Review Detail

Comprehensive History of Important Technology
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
This highly illustrated history of not only the computer but of the technology that lead up to it is very complete and absolutely packed with information. From computer basics like what binary is to a discussion of the "internet of things" (that makes some of us very nervous!), this book carefully lays out just about every facet of computers that I could imagine.

The illustrations have a cartoon style to it that is very appealing, and many of the pages are dark, with white text in very small print. There's even a bit of homage to the time periods discussed in the styles, and there's a good feel for the fashion and the way computers looked at previous points in history. There's a lot of detail in the pictures.

There were some very insightful mentions, such as how computers manage to integrate a variety of technologies into their framework; I'm constantly amazed at the use of video calls and the fact that my phone can take pictures and send them. Computers in the 1970s and 80s didn't have this, and my first experience of the internet was a nongraphic interface. That's right, kids. The internet, but with text only! There are also fun bits of trivia, like the fact that the first computer "bug" was actually a real bug, and the first computer worm was "The Creeper" in 1971.
Good Points
Between the main text and the page borders that detail events that occured within the times being discussed, I can't think that there are any major (or minor!) computer innovators or events that were not covered. Even though there is so much information, the individual anecdotes are told in a very conversational way; I never get tired of hearing the story of Allen and Gates almost forgetting the "boot" program to load BASIC, but I'd never heard of the Homebrew Computer club. Seeing the real individuals behind computer processes that we use today, and realizing that they developed these innovations fairly recently, is always fascinating.

The information presented is balanced across the decades, and I can see an updated version of this book being created in twenty years; there's a two page spread on "the future" that will certainly be able to be elaborated upon in that amount of time! I was also very glad to see that there is an index in the book; since the pages have so much information on them, if I wanted to go back and look for information about Tim Berners-Lee I would be hard pressed to find it by flipping through the pages.

Since today's middle school students were born around the time my own daughter took her first smart phone to college, they will be amazed at the deep history of computers and the technology that lead to them. I haven't invested in many books detailing this history (I do have Sherman's 2003 The History of the Personal Computer, but have to warn students that a lot happened after 2003!), so I'm glad to see this comprehensive and entertaining look at technologies that are so ubiquitous today.
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