IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 10 Number 3 -- Reviews
Original Publication Date: 1988-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Software Patent Institute
WILLIAM ASPRAY: AUTHOR [+2]
THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.
Copyright ©; 1988 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.
The Reviews Department features reviews of films, audio and videotapes, exhibits, and publications relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of any technical, economic, business, social, or institutional aspect of the history of computing will be given a complete review. Dissertations, articles, and other studies of interest to Annals readers will be listed in a section on "Other Literature," with full bibliographic citations and notes on their nature and availability. From time to time we will also invite longer essay reviews on important research topics, the published literature on these topics, and further opportunities for research.
Most reviews are solicited, but colleagues are encouraged to participate by indicating their wish to review a work or by suggesting titles to the Reviews Editor.
The wide diffusion of the computer across modern societies is reflected in the historical literature: historical discussions of the development, applications, and impacts of the computer are found in a wide range of publications and in many different languages. I would like to take this opportunity to ask for volunteers to help identify and prepare abstracts of historical materials written in languages other than English, French, and German.
Burks, Alice R. and Arthur W. Burks. The First Electronic Computer: The Atanasoff Story. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988.
For those who are interested in early electronic computers, and in the process of innovation, the Burks have written an extremely important and engrossing book. They have performed two vital services for the history of computing. Building on Arthur Burks' unrivalled technical experience of electronic computing, from the earliest days until the present, they have given a detailed description of Atanasoff's great achievement in designing and constructing the machine which initiated a technological revolution, and of its influence on subsequent developments. Using the records of the momentous Honeywell-Sperry Rand patent trial, which they correctly describe as "a researcher's dream," they have furthermore presented a definitive account of the events surrounding Atanasoff's work and of the priority dispute which resulted in the famous judgement that "Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff."
It is particularly timely that a comprehensive technical account of Atanasoff's invention should appear now, since the knowledge of vacuum tube techniques which is necessary to understand the original documents is a dying art, being restricted essentially to those over 50 years of age. Even those without such a knowledge should however be...