[TUHS] A New History of Modern Computing - my thoughts

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Mon Nov 29 06:26:05 AEST 2021

Eugene Miya visited by last week and accidentally left his copy of the
book here so I decided to read it before he came back to pick it up.

My overall impression is that while it contained a lot of information,
it wasn't presented in a manner that I found interesting.  I don't know
the intended target audience, but it's not me.

A good part of it is that my interest is in the evolution of technology.
I think that a more accurate title for the book would be "A New History
of the Business of Modern Computing".  The book was thorough in covering
the number of each type of machine sold and how much money was made, but
that's only of passing interest to me.  Were it me I would have just
summarized all that in a table and used the space to tell some engaging

There were a number of things that I felt the book glossed over or missed

One is that I didn't think that they gave sufficient credit to the symbiosis
between C and the PDP-11 instruction set and the degree to which the PDP-11
was enormously influential.

Another is that I felt that the book didn't give computer graphics adequate
treatment.  I realize that it was primarily in the workstation market segment
which was not as large as some of the other segments, but in my opinion the
development of the technology was hugely important as it eventually became
commodified and highly profitable.

Probably due to my personal involvement I felt that the book missed some
important steps along the path toward open source.  In particular, it used
the IPO of Red Hat as the seminal moment while not even mentioning the role
of Cygnus.  My opinion is that Cygnus was a huge icebreaker in the adoption
of open source by the business world, and that the Red Hat IPO was just the

I also didn't feel that there was any message or takeaways for readers.  I
didn't get any "based on all this I should go and do that" sort of feeling.

If the purpose of the book was to present a dry history then it pretty much
did it's job.  Obviously the authors had to pick and choose what to write
about and I would have made some different choices.  But, not my book.


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