The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer, by Jane Smiley

This book really deserved two reviews, a two star rating for the first 130 pages, and a four star rating for the remaining 90 pages.

The first part of the book outlines the early work on computing in the US, UK, and Germany. This book makes a very good case for the notion that John Atanasoff at Iowa State University is the father of the electronic comnputer. He was the first to use binary arithmetic and a regenerative memory. None of the devices described in the book could be considered modern computers. They were manually programmed, and needed to be re-wired to solve a different problem; yet they were able to solve equations significantly faster the the adding machines used at the time.

John von Neumann’s story is as interesting as John Atanasoff’s. Von Neumann is certainly one the the early champions of open source. He published a lengthy document describing a computing device with the express purpose of insuring the non patent-ability of the ideas. You can infer from his actions that he wanted ideas freely flowing.

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