Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Remedial Reading: The Dream Machine

Today we offer a new feature, Remedial Reading, in which your favorite wonk looks at worthwhile books I hadn't gotten around to sooner.
First up,
The Dream Machine, an exhaustive account of the origins of modern computing including the orignas of the Internet and the modern computer interface. Mitchell Waldrop weaves the story around one pioneer, J.C.R. Licklider, who seems to have been in the middle of it all from the 1950s through the 1990s. Licklider was instrumental in making the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (or ARPA) the funder that underwrote most of the research that led to computing as we know it. Even the most alert readers, who know that the Internet started as the Arpanet, may not recognize Licklider's name. I didn't.
Licklider's passion was improving the way humans and computers worked together. Older geeks remember computers safe within air conditioned rooms watched over by the chosen few wearing white lab coats. Licklider set out to change that.
BoingBoing has a link to a 1972 documentary entitled "Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing" that describes the beginnings of computer networking. The Internet didn't just happen; some really smart, really dedicated folks worked really hard to create the technology we use today.

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