My name is Stephen Marshall. I have always been interested in computer technology, having spent the first 20 years of my career using and programming all manner of computers while working in a government research laboratory on the design and development of a range of novel computerised sensory and optical measurement systems. I am a Chartered Information Systems Engineer (CEng), a Chartered IT Professional (CITP) and a professional member of the British Computer Society (MBCS). I am also a member of the Computer Conservation Society, which was founded to preserve historic computers, develop awareness of the history of computing and encourage research.
I began using computers in 1975 when they were room-sized mainframes which were programmed via decks of punched cards. In 1979, I had my first hands-on experience of microcomputers and was amazed by the incredible power and freedom that interactive personal computing offered. Since then, I have followed the development of computers with a fascination that remains undimmed with the passing years.
I was inspired to begin writing about the history of the computer after reading several popular titles on the subject, none of which covered it as comprehensively or as accurately as I would have expected. The business-oriented books tended to gloss over or misinterpret technology developments and the technology-focused books ignored the business drivers. Most also began in the 20th century, ignoring important early developments. The result was that none provided a complete picture of the subject.
In order to provide a complete picture, my book takes into consideration the business drivers as well as the specific technical breakthroughs. It also offers a much more comprehensive coverage by including the development of missile guidance computers, industrial process control and computer graphics, none of which have been covered in any detail previously though they all contributed enormously to the evolution of the computer. The innovative software applications which helped to break new markets for computers, such as computer-aided design, electronic spreadsheets, desktop publishing and web browsers, are also highlighted. Finally, as the computer is perhaps the ultimate example of the fact that complex technologies are seldom developed in isolation but are built upon earlier inventions and discoveries in related disciplines, my book includes many of the concepts and technologies which underpin modern computers. The inclusion of these ‘building blocks’ has also allowed developments to be put into context and should make the book more accessible to the general reader.
I created this web site and blog to generate feedback during the writing of the book. As well as regular posts relating to the history of the computer, the site also includes Chapter 1 of the book as a freely downloadable file in PDF format.