History of Computing


Ed Lazowska , UW Computer Science & Engineering
Steve Maurer, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
Geoff Voelker, UCSD Computer Science & Engineering




This is a good time to teach (or take) this course - many good histories have been written in the last five years or so.  Here is a selection to get you started:

One-Volume Histories:

A History of Modern Computing

Ceruzzi, Paul E.

Course text.

Computer: a history of the information machine
Author: Campbell-Kelly, Martin.
Published: Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, c2004.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .C36 2004; MOFF: QA76.17 .C36 2004
Scholarly.  Written in a somewhat more entertaining style and relatively short.  A good second book after Ceruzzi.  A good source for computers in the 1940s and 1950s; origins of software; and history of PCs.

Computers: the life story of a technology
Author: Swedin, Eric Gottfrid.
Published: Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .S94 2005

The Making of the Micro
Author: Christopher Evans
Published: London, Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1981
Location(s): QA 76 .17 E92 Math
An old picture book, intelligent text but very short.  Emphasizes period from Babbage to the transistor.  Excellent thumbnail histories of the major players and detailed information about how their machines actually worked. 

From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry
Authors: Martin Campbell-Kelly
ISBN: 0262033038
Publication Date: March 1, 2003
Genre: Business
Publisher: The MIT Press

Portraits in Silicon
Robert Slater
MIT Press: Cambridge and London: 1987
Good, if short histories of Babbage, Turing, won Neumann, Shannon, Zuse, Atanasoff, Mauchly/Eckert, Aiken, Forrester (core memory), Watson Sr. (IBM), Norris (CDC), Shockley (transistor), Noyce and Kilby (ICs), Amdahl, Cray, Bell, Hopper (COBOL), Gates, Bushnell, Jobs, and plenty of others.  Dated now, but so what?

Building IBM: Shaping and Industry and Its Technology
Emerson Pugh
MIT Press: Cambridge and London 1995
Locations: ENGI: HD 9696 C64 I4867 1995
Condensed, one-volume version ground covered in IBM's Early Computers and IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems.  Maybe too condensed: Dozens of personalities, technologies and machines come and go, usually without much explanation.  On the other hand, you know where to find the full story, right?


The universal computer: the road from Leibniz to Turing
Author: Davis, Martin.
Published: New York: Norton, c2000.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .D38 2000; MAIN: QA76.17 .D38 2000; MOFF: QA76.17 .D38 2000
Really more of a popular math book than a history of computing.  An entertaining read, but pretty tangential for our purposes.

Herman Hollerith, forgotten giant of information processing
Author: Austrian, Geoffrey.
Published: New York: Columbia University Press, 1982
Location(s): MAIN: QA76.2.H64 .A97; MATH: QA76.2.H64 .A97
A dense book, not particularly organized or well-written.  A good source for Hollerith's life and times, but if you are interested in economics/technology history you will probably do better to read several one-chapter histories from more general works.

The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-Line Pioneers
Authors: Tom Standage
ISBN: 0425171698
Publication Date: October 1, 1999
Genre: History
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Popular history of how the telegraph transformed society.  An interesting way to look at the Web: Do the two institutions have similar cause-and-effect?  A good if slightly more tangential companion read would be Linda Simon, Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray (Harcourt 2004).

Pioneers of Computing
Gareth Ashurst
Frederick Muller: London: 1983
Math: QA 76 .2 A2 A8 1983
Short, readable biographies of Napier, Pascal, Leibnitz, Jacquard, Hollerith, Bush, Mauchly/Eckert, Zuse, Turing and von Neumann.  Semi-popular but very well researched.

The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth Century Chess Playing Machine
Tom Standage
Walker: New York: 2002
Another fun one from that "Victorian Internet" guy.  This one is about the alleged chess-playing machine that Edgar Allen Poe wrote about.  Basically for fun, but the book does contain good information about the history of early automata and their influence on Babbage.

1940s and 1950s:

ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer
Author: Scott McCartney
Published: Walker and Company: New York: 1999
Popular history of inventors of ENIAC, their attempts to commercialize their invention, and related patent fights.  A short book but well-researched and informative.

Who invented the computer? : the legal battle that changed computing history
Author: Burks, Alice R., 1920-
Published: Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2003.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .B87 2003; BUSI: QA76.17 .B87 2003

IBM's Early Computers
Authors: Charles J. Bashe, Lyle R. Johnson, Emerson W. Pugh, John H. Palmer
ISBN: 0262022257
Publication Date: December 3, 1985
Genre: Computer Books: General
Publisher: The MIT Press
The definitive history of IBM between the end of the World War II and the S/360.  Excellent, if technical, history of how IBM built the suite of new technologies needed to make the successful business computers of the 1960s.  Business history is also well represented, if less convincing.  A massive and often dry book, but very useful.  Also contains extensive background on pre-War history.

The Analogue Alternative: The Electronic Analogue Computer in Britain and the USA, 1930 - 1975
Author: James S. Small
Routledge: London and New York: 2001
ENGI: QA 76 .17 S55 2001
Detailed history of analog machines from Vannevar Bush's day into the mid-1970s.  A sideshow for our course, but a possible paper topic.  What does this industry say about the dynamics of industries based on "ordinary," digital machines.

Computers and Commerce: A Study of Technology and Management at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, Engineering Research Associates, and Remington Ran, 1946-1957
Author: Arthur L. Norberg
MIT Press: Cambridge and London: 2005
Business: QA 76 .5 N665 2005.
Very detailed, scholarly case study of IBM's rivals in the immediate postwar.  A dense read on a very narrow topic.  Useful for students interested in studying the business history leading to IBM's dominance and the world as we know it.

Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology
Author: Howard Rheingold
MIT Press, Cambridge and New York: 2000
Breezy popular history.  Includes chapters on Babbage, von Neumann, Project MAC, ARPA and ARPANET, Atari and the Web.

Turing and the universal machine: the making of the modern computer
Author: Agar, Jon.
Published: U.S.: Totem; Cambridge: Icon, 2001.
Location(s): MAIN: QA76.2.T87 A43 2001

The First Computers: Histories and Architectures
Raul Rojas and Ulf Hashagen
A scholarly proceedings volume - short, dry articles of variable quality focusing on narrow and somewhat arbitrary topics.  The main focus is technical.  A useful reference for technical details about how Atanasoff-Berry, Harvard Mark I, ENIAC, Zuse, Colossus and various other early machines worked.  A bad place to start, though.  Get the wider context - both technical and non-technical -- somewhere else.

The Computer Pioneers
David Ritchie
Simon & Schuster: New York: 1986
Math: QA 76 .17 R581 1986
Short, popular history of computers from Aiken to Whirlwind, organized by personalities. 


IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems
Authors: Emerson W. Pugh, Lyle R. Johnson, and John H. Palmer
Published: MIT Press, Cambridge and London: 1991
Locations: ENGI: QA 76 .8 I12 P84 1991
Continues the definitive history of IBM into the S/360 era.  Excellent, if technical, history.  Business history is also well represented, if less convincing.  A massive and often dry book, but very useful.  Also contains extensive background on pre-1960s technology programs.

Engines of the Mind: The Evolution of the Computer from Mainframes to Microprocessors
Authors: Joel N. Shurkin, Joel Shurkin
ISBN: 0393314715
Publication Date: January 1, 1996
Genre: Computer Bks - General Information
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Chapter length descriptions of Babbage, Hollerith, Atanasoff, Eckert/Mauchly, von Neumann, UNIVAC.  Mostly 1940 - 1960.


DEC is Dead, Long Live DEC

Ed Schein

Digital at Work: Snapshots of the 1st 35 Years
Authors: Jamie P. Pearson
ISBN: 1555580920
Publication Date: September 1, 1992
Genre: Business / Economics / Finance
Publisher: Digital Press

PCs and Macs:

A history of the personal computer: the people and the technology
Author: Allan, Roy A., 1931-
Published: London, Ont.: Allan Pub., c2001.
Location(s): MAIN: QA76.17 .A44 2001; BUSI: QA76.17 .A44 2001

Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, coevolution, and the origins of personal computing
Author: Bardini, Thierry.
Published: Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, c2000.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .B37 2000; BUSI: QA76.17 .B37 2000

Remembering the future: interviews from personal computer world
Published: London; New York: Springer, c1997.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .R45 1997


A History of personal workstations
Published: New York: ACM Press; Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., c1988.
Location(s): MATH: QA76.17 .H571 1988

A History of scientific computing
Published: Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1990.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .H59 1990


The dream machine: J. C. Licklider and the revolution that made computing personal
Author: Waldrop, M. Mitchell.
Published: New York: Viking, 2001.
Location(s): ENGI: QA76.17 .W35 2001; MOFF: QA76.17 .W35 2001
Popular but well-researched history of DARPA and cutting-edge academic ideas (networks, time-sharing) of the 1950s and 1960s.  Well-written but long; dip into what interests you if this seems daunting.

Transforming Computer Technologies
Arthur Norberg and Judy O'Neill
Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London
Locations: MAIN QA 76 .17 N67 1996
Detailed, scholarly case study based on inside access to Pentagon records.  Provides plenty of history to think about.  Written in a dry, scholarly style that stresses organizational history.  As a result, it sometimes shortchanges technology and usually shortchanges economic factors.  An important book on a short bookshelf.


A Quarter Century of UNIX
Authors: Peter H. Salus
ISBN: 0201547775
Publication Date: May 31, 1994
Genre: Computer Bks - Operating Systems
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional

Xerox PARC

Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
Michael A. Hiltzik

Integrated Circuits

The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution
TR Reid
Random House: New York: 2001
Combines biography, non-technical description of chip technology, and business history to the mid-1980s.  Re-issue of a 1985 book; marred by Reagan-era bumper sticker-level discussions of "competitiveness."

Weaving The Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web
Tim Berners Lee
Harper Business: 2000
Entertaining and an invaluable first-hand memoir.  Read this the way a social scientist would.  Berners-Lee's theories about why things happened - the Web is like a human brain - are so screwy that even he probably doesn't believe them.  Mine the book for facts and build your own theory.  How did the Web grow from one guy's idea to a worldwide deal?


Go To:  The story of the math majors, bridge players, engineers, chess wizards, maverick scientists and iconclasts - the programmers who created the software revolution
Steve Lohr
Basic Books (Perseus), 2001
Lohr is a very sharp NY Times technology writer.



Out Of Their Minds:  The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists

Dennis Shasha andCathy Lazere

Copernicus, 1995