Monthly Archives: December 2010

Bright Boys, the making of information technology by Thomas J Green: a review

The author seems to have no sense of proportion. Assuming he really intended a book about the MIT Whirlwind computer and its developers, he’s presented far too much detail–roughly half the text–about the development of the Air Force. There’s surprisingly little about the personalities of the Whirlwind participants or the details of their technical accomplishment. He’s far too dismissive of the clearly-legitimate concerns of the Navy’s research arm about the costs and objectives of the Whirlwind project. Moreover, much of the material seems misdirected; while he asserts the importance of Whirlwind’s technical mastery as the principal source of nearly all subsequent developments in information technology, he offers little to support that assertion. The result is highly disappointing.

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Sir Dominic Flandry by Poul Anderson: a review

Three novels and a short story. And that appalling, off-putting cover.

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Balls and Strikes by Kenneth Jennings: a short review

The book is essentially descriptive, but has pretensions toward analysis. There’s a lot of good material here. The first three chapters are a history of player/management relations in baseball. The remaining six chapters are topical, and examine such matters as agent behavior, player interactions with field managers, race relations, and salary arbitration. Unfortunately, the presentation is largely anecdotal; even when the author tries for analysis the result is often inconclusive, superficial, or unconvincing. I was, frankly, hoping for more.

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Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer: a review

This book is not, in any meaningful sense, a biography of Grace Murray Hopper. There’s a perfunctory sketch of the first 36 years of her (pre-Navy) life, and some mention of mid-life depression and alcoholic binges, but otherwise the book is fully devoted to describing her career in computing, her impact on the industry, and (to some extent) the development of both hardware and software in places outside her immediate purview. For all practical purposes this book ends with the standardization of COBOL; Hopper’s subsequent career is only lightly touched, and her late-in-life celebrity is briefly described in the first chapter but not really discussed.

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