A Bold Look at the History of the Computer

Can you imagine life without the computer? It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have them, yet today we carry them around in our pockets in the form of smartphones.

George Dyson, a science historian, asks how we went from having no computers to having so many in such a short time period in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.

Dyson, the son of scientist Freeman Dyson, has spent a great deal of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The institute was home to some of the world’s most impressive scientific minds while the first digital computer was being created.

Turing’s Cathedral explores the creation of the computer, featuring the contrasting personalities that were thrown together to work on the project. It also examines what was involved in the invention of the computer, much of which was chance.

Genius or not, people are still people, and when working tightly on the same project there are sure to be rivalries and disagreements that happen. Turing’s Cathedral lays these things open, displaying the humanity of the scientist that came up with the first computer.It was not just the personal disputes that needed to be put aside to make this project productive; there were also ethical issues involved. The work that went into the development of the computer walked hand in hand with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.

You might have the idea that a history book about computers won’t just be dry but also full of complicated jargon. This is not the case with Turing’s Cathedral; most people who use computers will find this book interesting. And that is a lot of people today.

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