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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 12 Number 1 -- Reviews

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129647D
Original Publication Date: 1990-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 3 page(s) / 18K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

PAUL CERUZZI: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

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 citation and notes on its nature and availability.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 40% of the total text.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1990 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Reviews

PAUL CERUZZI, EDITOR

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 citation and notes on its nature and availability.

Colleagues are encouraged to participate by indicating their wish to review a work or by suggesting titles to the Reviews Editor.

Reviews without a byline are by the editor.

REVIEWS

Nijholt, Anton. Computers and Languages: Theory and Practice. Studies in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 4. Amsterdam and New York: Elsevier Science Publishers, 1988. 482 pp., index, $89.50.

Computers and Languages is, in a sense, two books contained in one volume. The first, which I would want to name "Computers in War and Peace," comprises Chapters 1 through 6 and Chapter 13, and takes up about 180 of the nearly 500 pages. The second book, comprising chapters 7 through 12, could be called "An Introduction to Formal Languages, Parsing, and Natural Language Processing."

The latter set of chapters is a thorough and readable beginner's course in those fields. The former -- which is of primary interest to Annals readers -- is a general history of the computer and artificial intelligence, and about their impact on the military. It is written from a point of view clearly on the left side of the political spectrum. I sympathize with the political views of the author, but I feel that if he had so much to say, he should have said it in two books. Many will now agree that there is no such thing as "value- free" science, and therefore there is nothing wrong with pointing out the political dimensions of pure science. But Nijholt does not succeed in fitting the two together very well. The chapters on formal languages seem to have been written independently of those in which their political dimension is described -- almost as if the author believes these topics really are "value-free" after all.

Politically-charged books are often sloppy with facts, and Nijholt did not escape this tradition. Charles Babbage was born in 1791, not 1792 (p. 4); he designed a Difference, not a "Differential" Engine (p. 12), and so on. Small details, but they do add up. The book seems to have been written sometime in 1986 or 1987. It reflects the tense political atmosphere of the mid- 1980s, but seems already out- of-date in light of the rapid and profound changes taking place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since about 1988. (Ronald Reagan's name appears several times, mostly in conn...