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It Began with Babbage: The Genesis of Computer Science

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As a field, computer science occupies a unique scientific space, in that its subject matter can exist in both physical and abstract realms. An artifact such as software is both tangible and not, and must be classified as something in between, or "liminal." The study and production of liminal artifacts allows for creative possibilities that are, and have been, possible only As a field, computer science occupies a unique scientific space, in that its subject matter can exist in both physical and abstract realms. An artifact such as software is both tangible and not, and must be classified as something in between, or "liminal." The study and production of liminal artifacts allows for creative possibilities that are, and have been, possible only in computer science. In It Began with Babbage, computer scientist and writer Subrata Dasgupta examines the distinct history of computer science in terms of its creative innovations, reaching back to Charles Babbage in 1819. Since all artifacts of computer science are conceived with a use in mind, the computer scientist is not concerned with the natural laws that govern disciplines like physics or chemistry; instead, the field is more concerned with the concept of purpose. This requirement lends itself to a type of creative thinking that, as Dasgupta shows us, has exhibited itself throughout the history of computer science. More than any other, computer science is the science of the artificial, and has a unique history to accompany its unique focus. The book traces a path from Babbage's Difference Engine in the early 19th century to the end of the 1960s by when a new academic discipline named "computer science" had come into being. Along the way we meet characters like Babbage and Ada Lovelace, Turing and von Neumann, Shannon and Chomsky, and a host of other people from a variety of backgrounds who collectively created this new science of the artificial. And in the end, we see how and why computer science acquired a nature and history all of its own.


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As a field, computer science occupies a unique scientific space, in that its subject matter can exist in both physical and abstract realms. An artifact such as software is both tangible and not, and must be classified as something in between, or "liminal." The study and production of liminal artifacts allows for creative possibilities that are, and have been, possible only As a field, computer science occupies a unique scientific space, in that its subject matter can exist in both physical and abstract realms. An artifact such as software is both tangible and not, and must be classified as something in between, or "liminal." The study and production of liminal artifacts allows for creative possibilities that are, and have been, possible only in computer science. In It Began with Babbage, computer scientist and writer Subrata Dasgupta examines the distinct history of computer science in terms of its creative innovations, reaching back to Charles Babbage in 1819. Since all artifacts of computer science are conceived with a use in mind, the computer scientist is not concerned with the natural laws that govern disciplines like physics or chemistry; instead, the field is more concerned with the concept of purpose. This requirement lends itself to a type of creative thinking that, as Dasgupta shows us, has exhibited itself throughout the history of computer science. More than any other, computer science is the science of the artificial, and has a unique history to accompany its unique focus. The book traces a path from Babbage's Difference Engine in the early 19th century to the end of the 1960s by when a new academic discipline named "computer science" had come into being. Along the way we meet characters like Babbage and Ada Lovelace, Turing and von Neumann, Shannon and Chomsky, and a host of other people from a variety of backgrounds who collectively created this new science of the artificial. And in the end, we see how and why computer science acquired a nature and history all of its own.

40 review for It Began with Babbage: The Genesis of Computer Science

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roger Boyle

    I can't remember how I came by this - I think I saw it reviewed on a list and bought it. It is a dense read and took me a long time. Dasgupta writes a scholarly book that is very well presented, showing just where Computer Science lies within Kuhn's picture of scientific disciplines, and it fits well. It's hard to see many outside CS really enjoying this though: it rehearsed a lot I knew already but in a very thorough framework that told me a lot I didn't know as well. I think he would have done b I can't remember how I came by this - I think I saw it reviewed on a list and bought it. It is a dense read and took me a long time. Dasgupta writes a scholarly book that is very well presented, showing just where Computer Science lies within Kuhn's picture of scientific disciplines, and it fits well. It's hard to see many outside CS really enjoying this though: it rehearsed a lot I knew already but in a very thorough framework that told me a lot I didn't know as well. I think he would have done better to stop his history in '59 and not '69 - the 60s saw a fragmentation [growth] that he acknowledges but does not do justice to. Nothing on Graphics, Databases, Information Retrieval, Networks ... The fragments he does cover are clearly up his street and a little too rarefied for my taste.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aron

    A history of the nature and evolution of Computer Science as a field.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  4. 4 out of 5

    H

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angelo Costa

  6. 5 out of 5

    voulpit

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Weitzenhoffer

  8. 4 out of 5

    Piet de Roo

  9. 4 out of 5

    Judyta Kasperkiewicz

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Weinstein

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dеnnis

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nitin CR

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corey J Guidry

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dylan McDiarmid

  15. 4 out of 5

    Iglen

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Calderwood

  18. 4 out of 5

    Seyi Ogunyemi

  19. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Zekhat

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

  23. 5 out of 5

    Narumon

  24. 5 out of 5

    to'c

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  26. 5 out of 5

    Demosthenes Papaeliou

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nithya

  31. 5 out of 5

    David Loureiro

  32. 5 out of 5

    Jina

  33. 5 out of 5

    Esteban

  34. 4 out of 5

    Adam Stein

  35. 5 out of 5

    Omar Frd

  36. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  37. 5 out of 5

    Teo

  38. 4 out of 5

    Aditya Sakhuja

  39. 4 out of 5

    Wildre

  40. 4 out of 5

    Caique Marques

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