Contents


Chapter Outline

1. Introduction -  universal machines 
An abacus or calculator can only do one thing, arithmetic. A computer can do many different things, you can use one to: email, write documents, edit movies, design buildings, video conference, etc. The computer can be positioned along side other tools that are universal, such as: fire, the Neolithic stone axe and the wheel. A tool is universal if it can be used for a wide variety of different tasks and if its removal would cause a society to collapse back to a more primitive form. Consider what would happen if all wheels were suddenly removed from Victorian society; no vehicle wheels, no spinning wheels, no potters wheels, no millstones, no cogwheels. There would be no transportation, no industry, no food, society would come to a halt. Now consider our society without computers! 

2. The Dawn of Computing
In 1991 The British Science Museum successfully builds a replica of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No.2. It is the ultimate steam punk fantasy; eleven feet long, eight feet high, has eight thousand moving parts and weighs five tons. Building the Difference Engine vindicated Babbage who had failed to build one during his life. Moreover, it proved that his more radical design for the Analytical Engine could have been built and would have worked. A mechanical programmable computer was possible in Victorian England. The man behind the machine was a mathematician and inventor who dreamed of creating a mechanical computer. The chapter describes his motivation and attempts to build, first the Difference Engine, and later the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine is very important because it has the same architecture as a modern digital computer; a memory, a central processor, input-output devices and the ability to run programs.  An unusual woman, Lady Ada Lovelace, who was Lord Byron’s daughter, collaborated with Babbage and wrote on computing and intelligence in the 1840s. This was the birth of the idea of a universal machine that could perform any task that could be programmed in to it; perhaps even write music or poetry. 

3. Marvelous Machines
Babbage’s failure to build his computing machines, despite  huge government funding, caused a backlash in Britain; nobody would try to build such a machine for a century. In the US though, after the Civil War, the Remington company was looking for something metal and mechanical it could build; nobody wanted to by its rifles any more. Remington decided to make typewriters. In 1889 the US government held a competition to design a machine to tally up the census results; the task was becoming to laborious as the population grew.  Hermann Hollerith won with the design of an electromechanical tabulating machine. Along with the inventors of the punch clock for employee time-keeping, a weighing scale, and a dial recorder, they would form a company that would layer become IBM. Around the same time the cash register was invented and Americans were enthusiastically using more and more machines in shops, offices, factories and farms for a multitude of tasks. Although these machines are not universal, rather they are very specific each to a single task, they showed that many different office and business tasks could be automated. With the advent of the computer in the 1950s computers would increasingly perform many of these tasks. 

4. Computers Go To War
World War II led to the development of the modern computer building on a theoretical mathematical breakthrough by the English genius  Alan Turing. His pioneering work proved that a simple computer, a Turing Machine, could solve any problem that could be programmed into it. During the war Turing worked on breaking the German Enigma and Lorenz machine codes with the development of electronic computers such as the Colossus. Post war he worked on ACE, the Manchester Baby and the Mark 1 computers until his untimely suicide in 1954. Set alongside this will be the development in the US of the Harvard Mark 1, the last mechanical calculating engine. 

5. Computers and Big Business
 IBM predict only 5 computers will be needed worldwide, but mainframe computers do go out to work. The development of ENIAC, EDVAC and the first commercial computer UNIVAC is described. The architecture of the mainframe along with its operating modes of time sharing and batch processing are introduced. The first business computing system, the Lyons Electronic Office in England is showcased and then Bank of America’s ERMA system. This  resulted in two innovations -bank account numbers and magnetic characters on bank checks. Finally  the SABRE airline ticketing system is described; system introduced in the 1960s and still in use today.

6. Deadheads and Propeller Heads
San Francisco and the 60's counter culture - this chapter opens with Doug Engelbart giving the “Mother of all demos” in 1969, showcasing the mouse, graphical interface, networking and video conferencing. Now there is a dream of computers augmenting human intelligence and increasingly of people using their own computer, not time-sharing a mainframe. The chapter will then describe the development of the Stanford business park that provided the seed for Silicon Valley. The establishment of research institutions like - SRI, SAIL and Xerox PARC. 

7. The Computer Gets Personal
The birth of the PC - Hobbyists like Steve Wozniak and the Homebrew Computer Club get hold of inexpensive microchips and build the first home computers. There will be a detailed biography of “Woz” and the founding of Apple. Software as a money-making concept is introduced; PONG is the first "killer app" for home computing. The spreadsheet encourages businessmen to have a computer on their desk and the word processor kills the typewriter. Desktop publishing, the laser printer and the Macintosh revolutionizes the publishing and print industries. The chapter concludes with biography of Bill Gates and the founding of Microsoft. 

8. Weaving the Web
Tim Berners-Lee almost accidentally transforms economics and society with the invention of the World Wide Web.  For the web to work we need the Internet and its development is described along with the invention of email and the Web. A description of the browser wars between Microsoft and Netscape is given. 

9. Dotcom
The explosive growth in websites and companies that provide new services on the web and the dotcom bubble is described. The founding of Google, Amazon, and eBay are introduced along with Napster.

10. The Second Coming
Apple has been long eclipsed by Microsoft and is almost bankrupt when Steve Jobs returns to build it into the most valuable company on the planet. The chapter opens with a biography of Steve Jobs including NeXT computers and Pixar. The iMac, iPod and iPhone make computers a style accessory. Computers are now mobile and connected to the Internet 24/7.

11. Web 2.0
The Web becomes part of our social lives. The chapter describes Friendster and MySpace before a biography of Mark Zuckerberg the co-founder of Facebook. The development of YouTube and Twitter is described along with the impact the Web 2.0 and social networks are having on society. 

12. Digital Underworld
The book has concentrated on positive aspects of computers. This chapter focuses on the negative. A short history of hacking is given along with the invention of worms, viruses, Trojans, malware and spyware. Cybercrime and even cyberwar is envisaged. The potential for identity theft, the invasion of privacy and state surveillance is discussed.

13. Machines of Loving Grace
Moore’s Law is reaches its culmination as microchip designers reach the limitation of what is possible with miniaturizing the silicon chip. But until then (some time in the next decade) chips will continue to get cheaper and cheaper. The computer will virtually disappear, partly into the cloud and ubiquitous (or ambient) computing i through wearable computers will become a reality. Autonomous driverless cars will transform our relationship with the car and advances in medical robotics will transform the care of the elderly. 

14. Digital Consciousness
Artificial intelligence and machine learning allow computers and robots to assist us in day-to-day tasks, but can machines ever be said to really “think?” Some philosophers don’t think so and we will look at John Searle’s thought experiment, “the Chinese Room,” to examine this contentious issue.  Unconventional methods of computation such as quantum and molecular computing, may eventually allow computers to become even faster. Our digital existences will be discussed; after we die will our digital personas live on? Will our species finally transcend our physical realities?

Resources
The principal sources for each chapter are listed along with specific web links and general links on the history of computing.