Issue No.03 - July-September (2003 vol.25)
Published by the IEEE Computer Society
This issue contains three memoirs from different eras of computing and two feature articles. Don Black contacted me in the summer of 2001. Previously he had emailed the IBM Archives, saying that
My grandfather was Walter Dickson Jones, a manager of IBM Europe in the 1930s and Chairman of IBM Canada thereafter, … I'd be very interested in getting a more complete view of my grandfather's career with IBM to pass on to succeeding generations.
When Don inquired about Annals' interest in his efforts, I said I was certain that our readers would enjoy this rare insight into the field from 80 years ago—a critical period for IBM and computer history. I am also grateful to Emerson Pugh for reading the manuscript and writing a preface that puts the memoir in context. Pugh notes that "All persons interested in the early history of IBM are indebted to Don Black for finding, editing, and annotating the memoirs of Walter D. Jones, who became an employee in 1911 and rose rapidly through the ranks of what he calls 'The Company.'"
In September 2000, J.A.N. Lee—then editor of Biographies—sent me two lengthy (and well edited) biographies. We published George Trimble's "A Brief History of Computing: Memoirs of Living on the Edge" in vol. 23, no. 3. We followed this with four special issues and a couple of very full issues, and so we weren't able to print the second work until now. Throughout all this, the author, Sherman Mullin demonstrated immense patience with our editorial process, and for this I am most grateful. As he states in the introduction to "Into Digital Computing Through the Back Door," Mullin's
first job in the computer industry was in 1957 at the Burroughs Corporation in Philadelphia, working on the US Air force Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) project. At Burroughs, I was a technical instructor in digital computing fundamentals.
This is a fascinating memoir, full of interesting projects and experiences, by someone who "only later [realized he] had slipped into digital computing through the back door."
Our third memoir starts during the same period but follows a significantly different path. In "Creating Profit With Computers: My Life as CEO of Bonner & Moore Associates," Joe Moore tells how he started a career that encompassed consulting, software development, and computing firm acquisition and management. Moore recounts:
At that time [early 1950s] my school mate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), John Bonner, and I were assigned to … investigate whether computers could be used to improve mainline oil refinery engineering tasks. Computer science courses didn't exist, so anyone who began working with computer applications did so without any experience or guidance. The projects assigned to us were seminal in setting the course of my professional life as a computer consultant and executive. In late 1956, Bonner and [Moore] formed a computer-consulting firm to assist clients in the oil refining and petrochemical industries. … We knew of no other firm that was offering such services, and we must have been among the very first to do so.
We are indebted to Eric Weiss, Annals' contributing editor, for working with Moore on this memoir.
In "Tabulating the Heavens: Computing the Nautical Almanac in 18th-Century England," Mary Croarken takes us back to a time when "the question of how to accurately find longitude at sea was hotly debated." How many readers can identify the competing strategies for calculating longitude in the 18th century? Do we really understand what preceded the present variety of tools using the Global Positioning System and Web sources like MapQuest? Croarken explains how Nevil Maskelyne, the British Astronomer Royal, chose the method of lunar distances to calculate longitude. She examines the events behind the publication of the first Nautical Almanac and describes the human computing system that Maskelyne created to prepare the necessary tables during the period 1765-1809.
Paul Ceruzzi sent our final article to me. Paul worked with the author before the manuscript was entered into the IEEE Computer Society Publications Office process. When I first received an email from Chigusa Ishikawa Kita, she was a doctoral student in the Department of 20th-Century Studies at Kyoto University in Japan. Her article, "J.C.R. Licklider's Vision for the IPTO" is a significant contribution to our knowledge of the role that Licklider and the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency played in the history of time sharing, networks, personal computers, and the Internet. In the past year, Chigusa has completed her degree and volunteered as a reviewer for Annals. I have no doubt that she will make many contributions to the history of computing during her career and look forward to her next such effort. I thank Mike Mahoney for working with Chigusa to incorporate the reviewer's comments and to help prepare the article for publication.
As usual, our departments contain a wonderful selection of material. In Events and Sightings, Jeff Opt tells how the Montgomery County (Ohio) Historical Society and the NCR Corporation (formerly National Cash Register) joined in an innovative partnership committed to preserving the NCR Archive. Glenn Bugos also reports that
400 people packed into the recently dedicated Hahn Auditorium for the first lecture event at the new Computer History Museum building in Mountain View, California. Titled "Jurassic Software: A Look Back at the Beginnings of Consumer Software," the discussion featured Scott Cook, Trip Hawkins, and Doug Carlston.
The Anecdotes department contains a piece by David Grier on the origin of :-), the Internet smiley.
The Reviews department contains, among others, reviews of Thierry Bardini's Bootstrapping: Douglas Englebart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing, Kent G. Redmond and Thomas M. Smith's book From Whirlwind to Mitre: The R&D Story of the SAGE Air Defense Computer, and the second edition of Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine's classic Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer.
Biographies contain obituaries of two men who made important contributions to the computing field. Harry Polachek was born in 1913 in Lida, Poland. In the 1950s, he was instrumental in establishing the Navy's Applied Mathematics Laboratory, making use of the first commercially available computers to solve US Department of Defense problems. Harry shared his experiences in two Annals articles: "History of the Journal Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, 1959-1965," (vol. 17, no. 3) and "Before the ENIAC" (vol. 19, no. 2). Rob Kling was an authority on the social aspects of information technology. In more than 85 scholarly articles and book chapters, he addressed issues such as computer reasoning, computer-related public policy issues, the influence of computers on office work, and the ideological aspects of computerization. I got to know Rob during the 1980s and came to admire his dedication, intellect, and wit.
David Grier wraps up this issue with a Think Piece article on "The Great Machine Theory of History." Given that we have three memoirs and two feature articles devoted to examining the contributions of individuals, Grier's comments are particularly interesting. We invite your views.