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Issue No.04 - October-December (2007 vol.29)
pp: 16-26
William Aspray , Indiana University
This article describes the Charles Babbage Institute's leadership role in the computing history profession. Much of the article's focus is on Arthur Norberg, the Institute's director during most of its first quarter century, and on his role in shaping both CBI and the history of computing field more generally.
archives, Charles Babbage Foundation, Charles Babbage Institute, historical research, Arthur Norberg, oral history
William Aspray, "Leadership in Computing History: Arthur Norberg and the Charles Babbage Institute", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.29, no. 4, pp. 16-26, October-December 2007, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2007.61
1. Much of the biographical data in this article comes from an oral history with Arthur Norberg that Jeffrey Yost and I conducted in Chicago, Illinois, in 2006. The oral history is deposited in the Charles Babbage Institute.
2. See A. Norberg, "Twenty Five Years of the Charles Babbage Institute," Charles Babbage Institute Newsletter, vol. 26, no. 1, 2003, pp. 3-12, A. Norberg, "A Perspective on the History of the Charles Babbage Institute and the Charles Babbage Foundation," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 23, no. 4, 2001, pp. 12-23. More recently, the Babbage Foundation has broadened its mission to support the history of computing more generally, not just the CBI.
3. W.M. Carlson, "Why AFIPS Invested in History," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 8, no. 3, 1986, pp. 270-274.
4. N. Metropolis, J. Howlett, and G.C. Rota eds. A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century, Academic Press, 1980, H.H. Goldstine, The Computer From Pascal to Von Neumann,, Princeton Univ. Press, 1972; B. Randell, ed., The Origins of Digital Computers,Springer Verlag, 1973.
5. Taken with slight editing from Norberg, "Twenty Five Years of the Charles Babbage Institute."
6. These nine points are my analysis and not points made in this fashion by Norberg. However, Norberg has mentioned each of these issues, either in his oral history interview or in various private conversations with me over the past 20 years.
7. B. Bruemmer and S. Hochheiser, The High-Tech Company: A Historical Research and Archival Guide, CBI, 1989.
8. A.L. Norberg, oral history interview by W. Aspray and J. Yost, 20 Jan. 2006, Chicago, and by J. Yost, 9 Feb. 2006, CBI, OH 379.
9. Norberg, oral history.
10. W. Aspray, "An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Sources on the History of Software," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 9, no. 3-4, 1987, pp. 291-343.
11. A. Norberg and J.E. O'Neill, Transforming Computer Technology: Information Processing for the Pentagon, 1962–1982, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1996, The scientific computing project and security study are reported in various issues of CBI's online newsletter. See
12. U. Hashagen, R. Keil-Slawik, and A.L. Norberg eds. History of Computing: Software Issues, Springer, 2002.
13. W. Aspray ed. Computing Before Computers, Iowa State Univ. Press, 1990.
14. M.R. Williams, A History of Computing Technology, is now most readily available in its second edition, published by Wiley &, Sons and the IEEE Computer Society in 1997.
15. W. Aspray, John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing, MIT Press, 1996.
16. R.W. Seidel, "Crunching Numbers: Computers and Physical Research in the AEC Laboratories," History and Technology, vol. 15, 1998, pp. 31-68, R.W. Seidel, "From Mars to Minerva: The Origins of Scientific Computing in the AEC Labs," Physics Today, vol. 19, no. 10, 1996, pp. 33-39; R.W. Seidel, "Secret Scientific Communities: Classification and Scientific Communication in the DOE and DoD," Proc. 1998 Cont. History and Heritage of Science Information Systems, M.E. Bowden, T.B. Hahn, and R.V. Williams, eds., Information Today Inc., 1999; J.B. Hagan, "The Introduction of Computers into Systematic Research in the United States during the 1960s," Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, vol. 32C, no. 2, 2001, pp. 291-314.
17. J. Yost, A Bibliographic Guide to Resources in Scientific Computing, 1945–1975, Greenwood Press, 2002.
18. M. Campbell-Kelly ed. et al., The History of Mathematical Tables, Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.
19. A.L. Norberg, Computers and Commerce: A Study of Technology and Management at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, Engineering Research Associates, and Remington Rand, 1946–1957, MIT Press, 2005.
20. J.R. Yost, The Computer Industry, Greenwood Press, 2005.
21. The first intellectual product from this project is J.R. Yost, "Maximization and Marginalization: A Brief Examination of the History and Historiography of the U.S. Computer Services Industry," Enterprises et Histoire, vol. 40, Nov. 2005, pp. 87-101.
22. The DARPA study was covered in Norberg and O'Neill, cited in Reference 11. The NSF was covered in an unpublished report: W. Aspray, B.O. Williams, and A. Goldstein, Computer as Servant and Science: Impact of the National Science Foundation, report to the National Science Foundation, 1992. Results have been published in three articles: W. Aspray and B.O. Williams, "Computing in Science and Engineering Education: The Programs of the National Science Foundation," Electro/93 Int'l Conf. Record,vol. 2, Comm. Technology &General Interest, Western Periodicals Co., 1993, pp. 234-240; W. Aspray and B.O. Williams, "Arming American Scientists: NSF and the Provision of Scientific Computing Facilities for Universities, 1950–1973," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 16, no. 4, 1994, pp. 60-74; and W. Aspray, B.O. Williams, and A. Goldstein, "The Social and Intellectual Shaping of a New Mathematical Discipline: The Role of the National Science Foundation in the Rise of Theoretical Computer Science and Engineering," Vita Mathematica: Historical Research and Integration with Teaching,R. Calinger, ed., Mathematical Association of America Notes Series, 1996.
23. J.R. Yost, "Computers and the Internet: Braiding Irony, Paradox, and Possibility," Companion to American Technology, C. Pursell ed. Blackwell, 2005, pp. 340-360,, J.R. Yost, "A History of Computer Security Standards," Handbook of the History of Information Security,K. de Leuuw, ed., Elsevier Science, in press; J.R. Yost, "Internet and Web-based Challenges for Non-Media Industries and Firms: An Historical Examination of Travel Agencies, Personal Computer Manufacturers, and Other Trades," The Internet and American Business,W. Aspray and P. Ceruzzi, eds., MIT Press, forthcoming.
24. On the archival programs of the Babbage Institute, see B.H. Bruemmer and E. Kaplan, "Realizing the Concept: A History of the CBI Archives,"IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 23, no. 4, 2001, pp. 29-38. On the CBI-Tomash Fellowship program, see J. Yost, "CBI/Tomash Fellowship: Sponsoring a Generation of Scholars in the History of Information Processing," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 23, no. 4, 2001, pp. 24-28.
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