on 1 June 2011
This book is titled as a biography of just one of the pioneers of early digital computers, JV Atanasoff who built the ABC at Iowa State College in the late 1930s/early 1940s, and was subsequently named in a US court action as the inventor of electronic computing. As you would imagine of a book written by a prize-winning novelist, the story is told in finely crafted prose, and in sufficient detail to give a flavour of the achievement without it being a texbook of computer science. What isnt obvious from the subtitle is that the author spends an appropriate amount of time putting Atanasoff's work in context with the life and work of other computer pioneers such as the originally lauded inventors of the digital computer Mauchly and Eckert,the British Bletchley Park duo of Turing and Flowers, and other originals such as John Von Neumann and Konrad Zuse. For each scientist Smiley gives a really evocative pen picture of their characters, their backstories and relays some detail of their work.
This is a fine book, which I finished after a couple of days of enjoyable reading (it is about 200 pages long), and I would recommend it to anyone interested in finding out about the people who were working on the original electronic computers and how their stories are interlinked.
on 7 January 2015
I liked lots about this book - it looked at developments in computers in Germany the US and the UK, for a start, and explained why computers were becoming so necessary by the 1930's. There were telling asides about the importance of those with central European origins who made important contributions, and the crass way the British Government shot the nascent British computer industry in the foot, and the growth and importance of Land Act universities in the States, and, and.........