IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 16 Number 3 -- Reviews
Original Publication Date: 1994-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Software Patent Institute
PEGGY A. KIDWELL: AUTHOR [+2]
This article describes the Universal Product Code as an example of the ";free enterprise"; version of central planning. Meeting from 1970 to 1974, the Ad Hoc Committee of the grocery industry sponsored and evaluated the development of a code that would allow for electronic identification of consumer products. Morton describes the organization and activity of the Ad Hoc Committee and the response of the computer industry.
THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.
Copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
PEGGY A. KIDWELL, EDITOR
The Reviews department includes reviews of publications, films, audio- and videotapes, and exhibits relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of technical, economic, business, social, and institutional aspects or other works of interest to Annals readers are briefly noted, with appropriate bibliographic information.
Colleagues are encouraged to recommend works they wish to review and to suggest titles to the Reviews editor.
Steven Lubar, InfoCulture: The Smithsonian Book of Information Age Invention, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1993, 408 pp., $34.95.
Spite seems to drive some book reviews. Guilt drives others (a missed deadline, an editor's wrath). And admiration still others. This review falls in the third category. Stephen Lubar has written a handsome and thought-provoking book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I learned a lot. Indeed, it will be a strange person who does not learn much, for Lubar is well-read in his chosen field and seems to have forgotten nothing. Information overload does not seem to be a problem for him.
Information overload is, from one point of view, what the book is all about. Lubar shows us, in his Introduction, a cartoon depicting a business tycoon of 1903 vintage "on vacation": Two telegraph boys are on call; a typist -- probably called a typewriter then -- awaits instructions; the tycoon himself is studying the stock ticker and giving buy and sell orders over the telephone. Lubar's point is that this entrepreneur was already functioning in an environment made up largely of information-processing devices. He was living in, and being transformed by, an "infoculture" -- a culture shaped by the devices it used to generate, filter, and process information. Actually, the cartoon doesn't show any filtering devices except the entrepreneur's own brain. And clearly that device is experiencing stress.
We can all empathize with the situation. But life was not always like that. If living in an "infoculture" causes us problems, they are problems we have created for ourselves, by inventing such machines and then by inventing new ways to use them and live with them. That is the essential theme of Lubar's book.
I must confess that, when I first opened the package, I thought I was facing a "coffee-table book." You know the kind: large format, glossy covers, lots of visuals, something you put on the coffee table to show that you are "cultured," but not something to read. Lubar's book does have a large format (and beautifully laid-out pages), and a glossy cover, and lots of illustrations (chosen, I might add, with intelligence and discrimination). But if you put it on your coffee table to impress the neighbors and don't read it yourself, you are missing an important experience. If you d...