Can you imagine life without the computer? It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have them, yet today we carry them around inside our purses in the form of smartphones.
George Dyson, a science historian, asks how we went from having no computers to having many in such a brief time period in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.
The son of scientist Freeman Dyson, George Dyson spent much of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The very first digital computers were built here under the guidance of scientist Josh von Neumann.
If you read Turing’s Cathedral it will surprise you at how much chance was involved in the production of the machines that let to computers. The book not only highlights the development of the computer but also the personalities involved at the Princeton Institute. They weren’t always on the same page but managed to produce the first digital computer regardless.
Genius or not, people are still people, and when working closely on the same project there are bound to be rivalries and disagreements that arise. Turing’s Cathedral lays these things open, showing the humanity of the scientist that created the first computer.It was not only the personal disputes that needed to be set aside to make this project prosperous; there were also moral issues involved. The work that went into the development of the computer walked hand in hand with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.
You might have the notion that a history book about computers will not only be dry but probably full of technical jargon. This is not the case with Turing’s Cathedral; nearly everybody who use computers will find this book interesting. Which is a lot of people these days.