Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer Technology / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 90%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $9.95   
  • Used (7) from $1.99   


In Moths to the Flame, Gregory J. E. Rawlins took lay readers on a tour of the exciting and sometimes scary world to which compters are leading us. This new book is for those who are new to computers and want to know what is "under the hood." It shows what computers can do for us and to us. It tells the story of how we became slaves to our machines and how our machines may one day become slaves to us. Written in an accessible, anecdotal form, Slaves of the Machine presents the birth of the computer, charts its evolution, and envisions its development over the next fifty years.Each of the six chapters asks a simple question: What are computers? How do we build them? How do we talk to them? How do we program them? What can't they do? Could they think? After answering its question, each chapter views its topic in terms of the state of the art as of1997 and into the near future. Rawlins successfully demystifies the computer —the first step away from slavery to it.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
[H]ere's something completely different: a computer book for smart people. . . an elegant, thought-provoking little book, full of literary references and history.
Washington Post
[A]n elegant, thought-provoking little book, full of literary references and history.
Kirkus Reviews
An uninspiring review of the history of the computer, and an evaluation of its impact on our society today and in decades to come.

In his previous book, Moths to the Flame: The Seductions of Computer Technology (not reviewed), Rawlins wrote effectively for a lay audience, prophesying the future of the computer and preaching cautious guidance of its evolution toward thinking machines. For some reason, he revisits that topic here with little variation in his material or tone. But this time, the material seems dull and overly abstract. In this diminutive volume, Rawlins (Computer Science/Indiana Univ., Bloomington) takes us through the oft-repeated history of the computer, from British mathematicians Charles Babbage and Alan Turing to todays programmers working in esoteric machine languages. He then asks a series of important questions: How do we communicate with computers? What can and can't they do? Can they mimic the thought processes of the human brain? Yet, despite an overly pedantic and hortatory tone, the answers fail to inform. Rawlins's anecdotes and metaphors are repetitive, and his thinking is circuitous, if not tautological: "Only tomorrow's children can tell us what tomorrow's computers can do." Rawlins seems caught between talking down to the lay reader and writing in sophisticated terms about the growing influence of computer technology. At the book's end, he finally comes to its point: Since computers are evolving rapidly (he claims they double in complexity every 18 months) and we are not, computers will ultimately become uncontrollable: "No self-aware creature will suffer itself to be a slave," he warns. But he doesn't posit specific solutions; indeed, it isn't even clear that he thinks this is potentially disastrous.

Muddled intentions, combined with the unconvincing specter of a world full of HALs controlling their makers, diminish Rawlins's latest effort to enlighten us about our future.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262681025
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/1998
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,338,642

Table of Contents

1 A Strange New Machine 1
2 The Greed for Speed 21
3 Precisely Speaking 41
4 The Subjective Mood 63
5 Limits to Growth 83
6 Thinking About Thinking 105
My Thanks 129
Index 131
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)