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Paul Edwards, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America(Cambridge, MA, 1996). (Start here)Very readable. Includes history of SAGE air defense network, draws parallels with SDI. Shows military origins of real-time computing, networks and other technologies. Edwards looks at broader cultural and political issues, and adopts a cultural studies sensibility in including discussion of science fiction films as well as military systems. David A. Mindell, Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing Before Cybernetics(Baltimore, 2002). Excellent and complicated treatment of the prehistory of computing, focusing on real-time control and communication technologies during WWII and the preceding couple of decades. These include feedback and communications engineering, naval fire control, guidance technologies, differential analyzers and anti-aircraft systems. Each is situated within a specific tradition of engineering practice, but collectively they lay the groundwork for many of the better known post-1945 developments in computing. More details in my review, at: . Business and Administrative Applications Atsushi Akera, "Engineers or Managers? The Systems Analysis of Electronic Data Processing in the Federal Bureaucracy." In Systems, Experts, and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After, ed. Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas P. Hughes, 191-220. (Cambridge, MA, 2000). A nice case study of early attempts by members of the National Bureau of Standards to use expertise in computer technology and knowledge of the techniques of “systems analysis” to assert broader control over administrative computing across the Federal government. Jon Agar, The Government Machine(Cambridge, MA, 2003). This history is the first to really explore the use made of the computer and other information technologies by government. The book surveys a very broad range of developments in British government, from Babbage and his famously unbuilt machines, through the much less well known stories of government statistical work, punched card machine use, operations and methods experts, information handling during the World War II, and computerization during the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Campbell-Kelly, The Railway Clearing House and Victorian Data Processing(London, 1994). A nice case study of how a large scale administrative system functioned long before the introduction of the computer.
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288 Alfred D. Chandler and James W. Cortada, A Nation Transformed by Information: How Information Has Shaped the United States from Colonial Times to the Present(New York, 2000). This hefty anthology is an attempt to explore information as a theme in US History. The focus is on information considered broadly, rather than just the computer, and so the book includes discussion of the U.S. Post Office, radio, telegraphy, and so on. The treatment of computer and precursor technologies is the context of business applications, with Yates and Cortada providing chapters summarizing their main ideas.
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