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From Mainframes to Big Data

by Robert L. Grossman

Pub Date: June 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1936298006
Publisher: Open Data Press

Fascinating insights into the past, present and future of computing.

Each individual’s idea of the world of technology is no doubt shaped and perhaps limited by the gadgets of today and the desire to know which ones to buy for tomorrow. Grossman (Biology/Univ. of Chicago) provides a guide that can map this landscape for the lay reader who is able to read, or willing to skip over, a few equations here and there. Grossman divides the history of the last 40 years through the next 10 years of computing into five eras: mainframe, PC, Web, device and data. He discusses them in terms of five themes: commoditization, technical innovation, market clutter, the technology adoption cycles and big data. He uses case studies to ground his cross between computing from a business perspective (marketing and selling) and a technical perspective (technology development), discussing topics from slide rules to mammograms to the adoption of Linux. Grossman’s perspective is broad and goes well beyond his field, as can be gathered from references to the Iliad and the Odyssey, the development of the Nike Pegasus and the connection of Napster to the fact that “student dormitories contained lots of unused gigabytes.” Given the depth and academic handling of this topic (the text includes footnotes, endnotes and a bibliography), this work could have benefited from more attention to its presentation: Figures, table text and captions are the same size as body text and have only a space to separate them, and tables are not always sized for the page dimensions.

A useful guide to the evolution and future of computing.