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Computing: A Concise History

(The MIT Press Essential Knowledge)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The history of computing could be told as the story of hardware and software, or the story of the Internet, or the story of "smart" hand-held devices, with subplots involving IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. In this concise and accessible account of the invention and development of digital technology, computer historian Paul Ceruzzi offers a broader and more u ...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published June 15th 2012 by Mit Press
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Ken Gloeckner
Nothing against this book. It certainly delivers as promised by the title a CONCISE history of computing (~150 pages). The writing is clear and skims over a lot of details rapidly. And it's largely trivia and facts -- names, places, and dates -- and not much of the theories or mathematical basis of computing (although the author gallantly attempts to synthesize some of the history while bookending with an analogy of Zeno's Paradox as the speed of change in computing and therefore impossible to s ...more
Soroosh Akef
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A boring book in the beginning (I even gave up on it once), but an inspiring one toward the end, where more familiar companies come into focus.

The book does what it's supposed to do: it offers you a concise but decent account of the history of computers and computing, starting from the Second World War up until the emergence of Facebook and Twitter.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
British robots fought Nazi robots during the battle of Britain.

Well, depending on you definition of robot. The Nazi "Buzz Bombs" were arguably robotic in nature, using a simple guidance system, and so were the automated guns we made to shoot them down. By wrapping wire around a cam shaft we could program the gun to follow a certain path, and update it on the fly using data from our radar system. The guns were pretty much un-manned. We just programmed them and let 'em go.
Scot Fagerland
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking for an account of the decades when computing started to change the world, the 1940s - '70s. I was especially curious about the '50s - '60s, when computers were still behind the scenes to most people but were already advanced enough to fly rockets to the moon. Ceruzzi did a good job of tracking the breakthroughs and trends in computer hardware, software, and networking. Some of that history is inherently a little technical and dry; you can't blame Ceruzzi for that. But contrary to w ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I saw this book at the library in the new book section and decided to borrow. I have worked in computing all my working life and thought this could be interesting. So far, it is a light introduction.


Finished reading this book and felt very underwhelmed with the presentation of the material.
Not worth reading - back it goes to the library.
Akshay Chougule
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech
The book starts by admitting how difficult it is to write the history of something which is still evolving (uses Zeno’s paradox as an analogy). Yet it does a great job of summarizing the evolution in a pretty cogent manner. The book is very informative but never feels like information overload. It helped me connect a lot of names and events I had gleaned in isolated incidents. Also learned some new concepts I had overheard.

The history starts with Pascal’s and Schickard’s mechanical c
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book to be quite interesting. While some of the technical talk went a bit over my head at times, there was much I didn’t know about the development of technology. I found it fascinating that the first computer was inspired by a revolutionary fabric loom from the 19th
century. Nor did I know that IBM was that old of a company. Also, that icons and using a mouse were innovations to come from Xerox Labs - I typically associate Xerox with copy machines. So many advances were funded beca
Tracy Osimowicz
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This book was great! It gives you a well-paced and extensive set of access points to computer history. Some of it I didn't understand, but that is mainly a gap in my own knowledge about tech and networks, not the books fault. For more or less purely informational book, I flew through this! Does use the terms "ad hoc" and "dovetail" about 4 times each throughout, but that's the biggest "complaint" I got xD
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great read into computing history and the important engineers behind them. Reading this helped me appreciate our modern technology more, and gave me a more broad perspective of how it may develop in the future. Who was involved in creating computers? What were the capabilities and limitations of them? How did personal computing become popular? I'd recommend this book to anyone curious about those sorts of questions.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exactly as advertised, concise! A lot of prominent folks are given just a few lines of real estate in this book, which does a great job of avoiding too many details in favor of giving the reader a quick overview of computing history. The author has provided a "Further Readings" section at the end with more in-depth books on topics or people that you may want to further explore.
David Morrison
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
a decent high level description of the history of computers. The author touched on a lot of the reasons why the development of computers has accelerated over the last couple of decades but neglected to bring up the topic of pornography, which was a major driver.
Steven Hart
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good high level introduction to how we went from mechanical machines to the computers of today.
Travis Wagner
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
An engaging history that works (necessarily so) at breakneck speed.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh. Very superficial overview punctuated by brief bursts of insight. I learned something.
Abhishek De
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As the name suggests, gives a brief but interesting insight into all the people and organisations who laid the foundations of the tech world we live in today. A must read for all tech enthusiasts!
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Listened to it via Hoopla. Liked the reader. Organized around concepts rather than people.
Sam Weaver
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This quick read provides an overview of the development of computers, from Turing to Twitter. The historical notes describing early (like, 1800s-era) computational theory were fascinating, to be sure; however, I did find it strange that adding machines warranted more in-depth discussion than the advent of Google.

All in all this was a briskly presented, easy to follow, 10,000-foot level presentation of the evolution of computers. Ceruzzi skirts controversy and avoids editorializing, t
May 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I have no idea who this book is supposed to be for. Much of the more interesting historical bits regarding the invention of the transistor and early computers based on its design has been better covered in more detail in "The Idea Factory", and in a manner easily accessible to the layperson as well. Some of the more recent "historical" bits also seemed patently absurd -- what contemporary reader is going to purchase and read a book from the MIT Press and also need a cursory explanation of what G ...more
Randy Daugherty
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a quick read and very condensed history of the evolution of the computer as well as those components that go with it, the internet, storage, as well as the hardware and software changes.
I picked this up to help research a paper I had due, and was pleasantly surprised.
It was condensed without a lot of technical jargon, though it did explain where certain words came from and how they were used to how they are used.
If you want a history of the technology you use then this is a
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
An extremely well-written account of the rise of computing, written the for the layman. Does an admirable job of presenting complex technical material in a highly accessible manner. The book is stronger on the evolution of hardware than software - perhaps reflecting that the tangibility of hardware is easier to describe than the details of software. (Crucial moments in the history of software design - like object oriented programming, the analysis of algorithms, or the open source movement - sca ...more
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While I was back at school, I was desperate for a history of computing that would give me a framework on which to hang all the new information I was acquiring. This is the book I wish I had.

Published in 2012, it's a tight, well-written, (short!) book, that ties together the technical developments of the 19th century, 1920s, 30s, 40s & 50s into a clear, concise story of how different technical developers (and their resulting tools and ideas) were able to build on earlier work to c
Nilesh Bahir
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great book.
Explains intelligently and fluently the advent and rise of technology.
No innovation or invention is sudden. The beginning time in development of what we call today a computer, cell phone, internet is incredible and formidable history. There lies incessant efforts of geniuses , corporate vision, competition and sometimes luck !

It also gives insight into the earlier names, days of the tech giants as we know today and the ones which died out.

This boo
Tony Poerio
Jun 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Ceruzzi does an excellent job of condensing the history of computing into a book that can essentially fit in your pocket. If you want depth, look elsewhere. But for breadth, this is a fitting overview, and IMO, not too technical for the average reader. Ceruzzi hits salient points clearly and, well, concisely. Not necessarily pleasure reading if you want a novel-like story of the industry. But hard to beat for accessibility.
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Nice little history of you the big picture at least. I found the account of the 1980s and 1990s most fascinating in thinking about how my family was using computers at that point, how they became standard at colleges during my time, etc. Interesting to look back at that in retrospect - I didn't really realize how close I was to the front of "mainstream use".
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: it-accelerator
Great book. the way the history of computers is described is really explanatory. It is interesting to take into consideration that the computer itself start in 1945. Since then the people start connecting other areas that make it necessary.

In the book, they describe them as four themes (Hardware, Software, Communications, Internet).
Sarah Morgan
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book moved concisely through the history of computing. It's written in a "plain English" style that gives even a layperson like me a good grasp of how the modern Information Age was birthed, and the basic principles by which it will mature in years to come.
Chris Hendriks
Concise! New for me was the origin of @.
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not bad overall, but the ending was pretty weak.
Samuel Proulx
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, computers
This book didn't teach me anything I didn't already know. However, if you're new to the subject, this is a good overview that you should be able to finish in one or two sittings.
Karthik Shankar
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-book
Not so interesting after-all
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Paul E. Ceruzzi is Curator at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of Computing: A Concise History, A History of Modern Computing, and Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945–2005, all published by the MIT Press, and other books.

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