a memorial of his career and what it was like working on the
above projects.

*Before the Computer* by James W Cortada
*A History of Modern Computing* by Paul E Ceruzzi

These are two academic treatments of the subject by academic historians.
The first covers mechanical and electro-mechanical information
processing from the invention of the cash register and type writer,
through adding machines and ends with the creation of vacuum tube computers.

The second begins with UNIVAC and ends with the invention of the Web.

Like I said, they're academic treatments of the subject so fairly
rigorously written.

A final one I might hesitatingly recommend is:

*The Universal History of Computing* by Georges Ifrah

This was written in French and translated into English. The writing is
quite dense and it goes off into the weeds at the end, which is why I
hesitate to recommend it.

But it begins with a discussion of numbering systems, and demonstrates
how the positional numbering system was a precondition for even thinking
about mathematics as something that could be done mechanically.
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