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Über dieses Buch

This book is a collection of refereed invited papers on the history of computing from the 1940s to the 1990s with one paper going back to look at Italian calculating/computing machines from the first century to the 20th century. The 22 papers cover a wide range of computing related topics such as specific early computer systems, their construction, their use and their users; software programming and operating systems; people involved in the theory, design and use of these computers; computer education; and conservation of computing technology. Many of the authors were actually involved in the events they describe and share their specific reflections on the history of computing.



Australia’s WREDAC – ItWas Rocket Science

From 1950 Australia’s Long Range Weapons Establishment took steps into an almost unknown future. Building on a tiny bit of experience John Ovenstone addressed a deepening problem with calculations and defined an automatic computing machine. Elliott Brothers used their electronics expertise and bent their efforts from developing their first commercial computer to fill Ovenstone’s order. As LRWE became the Weapons Research Establishment, the ELLIOTT 403 digital automatic computer became WREDAC, and Australia’s second computer - just WRE’s computer was special, it took input from locally built analogue to digital conversion of missile range data, processed this with locally written software, and produced performance reports, off-line, on Australia’s first line printer and the world’s first digital plotters. While this machine was a number cruncher, Ovenstone saw that it could be used for business applications - he programmed demonstration examples and told everyone who would listen that this was the way ahead. Like the other first generation computers WREDAC soon had competition from fast, reliable transistorised machines. Unlike the others WREDAC did not have a university environment to support it and its life was relatively short - but productive and inspiring.
John Deane

Remembering LEO

It is now more than 60 years since the world’s first business use of a computer, the valuation of bakery output, was rolled-out on the LEO I computer at Cadby Hall in London, the headquarters of the food production and catering company J. Lyons and Company. LEO I had been designed and built as a computer to be used for business data processing by a team of engineers recruited by Lyons, with a basic design following the design of the Cambridge University EDSAC. The story of the Lyons initiative has been recorded and explanations of how a company in the food business came to build a computer has been told in books and articles in the last decades (- see Appendix 1 for a comprehensive bibliography of material relating to LEO). This chapter remembers the contribution made by LEO.
Frank Land

A Possible First Use of CAM/CAD

This paper is a discussion of the early days of CAM-CAD at the Boeing Company, covering the period approximately 1956 to 1965. This period saw probably the first successful industrial application of ideas that were gaining ground during the very early days of the computing era. Although the primary goal of the CAD activity was to find better ways of building the 727 airplane, this activity led quickly to the more general area of computer graphics, leading eventually to today’s picture-dominated use of computers.
Norman Sanders

Roberto Busa (1913-2011), Pioneer of Computers for the Humanities

Foreword: Roberto Busa, Societatis Iesu, passed away on August 9, 2011.
I will commit a memory of such a remarkable and unusual personality to a concise – as well as arbitrary – excerpt from his own writings.
Before doing that, I ought to recall the last opportunity I had to meet Father Busa.
In the springtime of 2008, at the outset of a conference, I had the pleasure to drive him in my small car to the airport whence he had to depart. (Aged 95, he still travelled unperturbed on his own!) After so many years of formally respectful friendship, I suddenly felt the need to loyally disclose to him my personal distance from religions, included the one he so vividly professed. He listened quietly, without any comment. Then, at the moment of departure, he unexpectedly said “It’s time we call us simply by name. Corrado – he smiled – you are free to call me father Roberto”.
Corrado Bonfanti

Micro Programming

In the 1970s a need arose to perform special arithmetic operations on minicomputers much more quickly than had been possible in the past. This paper tells the story of why micro programming was needed for special arithmetic operations on mini computers in the 1970s and how it was implemented. The paper tells how the laboratory in which the first experiment took place had a PDP-9 minicomputer from Digital Equipment Corporation and how the author, with several colleagues, after attending a course for the technical service of a PDP-9 given by a specialist from Digital Equipment, knew exactly which signals flew through the machine at any time. The paper describes how by having ‘programmable’ control memory they were able to make changes in the execution of instructions.
Herman Spanjersberg

Experiences and Reflections

I have divided this personal history into three phases; namely computer industry, computer-based systems and complex systems. While the years indicated are approximate and there is significant overlap, it provides a structure to conveying the essence of my career. I have worked with many talented people during my career and we have learned from each other. I thank them all and identify many of them. Further, I take the opportunity to provide some reflections that may have occurred during the experience or in several cases later in my career. I also provide a summary of what I consider to be my most important publications.
Harold ‘Bud’ Lawson

Information Systems Degrees in Australia: The Genesis

This paper traces the birth of the Information Systems degrees offered by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. The paper argues that university curriculum in new areas is a reflection of forces both social and individual. The case of Information Systems curriculum is distinctly different from Computer Science both in the extent of these influences and in the nature of the relationships between the University and industry in general. The analysis presented here is a social history. It does not concentrate on pivotal moments of invention so much as the people and influences that culminated in programs that persist until today.
Audra Lukaitis, Stasys Lukaitis, Bill Davey

Looking Back

In this chapter, I am reminiscing on some of my experiences from my 53 years of living with computers. I am currently a professor and chair in the department of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Hawaii. Over the years, I have only experienced computing environments in three locations (Colorado, Washington, D.C. and Hawaii) but they have all been memorable. The computers that I describe are a part of computing history but are rarely documented.
Martha E. (Hinds) Crosby

The Impact of the Y2K Event on the Popularity of the Pick Database Environment

At Pick’s heyday there were over 3,000 business applications available across a very wide range of hardware platforms supporting from one to thousands of real time users. The tentative economic recovery of the 90s and the Y2K fears created cautious and conservative corporate decision-making. During those tumultuous years there were startling leaps in information and communications technology rewarding those who invested in the future and in themselves. The Pick community at the time were fragmented and somewhat narrow-minded in their view of the future and were unable to collectively invest in developing new technologies. Intense marketing by ‘mainstream’ relational database vendors combined with ERP software vendors brought executive peer group pressure to adopt ‘vanilla’ relational technologies and the desire for homogeneity and perceived immunity from the impending Y2K event. A new corporate jargon was developed to further seduce executive corporate decision makers.
Stasys Lukaitis

Evolution of Computer Science Education in the Purview of Free Education

Sri Lanka was one of the first developing nations to understand the importance of investing in human resources and promoting gender equality. Advances made by the country in health and education are at par with those of the advanced countries. Near universal literacy and a well-developed system of school education, places Sri Lanka as a leader in education in South Asia and amongst the top-performing countries in the entire world. High priority was given to education for over six decades whereby free education has resulted in an increase of school enrolment from 1 million in 1947 to a peak of 4.2 million in the mid-nineties, achieving universal primary education and a high level of participation in secondary education. Net enrolment ratio (in 2004) of 97.9% at primary level, a completion ratio of 95%, and a gender parity of 96% are laudable achievements.
In terms of multi-disciplinary e-readiness criteria, Sri Lanka is also ranked higher than the neighbouring Asian countries in spite of the relatively slow penetration of computers, internet and other telecommunication media. According to the United Nations Report on e-Government Survey of 2008, Sri Lanka is ranked at eighth among twenty other countries in the Southeast/South Asian region.
S. T. Nandasara

Evolution of Computer Education in Spain: From Early Times to the Implementation of the Bologna Agreement

This paper intends to present a short overview of the evolution of computer education in Spain since the initial teaching in this domain to the current works to adapt it to the European Higher Education Space (EHES) from the point of view of somebody that has been involved and has directly participated in most of the steps of this evolution.
Ramon Puigjaner

The History of Computer Language Selection

This examines the history of computer language choice for both industry use and university programming courses. The study considers events in two developed countries and reveals themes that may be common in the language selection history of other developed nations. History shows a set of recurring problems for those involved in choosing languages. This study shows that those involved in the selection process can be informed by history when making those decisions.
Kevin R. Parker, Bill Davey

History of Data Centre Development

Computers are used to solve different problems. For solving these problems computer software and hardware are used, but for operations of those computing facilities a Data Centre is necessary. Therefore, development of the data centre is subordinated to solvable tasks and computing resources. We are studying the history of data centres’ development, taking into consideration an understanding of this. In the beginning of the computer era computers were installed in computing centres, because all computing centres have defined requirements according to whom their operation is intended for. Even though the concept of ‘data centre’ itself has been used since the 1990s, the characteristic features and requirement descriptions have been identified since the beginning of the very first computer operation. In this article the authors describe the historical development of data centres based on their personal experience obtained by working in the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Latvia and comparing it with the theory of data centre development, e.g. standards, as well as other publicly available information about computer development on the internet.
Rihards Balodis, Inara Opmane

Early Italian Computing Machines and Their Inventors

Nineteen centuries of Italian inventors and inventions in the field of aids to arithmetic and algebraic computing, before the electronic computer era, are reviewed; most of them forgotten or still unknown. Not meant to be a complete or ultimate treatise on the topic, this paper hopefully wants to be a starting point for more multidisciplinary research of Italian history of technology.
Silvio Hénin

Computing for the Masses? Constructing a British Culture of Computing in the Home

The creation of the personal computer during the late 1970s and early 1980s is heralded as a time that people were liberated by computers as tools for everyone. The proliferation of affordable and relatively powerful computers changed the landscape of computing across the globe. This chapter looks at the introduction of one machine, the BBC Microcomputer, and its influence on the culture of computing in Britain. It has been celebrated as a computer that transformed the educational landscape and brought the power of these tools to a new generation of users. The chapter shows how the machine was constructed within a broader ambition for computer literacy within Britain, and discusses the role of the BBC team in creating the meaning and values of the machine in the home. It illustrates the interplay between a broadcaster, government desire for a high-tech industry and perceived consumer needs. Drawing on the social construction of technology by a variety of actors (Woolgar, 1991) the chapter suggests that enthusiasm for the BBC Microcomputer came not only from the creation of a concept of utility for home machines, but in its role as a technology that embodied the future and symbolised the social capital of the home.
Recent nostalgia for the BBC Microcomputer and Computer Literacy Project has celebrated this moment in the 1980s as a time when the government seeded a new passion for computing. The chapter suggests that similar projects today, which aim to create an interest in programming, should facilitate a social need for empowerment and interaction in the home, rather than focus purely on the technical capabilities of the machine or push a concept of the perceived utility of computers in education.
Tilly Blyth

Reflections on the History of Computer Education in Schools in Victoria

This paper traces the introduction of computing into schools in the Australian State of Victoria. Told from the point of view of two active participants, the story exposes a number of themes that resonate with experiences in other countries. From its beginnings in the 1970s on borrowed or shared minicomputers and the use of punched cards for teaching programming in conjunction with facilities at local universities, progress in the 1980s was rapid after the advent of the relatively low cost microcomputer. This article tells the story of how computer education developed in Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s, leaving discussion of more recent history for another time.
Arthur Tatnall, Bill Davey

From the History of Russian Computer Science

This article includes a few passages from the History of Computer Science relating to the events of the middle of the last century. The first part of this article contains a short biography of Norbert Wiener, who is considered to be one of the fathers of modern computer science. This part pays particular attention to Norbert Wiener’s visit to Moscow in the summer of 1960. The other parts of the article focus on life and work of Aleksey Lyapunov, Leonid Kantorovich and Andrey Ershov. The outstanding professional achievements of these Russian scientists, as well as their moral perfection, can set an example for modern students and young professionals.
Yakov Fet

Hungarian Scientists in Information Technology

Studying Information Technology, the History of Science and Technology was very rich in Hungarian talents; those who designed ‘clever’ machines at the very early times of calculators. These calculators are the ancestors of the present-time ones that were called later on, in the 20th century, computers. The computer historians may agree or disagree, but I think the first real-life, early ‘calculator-like’ machine was developed by Farkas Kempelen in the 18th century. It was a real output device, a talking machine. Its input was an organ, a music instrument keyboard and the operator of the machine could enter the text and the output of the operation was a human-like speech.
I start the row of the Hungarian inventors with Kempelen and I finish it in the 20th century with a talented mechanical engineer: Marcell Jánosi, who designed and patented the world’s first floppy disk. Among the thirteen Hungarian inventors are engineers, mathematicians, priests etc. all developed machines for the information technology.
Győző Kovács

Information Technology in Italy: The Origins and the Early Years (1954 - 1965)

Narration will be mainly focused on the origin, course and aftermath of four far-reaching initiatives that bloomed in Italy at almost the same time, in a few months encompassing 1954 and 1955; a choice which implies unfair omission of other worthwhile but less influential happenings.
Corrado Bonfanti

Institutional Nostalgia – Museum Victoria’s Cabinet of Computing Curiosities

Museum Victoria has a significant collection of objects that could be described as ‘computing curiosities’. Undoubtedly, its most important exhibit is CSIRAC (formerly CSIR Mk1), which was the world’s fourth electronic digital computer and the only remaining intact first generation computer in the world. The collection of computers and related items, including calculators, range in date from before CSIRAC (1949) to the iPad. This article examines some of these items, what they did and how they were used at the time.
David Demant, Arthur Tatnall

The Changing Face of the History of Computing: The Role of Emulation in Protecting Our Digital Heritage

It is becoming increasingly common for some source material to arrive on our desks after having been transferred to digital format, but little of the material on which we work was actually born digital. Anyone whose work is being done today is likely to leave behind very little that is not digital. Being digital changes everything. This article discusses the issues involved in the protection of digital objects.
David Anderson, Janet Delve, Vaughan Powell

My Fascination with Computing History

This narrative on computing history reflects the experiences of the author and his involvement with computing history over a quarter century. The discussion portrays a transition from loathing history as a student to embracing computing history as a professional. The author shows how storytelling can produce interesting excursions on technical subjects and ways in which teaching computing with history can elevate student interest. He also provides examples showing ways in which historical events could complement computing studies. The article also explains how the author’s earlier efforts in using history to teach computing led to a landmark publication and subsequent activities within IFIP leading to conferences and related publications.
John Impagliazzo


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