Can you imagine life without the computer? It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have them, yet today we carry them around inside our pockets in the form of smartphones.
George Dyson, a science historian, asks how we went from having no computers to having many in such a small amount of time period in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.
Dyson, the son of scientist Freeman Dyson, has spent a lot of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The institute was home to several of the world’s most impressive scientific minds while the first digital computer was being created.
Turing’s Cathedral explores the invention of the computer, emphasizing the clashing personalities that were thrown together to work on the project. Additionally, it explores what was involved in the creation of the computer, much of which was chance.
Genius or not, people are still people, and when working tightly on the same project there are bound to be rivalries and disagreements that happen. Turing’s Cathedral lays these matters open, displaying the humanity of the scientist that came up with the first computer.It wasn’t just the personal disputes that needed to be put aside to make this project successful; there were also ethical issues involved. The work that went into the development of the computer walked hand in hand with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.
You might have the notion that a history book about computers will not only be dry but probably full of technical jargon. This is not the case with Turing’s Cathedral; most people who use computers will find this book fascinating. And that is a lot of people these days.