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Information and Secrecy: Vannevar Bush, Ultra, and the Other Memex

Overview

Written for the general reader, Burke's volume provides the first view of the relationships among America's librarians, cryptanalysts and educators as they created information science, computerized codebreaking, and the modern research university. Using hundreds of primary and secret documents and more than twenty illustrations to trace the careers of Vannevar Bush of MIT and the navy's codebreaking agency, OP-20-G, Burke shows how the lack of coherent American science and intelligence policies led to the tangled...

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Overview

Written for the general reader, Burke's volume provides the first view of the relationships among America's librarians, cryptanalysts and educators as they created information science, computerized codebreaking, and the modern research university. Using hundreds of primary and secret documents and more than twenty illustrations to trace the careers of Vannevar Bush of MIT and the navy's codebreaking agency, OP-20-G, Burke shows how the lack of coherent American science and intelligence policies led to the tangled lives of two proto-computers that were the world's first electronic data-processing machines. The histories of Bush's Memex-like microfilm Rapid Selector for the American Documentalists and his Comparator for those who created the nation's Ultra Bombe and RAM machines began in the early 1930s and suffered through a generation of struggles with intransigent technologies, policy conflicts with the British over the control of signals-intelligence and the unwillingness of America to develop information and intelligence technologies until the Cold War turned to science and the library to fulfill defense needs. Now, as the United States is on the verge of investing billions of dollars in information highways while reducing its intelligence capabilities, the tragedy of Bush's machines warns against information scientists putting technology ahead of logic and of the dangers of the nation returning to isolationism. Indexed and with extensive endnotes which serve the bibliographic function.

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Editorial Reviews

The Journal Of Academic Librarianship
...a thoroughly researched, well-written and otherwise fascinating account of an information technology....
Choice
This readable and fascinating history should be in information science and computer science collections.
ALR
Burke tells an enthralling tale of policy clashes and intrigue, of financial deals and inter-agency skullduggery...this is great reading for anybody willing to pursue a fascinating byway of our professional history.
Journal Of Documentation
This is an important book, which should be of interest to readers across a wide spectrum of interests. It is clearly written, and all of it is intelligible to non-technologists.
Cryptologia
This highly original work contains previously unpublished information on many subjects, particularly American World War II Rapid Analytical Machines (RAM) for cryptanalytic purposes.
Journal Of Information Ethics
...considerable detail...an extremely relevant study that deals with significant ethical and social aspects of how information technology can best be developed.
The Library Quarterly
This book is well worth reading.
Wilson Library Bulletin
...a thoughtful job of recording, interpreting, and putting into perspective the work of a number of individuals.
The Cryptogram
This innovative work has a lot of fascinating new information and its 73 pages of densely packed notes attest to the intensive research demanded.
The Journal of Academic Librarianship
...a thoroughly researched, well-written and otherwise fascinating account of an information technology....
Journal Of Information and Library Research
...there is no doubt it has uncovered much new material...an interesting book, a labour of love.
Government Information Quarterly
Burke does an excellent job of describing the evolution of the cryptanalytic machines of World War II...
CHOICE
This readable and fascinating history should be in information science and computer science collections.
Alr
Burke tells an enthralling tale of policy clashes and intrigue, of financial deals and inter-agency skullduggery...this is great reading for anybody willing to pursue a fascinating byway of our professional history.
Journal of Information Ethics
...considerable detail...an extremely relevant study that deals with significant ethical and social aspects of how information technology can best be developed.
Journal of Information and Library Research
...there is no doubt it has uncovered much new material...an interesting book, a labour of love.
ALR
Burke tells an enthralling tale of policy clashes and intrigue, of financial deals and inter-agency skullduggery...this is great reading for anybody willing to pursue a fascinating byway of our professional history..
Choice
This readable and fascinating history should be in information science and computer science collections.....
Journal Of Documentation
This is an important book, which should be of interest to readers across a wide spectrum of interests. It is clearly written, and all of it is intelligible to non-technologists..
Booknews
Explores the code-breaking machines developed by the US Navy and independent scientists during the 1930s and 1940s, weaving through the labyrinth of classified documents, lost records, industrial secrets, undocumented projects, sealed archives, and other puzzles. A primary objective is to discover to what extent these machines contributed to the electronic computer. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810827837
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Pages: 487
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.72 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Burke (Ph.D., Washington University) is an historian and educator who has written on American social history, the history of higher education, quantitative methods and the history of computers. He has received awards from, among others, the SSRC and the Spencer Foundation. He was the senior Fulbright scholar in Poland during the fall of Communism and has acted as a consultant to government agencies.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Foreword
Terms and Abbreviations
Ch. I Introduction and Overview: The Age of Information and Secrecy 1
Ch. II An Institution and a Man for American Technology 23
Ch. III A Man for Technology and the Navy 45
Ch. IV Little Science, Big Corporations and the Calculation Problem 73
Ch. V Little Libraries and Little Science: The Information Problem 99
Ch. VI Machines for Secrecy: Perhaps 125
Ch. VII The Machine That Wouldn't: The Comparator 151
Ch. VIII The Next Machine That Wouldn't: The Other Memex 177
Ch. IX Disorganizing for War: The Comparator Fails, Again 201
Ch. X Microfilm Not at War 231
Ch. XI Back to Electromechanics: Ultra and the Bombe 257
Ch. XII Beyond the Bombe: Back to Hooper's Dream 287
Ch. XIII The Postwar Trauma: The Reappearance of the Other Memex 323
Ch. XIV A Machine for the Cold War and Big Science: Not for the Library 351
Notes 377
Index 451
About the Author 467
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