Electronic Computers by Saul Rosen: a review

A journal article, not a book; available here.

This is easily the best short survey of the early history of computing I’ve seen, and is well worth a read. It’s an excellent 30 page essay describing electronic computing history through the late 1960s, with most significant projects and companies briefly sketched and their contributions–and failures–described. The essay is organized by technological era (vacuum tube, transistor, early ICs), with each era’s discussion organized by company or project. Some effort is made to put each project into historical and technical context.

The author mostly ignores early electo-mechanical computing projects, and almost completely ignores efforts outside the United States. This significant shortcoming is acknowledged in the introductory section.

While the emphasis is on describing projects, the author provides quite a bit of analysis. Details, of course, are sacrificed for brevity’s sake, and for focus. A fascinating, and well-done, survey.

This review is also posted on LibraryThing.