What would life be like without a computer? It’s tough to envision but it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have them. Now a number of us carry multiple computers, i.e. laptops, e-readers, and smartphones.
George Dyson, a science historian, asks how we went from having no computers to having so many in such a small amount of time period in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.
Dyson, the son of scientist Freeman Dyson, has spent much of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The institute was home to several of the world’s most powerful scientific minds while the first digital computer was being created.
After you’ve read Turing’s Cathedral, you’ll discover just how much chance went into developing the machine that brought about the computers we currently take for granted. The personalities at the Princeton Institute didn’t often mesh well, but somehow they managed to produce the world’s first digital computer. This machine was assembled and run from an otherwise nondescript building in New Jersey.
Genius or not, people are still people, and when working closely on the same project there are sure to be rivalries and disagreements that arise. Turing’s Cathedral lays these matters open, showing the humanity of the scientist that created 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 creation of the computer walked hand in hand with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.
You may think that a history of the computer would be a dull read. You might think that it’d be loaded with impossible-to-understand lingo. Luckily, Dyson’s history of the computer makes for an interesting read, and you do not need an advanced degree to comprehend it. Anybody who uses a computer – and that is an awful lot of people today – should purchase a copy of Turing’s Cathedral. You could be astonished at what you learn.
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