Book Review - The Computer From Pascal to Von Neumann

The Computer From Pascal to Von Neumann is a computer history book by Herman H. Goldstine. It surveys the history from the laws of thought by inventors across ages. It goes from earliest philosophers like Pascal, to mathematicians like George Boole, to implementors like Von Neumann.

The author reveals how these inventors built their theories on top of others. Almost everyone involved in this exercise had a shared objective for computers.

These inventors wanted to "free" mankind from the repetitive but mundane tasks.

And these inventors lived in different eras like Leibniz lived in 1600s, Charles Babbage in 1800s and Dijskstra (1930-2002).

When introducing Charles Babbage, author directly goes the motivation that drove the inventor.

The theme of Leibniz— to free men from slavery by the automation of dull but simple - tasks was next taken up by one of the most unusual figures in modern intellectual history, Charles Babbage

And here is how Dijskstra explains how and why Computers will exceed human reasoning.

In the long run I expect computing science to transcend its parent disciplines, mathematics and logic, by effectively realizing a significant part of Leibniz’s Dream of providing symbolic calculation as an alternative to human reasoning. - Dijskstra

(Please note the difference between "mimicking" and "providing an alternative to": alternatives are allowed to be better.)

Author also associated United States Military and Government to various advancements in Computers. The final chapters gave references to when other parts of the world got their first computer. I noted that India's first computers were in 1960s with Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Here are some interesting historical photos from this book.


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