Monday, March 12, 2012

The history of computing: Creation story | The Economist

Excerpt from a review of George Dyson’s latest book, Turing’s Cathedral

Yet despite establishing the blueprint for all subsequent computers, which are known to this day as Neumann machines, the IAS machine is less well known, even among computer-history buffs, than ENIAC or Colossus. Admittedly, it was not the first stored-program machine; during its construction, von Neumann and others modified ENIAC to a stored-program design, and other stored-program machines were also built in Britain. But the IAS machine’s design was distributed and widely copied; one of its many offspring was the IBM 701, the first commercially successful computer.

Mr Dyson’s book, the product of ten years in the IAS archives, is an effort to remedy this blind-spot in computing history. It seems to have arisen, in part, because the IAS was embarrassed by the practical nature of von Neumann’s project, making it reluctant to highlight its role in the genesis of modern computing.

The history of computing: Creation story | The Economist

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