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Electronic Brains

Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age


Publisher: National Academies Press


Language:English | Number of Pages: 300 | Format: Hardcover

Isbn-10: 0309096308 | Isbn-13: 9780309096300 | Publish date: 

Also available as: Paperback

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Book Description
The first truly modern computers were introduced just after World War II. Practical, electronic, multipurpose, digital machines with memory for both data and programs, they were developed by a range of pioneering teams across four continents. This is the story of how it all started.

We've come so far, so fast. Within a relatively short period of time, we've managed to put enormous computing power in offices and homes around the globe. But before there was an IBM, before there were laptops and personal PCs, there were small, independent teams of pioneers working on the development of the very first computer. Spread across four continents and ranging in temperament and talent, they built practical, electronic, multi-purpose, digital machines with memory for both data and programs.

Tracing the period just after World War II when the first truly modern computers were developed, The Electronic Brain chronicles the escapades of the world's first "techies." Some of the initial projects are quite famous and well known, such as "LEO", the Lyons Electronic Office, which was developed by the catering company J. Lyons & Co. in London in the 1940s. Others are a bit more arcane, such as the ABC, which was built in a basement at Iowa State College and was abandoned to obscurity at the beginning of WWII. And then - like the ale of the Rand 409 which was constructed in a barn in Connecticut under the watchful eye of a stuffed moose - there are the stories that are virtually unknown. All combine to create a fascinating history of a now-ubiquitous technology.

Relying on extensive interviews from surviving members of the original teams of hardware jockeys, author Mike Hally recreates the atmosphere of the early days of computing. Rich with provocative and entertaining descriptions, we are introduced to the many eccentric, obsessive, and fiercely loyal men and women who laid the foundations for the computerized world in which we now live. As the acronyms fly fast and furious - UNIVAC, CSIRAC, and MESM, to name just a few -- The Electronic Brain provides a vivid sense of time, place, and science.