cover image A History of Modern Computing

A History of Modern Computing

Paul E. Ceruzzi, Author, Ceruzzi, Author MIT Press (MA) $55 (410p) ISBN 978-0-262-03255-1

A curator at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian) and historian of technology (Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age) offers a coherent yet thorough history of the computer. Ceruzzi begins in 1945 and ends in 1995, concentrating on commercial systems in the U.S. The story proceeds chronologically, tracing the evolution and repeated redefinition of what we understand by the word ""computer."" Starting with background to the UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer, an early stored-program device introduced in 1951), Ceruzzi tracks developments in substantial detail, from early commercial computing to mainframes, the growing role of software, minicomputers, the subsequent movement to personal computing and, finally, the emergence of networking. The account does not require a background in computer science and is loaded with explanations about the origins of particular devices and functions (e.g., disk drives, RAM) as well as famous machines, internal architectures and histories of momentous companies (e.g., IBM, DEC). Ceruzzi sustains an interesting and manageable level of complexity, but his book is somewhat hobbled by a dry style and occasionally turgid elaborations that might better have been relegated to the extensive annotations. 51 illustrations. (Dec.)