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The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  13 reviews
This is a book about the computer revolution of the mid-twentieth century and the people who made it possible. Unlike most histories of computing, it is not a book about machines, inventors, or entrepreneurs. Instead, it tells the story of the vast but largely anonymous legions of computer specialists--programmers, systems analysts, and other software developers--who ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 13th 2010 by MIT Press
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Steve
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ensmenger has provided scholars of organizations, technology, and business a tremendous service with this book. He draws effectively from both the history and sociology of technology to argue that the understanding of the artifact of software is critical to comprehending the ways in which organizations changed after WWII as a result of the wide scale adoption of the electronic digital computer. It forms a very useful companion to Paul Ceruzzi's landmark history of computing ("A History of Modern ...more
Jan D
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Telling the history of how programmer became a job and what kind of job it became. It focusses mainly on a time roughly between 1955 and 1970: Computers are used more and more and more and more people are needed to write software.
The major struggle described is that programmers are seen as hard to manage and the various attempts to make them part of a taylorist machine of software creation which did not work. These attempts are justified by an never ending "software crisis" of projects having
...more
Jo
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: learning, novel
A bit repetitive, some ambiguous terminology when talking about higher-level programming languages and contains a long winded part about certification programs which didn't really interest me.

Having said that, this book is an absolute MUST READ if you have any interest in the history of the profession of software development. I am a professional software developer and this book had me nodding vehemently at stuff I have already figured out myself, but also introduced me to a whole new perspective
...more
Christopher Vetek
Oct 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
too general, rare good info, was hoping it was about specific people more rigorously. finished quick, glad to move on.
Omayma
Aug 05, 2020 added it
The book provides an overview about the history of computing/computer science while shedding the light on the origin of some issues that, surprisingly, still exist like forming/managing software engineering teams, career progression, language wars, gate keeping, exclusionary practices and more.

I'd say the book included some repetition and it could be refined to be more concise with better flow between the sections/chapter. But all in all, it was informative and made me see parallels with other
...more
Stephen Wellbow
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
I found this book difficult to rate. While it is an astoundingly well-researched document of the history of software development and its sociological/professional issues, the writing style is extremely bland and repetitive to the point where I questioned if I should finish reading.

I feel I'd be more comfortable recommending it to a reader as a reference for quotes and facts than something to be digested cover-to-cover.
Caspar
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thesis
Working on a thesis about the history of programming I really enjoyed reading Ensmenger's brilliant summary of the social aspect of computer history. While one book can never tell the full story this book updates the tale to recent isnights and stresses out that the history of technology is not only about tech.
Ietrio
Dec 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Christian scholarship paid by the government. How beautifully shallow!
Liam
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
"To many observers of the computer industry, reconciling the two dominant but opposing views of the history of computing -- the glorious history of computer hardware and the dismal history of computer software -- often has been difficult, if not impossible. The seeming paradox between the inevitable progress promised by Moore's Law and the perpetual crisis in software production challenges conventional assumptions about the progressive nature of computer technology. This is perhaps the most ...more
Lovro
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comp-history
This was a very interesting book. I have read a few books concerning the history of computing or some specific important project, but most of them were written in a technical manner by technical people.
This book is more a sociological work than a technical one. It deals with workers of the computing revolution. There are a few narratives. One of them is the place of women in the computing industry, starting with programmers being almost exclusively women, because every one saw operating the
...more
Jason Lewis
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent sociological and historical survey both of programming as a 'profession' and computer science as an academic discipline. It addresses the dynamics of class and gender in the struggle for legitimacy of each as an independent field, the tension between the two, and the disruptive force of technical expertise within entrenched hierarchical organizations, whether academic or corporate.
Felipe Bañados
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sts
Nice book. A discussion on how the programming profession came to be (or is trying to, for the last 50 years), and how the current social position of programmers is the result of a power struggle between programmers and management.
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