Browse Prior Art Database

"Those Who Forget the Lessons of History Are Doomed To Repeat It"1 or, Why I Study the History of Computing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129936D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 16 page(s) / 64K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JOHN A. N. LEE: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The impact of the information revolution on our society and our industry is immense. In our increasing desire to control our own destinies, we seek to understand not only our contemporary technology, but also to look to the past to recognize trends that will allow us to predict some elements of the future. Looking backward to discover parallels and analogies to modern technology can provide the basis for developing the standards by which we judge the viability and potential for a current or proposed activity. But we also have a feeling of responsibility for preserving the achievements of our forebears through the establishment of archives and museums, with the expectation that the pleasure of discovery will easily outweigh the profitability of mere historical rumination. Although there had been a pride in the achievements of the former years of technological development, it was in the mid-1970s when the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS), with the foresight provided by Walter Carlson and the leadership of Henry Tropp, sponsored a project to preserve the history of computing. In cooperation with the National Museum of American History, the formal study of our history was initiated. This study is now at the point where it is now a respected element of the field of the history of technology; our early researchers and scholars have been joined by several eminent historians, and the topic is beginning to produce young scholars who bring further prestige to the occupation. For the first time, the 1991 curriculum for computer science, developed by the IEEE Computer Society and the Association for Computing Machinery Joint Task Force, included explicit educational modules related to history in four specific areas: -- Artificial Intelligence, -- Operating Systems, -- Programming Languages, and -- Social, Ethical and Professional Issues.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 6% of the total text.

Page 1 of 16

THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

"Those Who Forget the Lessons of History Are Doomed To Repeat It"1 or, Why I Study the History of Computing

1

JOHN A. N. LEE

The year 1996 marks the 50th anniversary of the public revelation of the ENIAC, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Large Scale Computing Subcommittee of the AIEE under the chairmanship of Charles Concordia, and the beginning of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM. Within those years, the computer field has not only developed but has had added to it new concepts and ideas that have transmogrified it into an almost unrecognizable entity. We are reaching the stage of development where each new generation of participants is unaware both of their overall technological ancestry and the history of the development of their specialty, and have no past to build upon. Herein we look at the study of the history of computing and its applicability to today's technological challenges, and conclude with the recommendation that we need to know enough about our history to protect ourselves from it and not be condemned to repeat it, but also to use it to our advantage.

Introduction

The impact of the information revolution on our society and our industry is immense. In our increasing desire to control our own destinies, we seek to understand not only our contemporary technology, but also to look to the past to recognize trends that will allow us to predict some elements of the future. Looking backward to discover parallels and analogies to modern technology can provide the basis for developing the standards by which we judge the viability and potential for a current or proposed activity. But we also have a feeling of responsibility for preserving the achievements of our forebears through the establishment of archives and museums, with the expectation that the pleasure of discovery will easily outweigh the profitability of mere historical rumination.

Although there had been a pride in the achievements of the former years of technological development, it was in the mid-1970s when the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS), with the foresight provided by Walter Carlson and the leadership of Henry Tropp, sponsored a project to preserve the history of computing. In cooperation with the National Museum of American History, the formal study of our history was initiated. This study is now at the point where it is now a respected element of the field of the history of technology; our early researchers and scholars have been joined by several eminent historians, and the topic is beginning to produce young scholars who bring further prestige to the occupation. For the first time, the 1991 curriculum for computer science, developed by the IEEE Computer Society and the Associati...