STRETCHING MAN'S MIND: A History of Data Processing by Margaret Harmon

STRETCHING MAN'S MIND: A History of Data Processing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Did ancient Rome's schoolboys at their tables write MDCLXVII X II = MMMCXXXVI? Well, maybe -- but most figuring in those days was done on an abacus and the result was written in Roman numerals. It was not until the Industrial Revolution that Arabic figures replaced and simplified written numbers. Harmon's deliberate and informative history of counting and counting devices, from the human hand's five fingers through the mechanical calculators devised by Leonardo, Napier (father of logarithms), Pascal, Leibnitz, Boole, Babbage (whose mathematical scheme for predicting horseraces apparently contributed to the death of Lord Byron's only daughter), and others, arrives at last at the National Cash Register and the Burroughs Adding Machine. It was a giant leap to computers, first with vacuum tubes, then transistors and crystal diodes, and now with silicone chips housing circuit elements so small they can barely be seen by the naked eye. Philosophical aspects of computers are discussed, as well as memory elements, program processing, binary coding and ""bits"" (binary digits), various symbolic languages, and the future of computer technology. Harmon predicts that data processing will be our first or second largest industry by 2000 A.D. and declares that a new philosophy is needed to match our machines. There must be some way to say KISS ME to bits.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1975
Publisher: Mason/Charter