Legendary historian and philosopher of science George Dyson vividly re-creates the scenes of focused experimentation, incredible mathematical insight, and pure creative genius that gave us computers, digital television, modern genetics, models of stellar evolution - in other words, computer code.
In the 1940s and '50s, a group of eccentric geniuses - led by John von Neumann - gathered at the newly created Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Their joint project was the realization of the theoretical universal machine, an idea that had been put forth by mathematician Alan Turing. This group of brilliant engineers worked in isolation, almost entirely independent from industry and the traditional academic community. But because they relied exclusively on government funding, the government wanted its share of the results: the computer that they built also led directly to the hydrogen bomb. George Dyson has uncovered a wealth of new material about this project, and in bringing the story of these men and women and their ideas to life, he shows how the crucial advancements that dominated twentieth-century technology emerged from one computer in one laboratory, where the digital universe as we know it was born.
“The most powerful technology of the last century was not the atomic bomb, but software - and both were invented by the same folks. Even as they were inventing it, the original geniuses imagined almost everything software has become since. At long last, George Dyson delivers the untold story of software’s creation. It is an amazing tale brilliantly deciphered.” (Kevin Kelly, cofounder of WIRED magazine, author of What Technology Wants)
“It is a joy to read George Dyson’s revelation of the very human story of the invention of the electronic computer, which he tells with wit, authority, and insight. Read Turing’s Cathedral as both the origin story of our digital universe and as a perceptive glimpse into its future.” (W. Daniel Hillis, inventor of The Connection Machine, author of The Pattern on the Stone)
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Turing's vision; Von Neumann's construction
A fascinating look at the people behind it all
It gave an interesting perspective about how and why the modern day computer was invented, including some amusing insights to some of the brightest minds of the 20th century.
That it was real :)
I thought it was well executed, as the book doesn't really feature any dialog or characters the "neutral" delivery was appreciated.
Nothing in particular, but there were a lot of little chuckles when it came to some of these people's behaviour. In no small part because it makes these mythical people human.
I wish there would have been a bit more attention being paid to other pioneers in the computing field, but having said that, their legacy really lives on by the technology I use right now to write these words so: *raises glass*
- M. Kalus