About the Book

Book CoverThe Story of the Computer is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject written from both a technical and a business perspective.  It sets out to chart the complex evolutionary process that has resulted in the creation of today’s computers, picking out those innovations and discoveries which contributed most to the pool of knowledge through their influence on later advances and taking into consideration the business drivers as well as the specific technical breakthroughs.  To put developments into context and provide a more rounded picture, it also covers the advances in science and technology, or ‘building blocks’, which have facilitated them.

The book is divided into four parts, beginning with humanity’s earliest efforts to automate the process of calculation, first through mechanical means, then electromechanical and finally electronic.  Part two describes the transformation from sequence-controlled calculators to stored-program computers and the birth of the computer industry.  In part three we see the industry maturing and new market segments beginning to emerge for faster or smaller computers, facilitated by the introduction of solid-state components.  The final part brings the story up to date with the development of mass-produced personal computers, computer graphics and the World Wide Web.

Written in a highly accessible style with illustrations throughout, The Story of the Computer should provide a rewarding read for both the specialist and the general reader.

The book has received numerous five star reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon and is considered by Jackbe to be one of the 10 best books on computer history.

Here is a list of chapter headings and subheadings summarising the contents of each:-

1.  Computer Prehistory – Calculating Machines

  • The Origins of the Computer
  • Calculating Aids
  • Building Blocks – Geared Mechanisms
  • The Earliest Calculating Machines
  • Building Blocks – Machine Tools and Mass Production
  • The Arithmometer
  • The Engines of Charles Babbage

2.  The Analogue Alternative

  • The Attraction of Analogue
  • Building Blocks – Mechanical Integrators
  • The Integraph
  • The Work of Lord Kelvin
  • Gunnery, Torpedo and Fire Control Computers
  • Early Analogue Computer Development at MIT

3.  The Electrification of Calculating Machinery

  • The Importance of Automation
  • Electrically Powered Calculators
  • Building Blocks – Switching Circuits and Symbolic Logic
  • The Punched Card Tabulating Machine
  • The Early Machines of Konrad Zuse
  • The Bell Labs Relay Calculators
  • The Harvard Mark 1

4.  The Dawn of Electronic Computation

  • The Appeal of Electrons
  • Building Blocks – Electronic Devices
  • Electronic Pioneers
  • The Colossus of Bletchley Park

5.  The Metamorphosis of the Calculator – Stored-Program Machines

  • A Fundamental Limitation
  • The Stored-Program Concept
  • Building Blocks – High-Speed Memory Devices
  • The Dissemination of the Stored-Program Concept
  • The First Stored-Program Machines

6.  Data Processing and the Birth of the Computer Industry

  • Commercial Potential
  • Building Blocks – Magnetic Memory Devices
  • The First to Market
  • Establishing an Industry
  • Remington Rand – The First Industry Leader
  • The Inexorable Rise of IBM
  • A Third Party
  • Across the Pond

7.  Revving Up for Higher Performance

  • The Need for Speed
  • The Naval Ordnance Research Calculator
  • The Livermore Automatic Research Computer
  • Project Stretch
  • The Microsecond Engine
  • The CDC 6600

8.  Solid Progress – Transistors and Unified Architectures

  • The Quest for Reliability
  • Building Blocks – Semiconductor Devices
  • Solid-State Alternatives
  • Experimental Transistor Machines
  • Missile Guidance Computers
  • Commercial Solid-State Computers
  • Unified Architectures
  • Consolidation

9.  Small is Beautiful – The Minicomputer

  • The Advent of the Minicomputer
  • Early Small-Scale Computers
  • Establishing the Market
  • The First Solid-State Models
  • The Influence of Industrial Process Control
  • Building Blocks – Integrated Circuits
  • A Commercial Breakthrough
  • Increasing Competition

10.  The Big Picture – Computer Graphics

  • The Origins of Computer Graphics
  • Project Whirlwind
  • Project SAGE
  • Early Commercial Display Devices
  • Building Blocks – Timesharing
  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Building Blocks – Pointing Devices
  • Reducing the Cost of Computer Graphics
  • Standalone Graphics Systems
  • Graphics Processors

11.  The Microcomputer Revolution

  • Creating a Mass Market
  • Building Blocks – Microprocessors and Semiconductor Memory
  • Early Microprocessor-Based Computer Systems
  • Hobby and Home Computers
  • Apple Computer Company
  • The IBM PC

12.  Bringing it all Together – The Graphics Workstation

  • A Market Need
  • Early Efforts
  • Building Blocks – Networking
  • The Xerox Alto
  • Defining the Market
  • The Stanford University Network
  • Workstation Technology for the Masses – The Apple Mac

13.  Getting Personal – The World According to Wintel

  • The Commoditisation of the Computer
  • Genesis of a Giant
  • The Battle for the Desktop
  • Development of the Wintel Platform
  • The Battle Won
  • The World Wide Web
  • The Information Age

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