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The History of Computing in the History of Technology

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129554D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 17 page(s) / 70K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

MICHAEL S. MAHONEY: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

After surveying the current state of the literature in the history of computing, this article discusses some of the major issues addressed by recent work in the history of technology. It suggests aspects of the development of computing which are pertinent to those issues and hence for which that recent work could provide models of historical analysis. As a new scientific technology with unique features, computing can provide new perspectives on the history of technology.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1988 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

The History of Computing in the History of Technology

MICHAEL S. MAHONEY

(Image Omitted: Author's Address: Program in History of Science, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. (609)452-4157.)

After surveying the current state of the literature in the history of computing, this article discusses some of the major issues addressed by recent work in the history of technology. It suggests aspects of the development of computing which are pertinent to those issues and hence for which that recent work could provide models of historical analysis. As a new scientific technology with unique features, computing can provide new perspectives on the history of technology.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.2 [Computing Milleux]: History of Computing. K.4.0 [Computers and Society]: General.

Additional Terms: History of Technology.

Introduction

Since World War II "information" has emerged as a fundamental scientific and technological concept applied to phenomena ranging from black holes to DNA, from the organization of cells to the processes of human thought, and from the management of corporations to the allocation of global resources. In addition to reshaping established disciplines, it has stimulated the formation of a panoply of new subjects and areas of inquiry concerned with its structure and its role in nature and society (Machlup and Mansfeld 1983). Theories based on the concept of information have so permeated modern culture that it now is widely taken to characterize our times. We live in an "information society," an "age of information." Indeed, we look to models of information processing to explain our own patterns of thought.

The computer has played the central role in that transformation, both accommodating and encouraging ever broader views of information and of how it can be transformed and communicated over time and space. Since the 1950s the computer has replaced traditional methods of accounting and record keeping by a new industry of data processing. As a primary vehicle of communication over both space and time, it has come to form the core of modern information technology. What the English-speaking world refers to as "computer science" is known to the rest of western Europe as informatique (or Informatik or informatica). Much of the concern over information as a commodity and as a natural resource derives from the computer and from computer-based communications technology.11 Hence, the history of the computer and of computing is central to that of information science and technology, providing a thread by which to maintain bearing while exploring the ever-growing maze of disciplines and subdisciplines that claim information as their subject.

1 1. To characterize the unprecedented capabilities of computers linked to telecommunications, Nora and Mi...