Electronic Brains: Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age

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9780309096300: Electronic Brains: Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age

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 computer, before there were laptops and personal PCs, there were small independent teams of pioneers working on the development of the very first computer. Scattered around the globe and ranging in temperament and talent, they forged the future in basement labs, backyard, workshops, and old horse barns.

Tracing the period just after World War II when the first truly modern computers were developed, Electronic Brains 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 tale of the Rand 409 which wss 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 go 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 - Electronic Brains provides a vivid sense of time, place, and science.

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About the Author:

Mike Hally trained as an electrical engineer and worked at British Aerospace for 17 years. He now works for BBC/Radio 4 as a freelance journalist and producer.

From Publishers Weekly:

Inspired by a popular BBC radio series of the same name, this book details the post-war computer development boom, concentrating on the personalities instead of the technology, and blending human interest with history in a lighthearted way that will appeal to technophiles and Luddites alike. With its global emphasis, the book chronicles Australian, UK, American and Soviet computer pioneers, and touches on social issues like the Cold War and IBM's business relationship with Nazi Germany. In the book's best (and final) essay, "It's Not About Being First: The Rise and Rise of IBM," Hally deftly handles decades of Big Blue's complex engineering, political and business history, revealing how the computing giant's business practices changed with the technology it created. Major historical events serve as the backdrop to Hally's history; The Manhattan Project's atomic researches, presidential elections, wars and revolutions all figure into the computer's development. The book has its techie moments, but this is an informative and entertaining read for anyone who's ever wondered about the evolution of computers from vacuum-tube-filled, moth-cooking, multi-ton calculators to iPods and wafer thin laptops.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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