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Accounts of the early events of the computing industry—the Turing machine, the massive Colossus, the ENIAC computer—are well-told tales, and equally well known is the later emergence of Silicon Valley and the rise of the personal computer. Yet there is an extraordinary untold middle history—with deep roots in Minnesota. From the end of World War II through the 1970s, Minnesota was home to the first computing-centered industrial district in the world. Drawing on rare archival documents, photographs, and a wealth of oral histories, Digital State unveils the remarkable story of computer development in the heartland after World War II. These decades found corporations—concentrated in large part in Minnesota—designing state-of-the-art mainframe technologies, revolutionizing new methods of magnetic data storage, and, for the first time, truly integrating software and hardware into valuable products for the American government and public. Minnesota-based companies such as Engineering Research Associates, Univac, Control Data, Cray Research, Honeywell, and IBM Rochester were major international players and together formed an unrivaled epicenter advancing digital technologies. These companies not only brought vibrant economic growth to Minnesota, they nurtured the state’s present-day medical device and software industries and possibly even tomorrow’s nanotechnology. Thomas J. Misa’s groundbreaking history shows how Minnesota recognized and embraced the coming information age through its leading-edge companies, its workforce, and its prominent institutions. Digital State reveals the inner workings of the birth of the digital age in Minnesota and what we can learn from this era of sustained innovation.
Does Silicon Valley deserve all the credit for digital creativity and social media? Joy Rankin questions this triumphalism by revisiting a pre-PC time when schools were not the last stop for mature consumer technologies but flourishing sites of innovative collaboration—when users taught computers and visionaries dreamed of networked access for all.
This compact history traces the computer industry from 1950s mainframes, through establishment of standards beginning in 1965, to personal computing in the 1980s and the Internet’s explosive growth since 1995. Martin Campbell-Kelly and Daniel Garcia-Swartz describe a steady trend toward miniaturization and explain its consequences.
In February 1956 the president of IBM, Thomas Watson Jr., hired the industrial designer and architect Eliot F. Noyes, charging him with reinventing IBM’s corporate image, from stationery and curtains to products such as typewriters and computers and to laboratory and administration buildings. What followed—a story told in full for the first time in John Harwood’s The Interface—remade IBM in a way that would also transform the relationships between design, computer science, and corporate culture. IBM’s program assembled a cast of leading figures in American design: Noyes, Charles Eames, Paul Rand, George Nelson, and Edgar Kaufmann Jr. The Interface offers a detailed account of the key role these designers played in shaping both the computer and the multinational corporation. Harwood describes a surprising inverse effect: the influence of computer and corporation on the theory and practice of design. Here we see how, in the period stretching from the “invention” of the computer during World War II to the appearance of the personal computer in the mid-1970s, disciplines once well outside the realm of architectural design—information and management theory, cybernetics, ergonomics, computer science—became integral aspects of design. As the first critical history of the industrial design of the computer, of Eliot Noyes’s career, and of some of the most important work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, The Interface supplies a crucial chapter in the story of architecture and design in postwar America—and an invaluable perspective on the computer and corporate cultures of today.
No company of the twentieth century achieved greater success and engendered more admiration, respect, envy, fear, and hatred than IBM. Building IBM tells the story of that company—how it was formed, how it grew, and how it shaped and dominated the information processing industry. Emerson Pugh presents substantial new material about the company in the period before 1945 as well as a new interpretation of the postwar era. Granted unrestricted access to IBM's archival records and with no constraints on the way he chose to treat the information they contained, Pugh dispels many widely held myths about IBM and its leaders and provides new insights on the origins and development of the computer industry. Pugh begins the story with Herman Hollerith's invention of punched-card machines used for tabulating the U.S. Census of 1890, showing how Hollerith's inventions and the business he established provided the primary basis for IBM. He tells why Hollerith merged his company in 1911 with two other companies to create the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which changed its name in 1924 to International Business Machines. Thomas J. Watson, who was hired in 1914 to manage the merged companies, exhibited remarkable technological insight and leadership—in addition to his widely heralded salesmanship—to build Hollerith's business into a virtual monopoly of the rapidly growing punched-card equipment business. The fascinating inside story of the transfer of authority from the senior Watson to his older son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., and the company's rapid domination of the computer industry occupy the latter half of the book. In two final chapters, Pugh examines conditions and events of the 1970s and 1980s and identifies the underlying causes of the severe probems IBM experienced in the 1990s.

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