If you’re an ICT or computer science student at university like me (or perhaps even college or secondary school) then you will definitely need to read many books on the history and development of computers and the whole computer science industry. Technology is the most unique science in the sense that we’re always looking towards the future and not the past. Many other sciences sometimes look into the past and build up based on what their predecessors and pioneers of their science have accomplished. In technology, we’re shrewdly looking to innovate and bring about a new change.
However, with that being said, it’s important to study the development of ICT and computer science and see how experts from the past came up with their ideas and started the wave that we are all riding now. For me, it’s definitely so important because I take inspiration from people like Licklider, Tom West, Alan Turing amongst many other experts of this field. Reading about what they have accomplished and how they have accomplished it not only motivates me to work harder in my life but it also allows me to understand the world of computing more.
In this blog post my aim is to highlight a list of computing books (some of which I have read and some of which I haven’t read) and to give a list to you followers. This is the first time that I am doing a book list and I plan to do many many more in the future. I am very excited about writing and publishing this book list and I’m looking forward to reading some of the books that are within this list myself and reviewing them in the future. I feel like, in general, books about computer science are often misunderstood and overlooked. People tend to view it as something that’s only for computer people and that they are all incredibly technical and difficult to read.
Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Many times the books are about great stories of what incredible minds have accomplished. Many of the authors (like Tracy Kidder, for example) break things down so it’s easy for the readers to swallow. The lessons that I’ve learnt from many of those books are amazing stories about how successful people operate. It’s interesting to get a glimpse into their mindsets and see their thought processes and try to implement some of their good habits into my own life. So I’m that sense, books about computing and ICT are for everyone.
Furthermore, the world that we live in now is technology oriented. Social media is used by nearly everyone and it’s something that is now inevitably part of the framework of society. Privacy is a huge concern for everyone since data is being taken away from us and sold between companies. Everything is becoming more digitalised. Things like Online Banking, Online school system, societies dependence on wifi etc have all become the norm. Therefore reading books about the field of computing is a good idea. For all these reasons it’s good to increase your tech IQ and become someone who knows more about the field and isn’t 100% clueless.
Don’t get me wrong, the rate at which technology is moving frightens me (and I’m from the generation, aged 21) but it’s important to continue learning so that we can use the new technology to serve us. Furthermore, by reading these books we can better understand where this new technology came from as well as what it is. We can become more used to the tech jargon and less clueless about what the social media experts are always talking about etc. That’s enough of me going on a tangent, it’s time for me to begin the computer science & ICT book list.
1) The Soul of a New Machine – Tracy Kidder
Yep, you guessed it. For any of you who follow me and have seen my previous blog posts, you’d all know that the soul of a new machine is a book that I rated 5/5 and a book that I dedicated an entire blog post to. It’s amazing in so many ways and if you want to have a true glimpse at the world of computing then this is definitely the book to read. It’s great because not only does it tell the story of great computer machines being created but it also highlights the events that we’re going on in the late 20th century. With all the different companies like IBM, Data General (among others) competing against each other. It also gives a snapshot of who these engineers were, what they accomplished and how they accomplished it.
“The computer revolution brought with it new methods of getting work done—just look at today’s news for reports of hard-driven, highly-motivated young software and online commerce developers who sacrifice evenings and weekends to meet impossible deadlines. Tracy Kidder got a preview of this world in the late 1970s when he observed the engineers of Data General design and build a new 32-bit minicomputer in just one year. His thoughtful, prescient book, The Soul of a New Machine, tells stories of 35-year-old “veteran” engineers hiring recent college graduates and encouraging them to work harder and faster on complex and difficult projects, exploiting the youngsters’ ignorance of normal scheduling processes while engendering a new kind of work ethic.
These days, we are used to the “total commitment” philosophy of managing technical creation, but Kidder was surprised and even a little alarmed at the obsessions and compulsions he found. From in-house political struggles to workers being permitted to tease management to marathon 24-hour work sessions, The Soul of a New Machine explores concepts that already seem familiar, even old-hat, less than 20 years later. Kidder plainly admires his subjects; while he admits to hopeless confusion about their work, he finds their dedication heroic. The reader wonders, though, what will become of it all, now and in the future.” —Rob Lightner
2) DEALERS OF LIGHTNING – XEROX parc and the Dawn Of The Computer Age – Michael A. Hiltzik
This is a book that I am currently reading right now. Ibooks has informed me that I am 7% into the book, so I have only recently started but it looks amazing so far. I’m enjoying every second of the book and I can’t wait to write a review about it. The book illustrates the story that happened way back into the early 70s when a group of amazing inventors got together at a place called Xerox Parc and invented some of the best ground breaking technology tools that we all use now. They invented the PC, Email, Laser printer amongst other things. They were widely recognised and respected within the technology community. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were well aware of what that group accomplished. Yet many people don’t seem to know about the Xerox community. The story and the people involved intrigued me and I can’t wait to read more.
“While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early ’70s, a group of inventors at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) blazed the trail for all of today’s indispensable technology from the PC to email to ATMs to meteorologists’ weather maps. And they did it without fanfare or recognition from their employer. Hiltzik’s Dealers of Lightning provides a fascinating look at technohistory that sets the record straight.
In Dealers of Lightning, Hiltzik describes the forces and faces behind the revolution that the Xerox PARC team single-handedly spawned. The Xerox PARC group was composed solely of top technical minds. The decision was made at Xerox headquarters to give the team complete freedom from deadlines and directives, in hopes of fostering a true creative environment. It worked perhaps too well. The team responded with a steady output of amazing technology, including the first version of the Internet, the first personal computer, user-friendly word-processing programs, and pop-up menus. Xerox, far from ready for the explosion of innovation, failed to utilize the technology dreamed up by the group. Out of all the dazzling inventions born at Xerox PARC, only a handful were developed and marketed by Xerox. However, one of these inventions, the laser printer, proved successful enough to earn billions for the company, therefore justifying its investment in the research center. Most oftheteam’s creations would go on to be developed and perfected by other companies, such as IBM, Apple, and Microsoft.
Drawing from interviews with the engineers, executives, and scientists involved in the Xerox PARC, Dealers of Lightning chronicles an amazing era of egos, ideas, and inventions at the dawn of the computer age.” – The Barnes & Noble Review
3) Where Wizards Stay Up Late – Katie Hafner
This book is very interesting and it isn’t one that I have read as of yet but it defenitely is one that I want to read as soon as I can. What captures my attention about this book is the unique title. Its a question. An interesting question and one that I immediately want the answer to. The use of adjective with the word wizard to describe computer programmers is also one that fills the mind with imagination. Furthermore, one of the authors of this book is woman, Hafner. Thats special because the compuer industry is male domianated so its always nice to see a woman co-authoring a book that is a major hit. To summarise, the book is about Licklider (again) aswell as a group of computer experts and the story of how they invented so many amazing groundbreaking new pieces of technology.
“Twenty five years ago, it didn’t exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
In the 1960’s, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.” – GoodReads
4) The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal – M.Mitchell Waldrop
I know, Licklider again. Well, he was a genius so its no suprise. A hard working, humble genius. I read a sample of this book on Kindle and it was in this sample that I first read about Licklider. I was amazed at how inquisitive he was. However, I didn’t read the entire book because I couldn’t get my hands on aan available copy. I might have to purchase this book in order to read it. This book not too different than the previous book as it pretty much highlights the same story about how Licklider allowed technology to evolve by giving new ideas that would lay the groundwork for things like the internet as we know it amongst other things.
A study of the evolution of the modern computer profiles the work of MIT psychologist J. C. R. Licklider, whose visionary dream of a human-computer symbiosis transformed the course of modern science and led to the development of the personal computer. Reprint. – GoodReads
5) Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs
For anyone interested in computer design, this is an incredibly interesting book. I have not directly read this book but I have heard of this book and it really intrigued me because the book is wtitten by someone who worked in Apple for fifteen years! Not only fifteen random years but fifteen years of the time that was considered to be Apple’s Golden Age. In this book, the author is giving everyone a snapshot into how new pieces of technology were designed within Apple. I think that anyone who is interested in design, technology or business should read this book. I should also mention that the book cover is very beautiful, eye-catching and relevant to the topics within the book.
“Hundreds of millions of people use Apple products every day; several thousand work on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California; but only a handful sit at the drawing board. Creative Selection recounts the life of one of the few who worked behind the scenes, a highly-respected software engineer who worked in the final years the Steve Jobs era–the Golden Age of Apple.
Ken Kocienda offers an inside look at Apple’s creative process. For fifteen years, he was on the ground floor of the company as a specialist, directly responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing powerful, easy-to-use software for products including the iPhone, the iPad, and the Safari web browser. His stories explain the symbiotic relationship between software and product development for those who have never dreamed of programming a computer, and reveal what it was like to work on the cutting edge of technology at one of the world’s most admired companies.
Kocienda shares moments of struggle and success, crisis and collaboration, illuminating each with lessons learned over his Apple career. He introduces the essential elements of innovation–inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy–and uses these as a lens through which to understand productive work culture.
An insider’s tale of creativity and innovation at Apple, Creative Selection shows readers how a small group of people developed an evolutionary design model, and how they used this methodology to make groundbreaking and intuitive software which countless millions use every day.” -GoodReads
6) UNIX: A History and a Memoir – Brian W. Kernighan
UNIX is an operating system. Linux is very similar to UNIX. To properly understand operating systems like Linux you will have to know UNIX. The book explains the story of how UNIX first started out, how it was created and how it eventually conquered the world. The book is special because it is written by someone who was one of the original members of the group that developed UNIX. It’s interesting to see how one of the developers explained how UNIX began and took off. It’s always amazing reading from an author who has had a successful career within the tech world themselves because you know that they know exactly what they are talking about. The book will be written in a clear way. This book is necessary because you’ll see, not only the importance of UNIX but you will see the importance and power of operating systems. Without operating systems you would not be able to read this right now.
7) Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe – George Dyson
The origins of the digital universe. Who wouldn’t want to read that? Alan Turing is considered the father of computer science. He was the famous person who built a device in the middle of WW2 that broke the Nazi machine Enigma allowing the allied forces to interpret the secret messages of the Nazis. Alan Turing famously said “It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” when he was only 24 years old! Which just goes to show how much of a genius he was. The book explains how code took over the world and how Turings ideas set the foundation of the creation of all the computers after it. This book is a must read.
“It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.
Using five kilobytes of memory (the amount allocated to displaying the cursor on a computer desktop of today), they achieved unprecedented success in both weather prediction and nuclear weapons design, while tackling, in their spare time, problems ranging from the evolution of viruses to the evolution of stars.
Dyson’s account, both historic and prophetic, sheds important new light on how the digital universe exploded in the aftermath of World War II. The proliferation of both codes and machines was paralleled by two historic developments: the decoding of self-replicating sequences in biology and the invention of the hydrogen bomb. It’s no coincidence that the most destructive and the most constructive of human inventions appeared at exactly the same time.
How did code take over the world? In retracing how Alan Turing’s one-dimensional model became John von Neumann’s two-dimensional implementation, Turing’s Cathedral offers a series of provocative suggestions as to where the digital universe, now fully three-dimensional, may be heading next.” – GoodReads.
8) Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft – G. Pascal Zachary
Everyone knows how big the company Microsoft is and everyone is well aware of figures like Gates and Cutler. The important question we all ask or at least think to ourselves at some point in our lives is where did this windows operating system come from? We all know that Microsoft created it but how did they do it? Was a huge team assembled? How much money was invested into creating the operating system? What business, technological and leadership strategies were implemented in the process? This book explains exactly how all of that came about. It is a must read for anyone interested in technology and computers.
Describes the five-year, 150 million dollar project Microsoft undertook to develop an advanced PC operating system. – GoodReads
9) The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage – Clifford Stoll
This book caught my attention because its a thrilling story about an astrophycist who is educated about computers called Clifford. Clifford lives in UC Berkeley back when the internet was in its early days. One day he discovered a 75 cent accouting error and realised that he discovered a hacker who might have even been a spy. Cliff keeps the hacker at bay and spies on the spyer. Eventually this story results in all hell breaking loose with the CIA, KGB, cash anc cocaine getting involved. The reason why I have placed this book in this list is to give readers a picture on how the early internet functioned.
Before the Internet became widely known as a global tool for terrorists, one perceptive U. S. citizen recognized its ominous potential. Armed with clear evidence of computer espionage, he began a highly personal quest to expose a hidden network of spies that threatened national security. But would the authorities back him up? Cliff Stoll’s dramatic firsthand account is “a computer-age detective story, instantly fascinating [and] astonishingly gripping” (Smithsonian).
Cliff Stoll was an astronomer turned systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley Lab when a 75-cent accounting error alerted him to the presence of an unauthorized user on his system. The hacker’s code name was “Hunter” — a mysterious invader who managed to break into U.S. computer systems and steal sensitive military and security information. Stoll began a one-man hunt of his own: spying on the spy. It was a dangerous game of deception, broken codes, satellites, and missile bases — a one-man sting operation that finally gained the attention of the CIA…and ultimately trapped an international spy ring fueled by cash, cocaine, and the KGB. – GoodReads
10) Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace – Michelle Slatalla, Joshua Quittner
This is another interesting book that caught my attention. This book is the story about cyber turf wars and how gang ruled cyberspace or at least dominated it. They used many skills and this story is one that displays the hacking side of the computer industry which is why I have included it in this list. Cyber wars are common now between countries and it is well known that Presidents today higher many hackers as each country wants to be a dominant force in cyber space. It is important to know that hackers aren’t some anti-social creeps in their parents apartments but a lot more than that. That is just a stereotype and like most stereotypes, they aren’t always true. The cyber-security industry is one that is part of the official army now in many countries and reading this book will give you a glimpse into the cyber world. The book also has a female co-author and like I mentioned before, this is a special uncommon thing within the computing industry.
The bestselling account of a band of kids from New York who fought an electronic turf war that ranged across some of the nation’s most powerful computer systems. “An immensely fun and — one cannot emphasize this enough — accessible history of the first outlaws in cyberspace.”–Glamour
You May Also Be Interested In: