My Computing Life by Norman Sanders (1953)

Norman Sanders was in at the beginning of the computer revolution, working alongside many of the well-known figures at Cambridge University in the 1950s. He went on to work in Vancouver, Edmonton, Seattle, Trondheim, Rome as well as the UK, and the United Nations, pioneering some of the innovations we take for granted today – CAD/CAM being one of the most important.

We all know about the first two Industrial Revolutions. We learnt about them at school; steam engines, coal, cotton, telephones and all the way to factories. And we’ve also learnt about the tidal wave from the countryside to those factories and the cities that contained them and were built by them.

An invention stands a good chance of succeeding if it’s the solution to a problem. But what problem did the first computers set out to solve? The problem of doing arithmetic quickly and accurately; a problem for engineers, architects, accountants and scientists generally. But today – in 2020 – everyone around this planet has access to a computer, but they don’t appear to be terribly interested in arithmetic – school’s most detested subject. So what’s happened?

This is the third revolution, the computer Revolution. Who got it all going? Why? Where? And when – since it’s so close to us? It even sits in our pockets. How many of us have heard of Konrad Zuse, Pres Eckert, John Mauchley, Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler – and the persona and spirit of Alan Turing and many others? And what they did?

The computer has become a force for social integration, for good or ill, and this book sets out to explain how it all got going. Norman Sanders met many of these grandees and has fascinating human tales to tell about them, as well having as insight and memories about the technology and systems of the early years.

This book is the tale of how a new specimen of humanity called a programmer, of which Norman was an early pioneer, took the invention from the lab of the engineer and put it in the pocket of Everyman.

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