When Computers Were Human

When Computers Were Human

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by David Alan Grier
     
 

"When Computers Were Human is a detailed and fascinating look at a world I had not even known existed. After reading these accounts of ingenuity, determination, and true creative breakthrough, readers will look at today's computer-based society in an entirely different way."—James Fallows, National Correspondent, Atlantic Monthly

"How

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Overview

"When Computers Were Human is a detailed and fascinating look at a world I had not even known existed. After reading these accounts of ingenuity, determination, and true creative breakthrough, readers will look at today's computer-based society in an entirely different way."—James Fallows, National Correspondent, Atlantic Monthly

"How did the lives of people and the lives of numbers become so intimately entwined? David Alan Grier's authoritative, engaging, and richly detailed account of this neglected chapter in the history (and prehistory) of computing abounds with remarkable characters, sheds long-awaited light on their achievements, and could not have been better told."—George Dyson, author of Darwin among the Machines

"The story of computation before the invention of the computer is an important one—one that has not been told in this way before. This narrative grabs you right from the first page. Grier tells the human story behind some of the greatest scientific accomplishments, and tells it in a very readable way."—Michael R. Williams, Head Curator, Computer History Museum

"The history of the electronic computer has become the topic of a fair amount of scholarly work, and yet the wonderful story of the (collective) human computer has barely been noticed. This book will appeal both to an appreciable range of scholars and to more general readers. The style is pleasant and informal; the mathematics, accessible and interesting."—Theodore M. Porter, author of Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691091570
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/22/2005
Pages:
424
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.14(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Grandmother's Secret Life 1

Part I: Astronomy and the Division of Labor 1682-1880 9

Chapter One: The First Anticipated Return: Halley's Comet 1758 11

Chapter Two: The Children of Adam Smith 26

Chapter Three: The Celestial Factory: Halley's Comet 1835 46

Chapter Four: The American Prime Meridian 55

Chapter Five: A Carpet for the Computing Room 72

Part II: Mass Production and New Fields of Science 1880-1930 89

Chapter Six: Looking Forward, Looking Backward: Machinery 1893 91

Chapter Seven: Darwin's Cousins 102

Chapter Eight: Breaking from the Ellipse: Halley's Comet 1910 119

Chapter Nine: Captains of Academe 126

Chapter Ten: War Production 145

Chapter Eleven: Fruits of the Conflict: Machinery 1922 159

Part III: Professional Computers and an Independent Discipline 1930-1964 175

Chapter Twelve: The Best of Bad Times 177

Chapter Thirteen: Scientific Relief 198

Chapter Fourteen: Tools of the Trade: Machinery 1937 220

Chapter Fifteen: Professional Ambition 233

Chapter Sixteen: The Midtown New York Glide Bomb Club 256

Chapter Seventeen: The Victor's Share 276

Chapter Eighteen: I Alone Am Left to Tell Thee 298

Epilogue: Final Passage: Halley's Comet 1986 318

Acknowledgments 323

Appendix: Recurring Characters, Institutions, and Concepts 325

Notes 333

Research Notes and Bibliography 373

Index 401

Illustration Credits 412

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