More an engaging essay in five parts than a book, this is a very personal introduction to the field and ""personalities"" of computers that can serve as a good got-acquainted explanation of the nature of the modern computer and its progenitors. Parts first appeared in The New Yorker from whom the author, a physicist, accepted the challenge to write about this complex technological phenomenon for a lay audience. He has done an eminently fine job in describing the way a problem is programmed for a computer by means of FORTRAN (formula translation) language. He tells of Babbage's early fascinating experiments and frustrations; the basic theories on which computers are designed and built; aspects of the computer that compare to mental processes; and a little of Turing's important work with computers and the principle of unsolvability. A good general introduction to the subject.