Bright Boys: The Making of Information Technology

Bright Boys: The Making of Information Technology

by Tom Green
     
 

Everything has a beginning. None was more profound—and quite as unexpected—than Information Technology. Here for the first time is the untold story of how our new age came to be and the bright boys who made it happen. What began on the bare floor of an old laundry building eventually grew to rival in size the Manhattan Project. The unexpected

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Overview

Everything has a beginning. None was more profound—and quite as unexpected—than Information Technology. Here for the first time is the untold story of how our new age came to be and the bright boys who made it happen. What began on the bare floor of an old laundry building eventually grew to rival in size the Manhattan Project. The unexpected consequence of that journey was huge—-what we now know as Information Technology.

For sixty years the bright boys have been totally anonymous while their achievements have become a way of life for all of us. “Bright Boys” brings them home. By 1950 they’d built the world’s first real-time computer. Three years later they one-upped themselves when they switched on the world’s first digital network. In 1953 their work was met with incredulity and completely overlooked. By 1968 their work was gospel. Today, it’s the way of the world. Special Foreword by Jay W. Forrester Includes notes by chapter, bibliography, index, and portfolio of archival photography.

Tom Green talks about his book in a recent video available on YouTube.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
It is a fascinating and easy read, and the photographs on the dust cover and throughout the book are used with excellent effect and add to the reader’s feel for the time and place. … the book goes well beyond describing the Whirlwind creators. … I recommend Bright Boys to anyone who wants to begin to understand where some of modern computing came from before the Internet era. I also recommend taking a look at the book’s website before or while reading the book. Perhaps as it did with me, the book will leave you wanting to know more.
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 2011

A+: This is how a computer history book should be written. It’s an amazing history of MIT in the 1940s and 1950s around the invention of the computer. Some other places place an ancillary role (like the Moore School at U Penn and Harvard), but MIT and Cambridge are front and center.
Technology Review, May 2010

Bright Boys cuts right to the heart of how complex technologic systems are conceived, incubated, and grown across generations. Tom's clever writing style draws a reader into the story and the remarkable depth and breadth of his research holds the reader firm, often enthralled, throughout. This is a remarkable case study of the birth and development of a technological system that indispensably beats as the heart of the economy, communications, transportation, and culture- circulating life's blood of information around the globe in the blink of an eye.
—Dik Daso, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

A fascinating story of how it felt to be present at the creation of the Information Age, at a time when, as the author says, there was less than a megabyte of computer memory on the whole planet.
—Paul E. Ceruzzi Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

The research conducted by writer, producer, and playwright Green is impressive ... Recommended.
CHOICE, November 2010, Vol. 48, No. 03

Astonishingly rich and broad recapturing of the subject period. Marvelous and exciting writing!
—Wes Clark, designer of the TX-0 and TX-2 computers

Every time you book an airline ticket, retrieve cash from an ATM machine or even thaw a steak in a microwave oven, you owe a debt to two young men who in the summer of 1946 conceived the first real-time digital computer in a rundown former laundry building near the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass. ... Robert Everett and Jay Forrester were the leaders in the design of that first digital computer, which they called Whirlwind, a behemoth that filled an entire floor of the vacant factory. They are the foremost “bright boys” of the title. With the creation of the Whirlwind leviathan, the bright boys launched the country on one of the greatest and most successful projects in the history of American engineering.
—Tom Mackin, New Jersey Star-Ledger, May 2010

The twentieth century had untold growth and advancement in technology. Bright Boys tells the story of one group of individuals who were driven to push these ideas further and spurred the technological development of the nation following World War II. Working with next to nothing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, these college students brought forth the beginning of many of today's technical ideas. Bright Boys is a riveting read of technological history, highly recommended.
Midwest Book Review, July 2010

The story that unravels between the front and back covers provides a well-written, well-researched discussion of the intricate configuration of circumstances and individuals that conspired in two major firsts: (1) Whirlwind, a first-of-its-kind digital computer capable of processing and delivering information in real time and (2) digital networks capable of transporting information. In the book, Green takes special care to make the reader aware of the social and scientific contexts in which the 'bright boys' worked and flourished; the result is a highly enjoyable history lesson with a true feel for the human aspect of many of the key players.
—Cyntrica Eaton, AAAS Science Books & Films, August 2010

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568814766
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Paul E. Ceruzzi
A fascinating story of how it felt to be present at the creation of the Information Age, at a time when, as the author says, there was less than a megabyte of computer memory on the whole planet. (Paul E. Ceruzzi, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum)
Wes Clark
Astonishingly rich and broad recapturing of the subject period. Marvelous and exciting writing!(Wes Clark, designer of the TX-0 and TX-2 computers)
Dik Daso
Bright Boys cuts right to the heart of how complex technological systems are conceived, incubated, and grown across generations. Tom's clever writing style draws a reader into the story and the remarkable depth and breadth of his research holds the reader firm, often enthralled, throughout. This is a remarkable case study of the birth and development of a technological system that indispensably beats as the heart of the economy, communications, transportation, and culture— circulating life's blood of information around the globe in the blink of an eye. (Dik Daso, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum)
From the Publisher
It is a fascinating and easy read, and the photographs on the dust cover and throughout the book are used with excellent effect and add to the reader’s feel for the time and place. … the book goes well beyond describing the Whirlwind creators. … I recommend Bright Boys to anyone who wants to begin to understand where some of modern computing came from before the Internet era. I also recommend taking a look at the book’s website before or while reading the book. Perhaps as it did with me, the book will leave you wanting to know more.
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 2011

A+: This is how a computer history book should be written. It’s an amazing history of MIT in the 1940s and 1950s around the invention of the computer. Some other places place an ancillary role (like the Moore School at U Penn and Harvard), but MIT and Cambridge are front and center.
Technology Review, May 2010

Bright Boys cuts right to the heart of how complex technologic systems are conceived, incubated, and grown across generations. Tom's clever writing style draws a reader into the story and the remarkable depth and breadth of his research holds the reader firm, often enthralled, throughout. This is a remarkable case study of the birth and development of a technological system that indispensably beats as the heart of the economy, communications, transportation, and culture- circulating life's blood of information around the globe in the blink of an eye.
—Dik Daso, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

A fascinating story of how it felt to be present at the creation of the Information Age, at a time when, as the author says, there was less than a megabyte of computer memory on the whole planet.
—Paul E. Ceruzzi Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

The research conducted by writer, producer, and playwright Green is impressive ... Recommended.
CHOICE, November 2010, Vol. 48, No. 03

Astonishingly rich and broad recapturing of the subject period. Marvelous and exciting writing!
—Wes Clark, designer of the TX-0 and TX-2 computers

Every time you book an airline ticket, retrieve cash from an ATM machine or even thaw a steak in a microwave oven, you owe a debt to two young men who in the summer of 1946 conceived the first real-time digital computer in a rundown former laundry building near the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass. ... Robert Everett and Jay Forrester were the leaders in the design of that first digital computer, which they called Whirlwind, a behemoth that filled an entire floor of the vacant factory. They are the foremost “bright boys” of the title. With the creation of the Whirlwind leviathan, the bright boys launched the country on one of the greatest and most successful projects in the history of American engineering.
—Tom Mackin, New Jersey Star-Ledger, May 2010

The twentieth century had untold growth and advancement in technology. Bright Boys tells the story of one group of individuals who were driven to push these ideas further and spurred the technological development of the nation following World War II. Working with next to nothing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, these college students brought forth the beginning of many of today's technical ideas. Bright Boys is a riveting read of technological history, highly recommended.
Midwest Book Review, July 2010

The story that unravels between the front and back covers provides a well-written, well-researched discussion of the intricate configuration of circumstances and individuals that conspired in two major firsts: (1) Whirlwind, a first-of-its-kind digital computer capable of processing and delivering information in real time and (2) digital networks capable of transporting information. In the book, Green takes special care to make the reader aware of the social and scientific contexts in which the 'bright boys' worked and flourished; the result is a highly enjoyable history lesson with a true feel for the human aspect of many of the key players.
—Cyntrica Eaton, AAAS Science Books & Films, August 2010

Atsushi Akera
A lively and broadly accessible account of Project Whirlwind and its contribution to the development of digital computers and their applications. Green provides us with important context about Jay Forrester and his group at MIT, and brings to life the many dedicated engineers who contributed to this work. (Atsushi Akera, Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Author of Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers, and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research)

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