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Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (2012)
door George Dyson
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Confusing, rambling, and not a very interesting book about the "origins of the digital universe". Bits and pieces may have been moderately interesting, but as a total package, it didn't measure up for me.
Not too bad but the last third has so much hand waving I had to put on a sweater--- either that or I didn't understand a bloody thing he was saying. Actually probably the second thing.
Title should read "Von Neumann machines: The human stories". You're welcome dear publisher.
I hope you've already read and know the history of the creation of the computer because this book dispenses with all that nonsense and instead concentrates on absolutely inconsequential trivia. Parties, social interactions, immigration issues, divorces, building houses, fixing cars and all kinds of irrelevant waffle that is day to day life pushing to the side exploding nuclear bombs.
It's nice to see the background to the revolution and I appreciate it but it's like a misfocused photo where the face is completely blurry but by god that concrete wall behind the subject has razor sharp detail. I cannot but feel frustrated every time the author wraps up the technical side with a glib and borderline misleading paragraph (as it's glossing over any and all details) only to waste the rest of the chapter recounting sleeping arrangements and letter writing. I care about those things too but not that much.
I had an issue with this non-fiction, but also a whole lot of love.
So this is about the mathematicians who heralded the whole computer movement. You know, the OTHER, more disreputable and crazy smart people like Von Neumann, Gödel, and all the other nutters like Turing who ushered in the computer age from just a thought experiment into a hand-made lab and later into the co-authors of the nuclear age.
Yeah. THOSE crazy nutters. The ones that ran enough physics programs on their automatic machines to model nuclear explosions and bring about the bomb. Computers, and not the poor women (and a few men) who got paid to crunch math by hand for years, are the real reason we have the nuclear age. And also why we have genetic sciences.
Pretty obvious, I know, but still, these guys are some unsung heroes. Just programmers. Sheesh. Whatever.
The book is full of love. I love the people. And then there was a wholly appropriate section expounding on science fiction and the future of AIs and I LOVED that, too, especially the form a realistic alien might take.
So what issues did I have?
WAY too much time was spent on the schools. Early schools, history, blah blah blah. Sure. Colleges are important and such, but I lost my caring factor until a while after we were introduced to Von Neumann. And what an interesting guy he was! :)
A side issue I should have more problem with is the role of women in this non-fiction, but like real history, too much idiocy prevents half our population from having more active roles. I'm not too fond of how the women here were relegated to being facilitators, suicidal wives, or footnotes to Crick and Watson. But let's be real here. We have a horrible track record at pushing these people aside in reality, not just in history.
I can appreciate the minds SHOWN HERE while still wishing the other minds had a chance. It didn't diminish my fascination. I can have MORE fascination to spare elsewhere. :)
So. Maybe not the best non-fiction I've ever read, but I did learn a hell of a lot about the people who ushered in the computer age and it's quite a story. And honestly, it makes for a more realistic story than the others I've read that focused more on WWII encryption engines as the real focus and impetus for computers. Making nukes is pretty damn huge. And obvious. :)
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Wikipedia in het Engels (5)
"Legendary historian and philosopher of science George Dyson vividly re-creates the scenes of focused experimentation, incredible mathematical insight, and pure creative genius that gave us computers, digital television, modern genetics, models of stellar evolution--in other words, computer code. In the 1940s and '50s, a group of eccentric geniuses--led by John von Neumann--gathered at the newly created Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Their joint project was the realization of the theoretical universal machine, an idea that had been put forth by mathematician Alan Turing. This group of brilliant engineers worked in isolation, almost entirely independent from industry and the traditional academic community. But because they relied exclusively on government funding, the government wanted its share of the results: the computer that they built also led directly to the hydrogen bomb. George Dyson has uncovered a wealth of new material about this project, and in bringing the story of these men and women and their ideas to life, he shows how the crucial advancements that dominated twentieth-century technology emerged from one computer in one laboratory, where the digital universe as we know it was born"--"Legendary historian and philosopher of science George Dyson vividly re-creates the scenes of focused experimentation, incredible mathematical insight, and pure creative genius that gave us computers, digital television, modern genetics, models of stellar evolution--in other words, computer code"--
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Dewey Decimale Classificatie (DDC)004.09 — Information Computing and Information Computer science Computer science -- subdivisions History, geographic treatment, biography
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