Outline of Class 43: History of Computing II
Held: Monday, April 20, 1998
- On Tuesday, April 21 at 11 a.m. in Science 1023, Robert Cadmus,
professor of Physics, will present a lecture about electronic imaging
technology. You are required to attend that lecutre, which will
take the place of our class that day.
- Reminder: our next exam is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28. I will
not give another assignment until after that exam, and the next
assignment will be our final assignment.
- The final brown-bag lunch of the term is today.
- Please read chapter 11 of Bailey for Wednesday.
- Today's class may be even more ad-hoc than normal, as I'll pick
social topics to discuss partially in response to perceived interest.
- Ancient Greece, Babylon, China, etc (a few hundred BCE)
- First algorithms. E.g., Euclid's algorithm for computing
greatest-common-factors, Eratothenes sieve method for computing
- Early aids to computation. E.g., abacus.
- Early common era
- Early hypertexts. E.g, the Talmud.
- 1500s - 1700s.
- Slide rule as computational aid (John Napier).
- First automated/mechanical calculators designed by Pascal and
- Printing press permits publication of "computational tables"
(e.g., logarithm tables).
- Jacquard invents "automated loom" controlled by punch cards.
Permits encoding of expert knowledge of weaving. (c. 1801)
- Babbage designs "difference engine" for computation of tables.
- Babbage designs "analytical engine" for general purpose computation.
- Lady Augusta, Countess Lovelace designs programming language and
writes programs for nonexistant analytical engine.
- 1880 census takes seven years to compute. 1890 census predicted
to be impossible to compute.
- Hollerith devises electromechanical counting machine for census.
Basics of 1890 census computed in six weeks. Hollerith's company
eventualy becomes IBM.
- Early 1900's.
- 1920's. Vannevar Bush develops large scale analog calculator for
computing projectile trajectories.
- 1930's. Zuse develops a series of electromechanical computing
devices. Turing publishes paper on what is computable.
- Early 1940's. First long-distance computation done at Dartmouth.
- Colossus, first electronic computer, used in Britain for breaking
- Harvard Mark I is first fully automatic computer.
- ENIAC is first programmable electronic computer.
- Transistor invented at Bell labs. Grant Gale at Grinnell gets one
of the first transistors to show in his physics classes.
- Vannevar Bush publishes "As We May Think", an article on a system
he has devised for organizing and linking information. Perhaps first
mechanical hypertext system. The paper eventually inspires a number
of great developments in computing.
- Noyce contributes to development of integrated circuit.
- First graphical output comptuers at MIT.
- Growth of Digital Equipment Corporation ("It's a personal data
processor and not a computer").
- Movement of computing towards business applications begins
- Turing designs "Turing Test" for artificial intelligence.
- Ted Nelson coins the term hypertext.
- MIT hackers develop SpaceWar, perhaps first videogame (1962)
- Eliza, an automated "psychotherapist". See
an online example.
- Time sharing developed. More than one person can use a computer
at a time!
- ARPANET developed for communication between computers. Quickly
grows into system for human communication.
- Graphical user interfaces and the mouse developed partially in
response to Bush's paper.
- Textual adventure games.
- Personal computers (late 70's, still mostly geek devices).
- VisiCalc: first spreadsheets. Led to the growth of personal computers
- First true GUIs on personal computers.
- Continued growth in video games.
- More networking.
- ARPANET retarteged as Internet.
- Macintosh released. Computer as personal appliance.
- The web (early 1990).
- Enormous growth.
- Computing has grown faster than almost any technology to date.
- For example, the ENIAC cost over $1,000,000 in 1950 (approximately).
These days, you can buy as much computing power for about $10
(again, approximately). In some sense, that's equivalent to being
able to buy a Jet Airplane for the price of a children's trike (even
- Few of the original predictions of the impact of computing
accomodated the impleications of this enormous growth. It's
not clear many of us can really conceive of it.
- The growth has also led many computer programmers to be wasteful.
In 1984, a Macintosh had 128 kilobytes of memory and used 400K disks.
The "smallest" Macintosh you can buy today has about 16 megabytes of
memory (128 times as much) and comes with a one gigabyte hard drive
(about 2500 times as much). Yet there was a lot squeezed into
that small space. A 400K disk could fit System, Finder, Drawing or
Writing Program, and even a few user files. Have we gained
significantly more functionality? One hundred times as much?
- As one might guess, the growth of computing has had a tremendous
impact on society, particularly because computing has grown
more quickly than almost any technology.
- How has it impacted society? In many ways.
- Computing permits us to gather and analyze much larger data
sets than ever before.
- The growth of computing has led many to rely on computers and
their algorithms for things previously done by hand. At times,
this is good (it can prevent bias), but frequently it is bad
(it ignores many things that can't be quantified).
- Computing and the web have led us to ask many new questions about
- Computer programs have been called "the most complex man-made
objects". How do we handle that complexity and the likely errors
associated with that complexity?
- Because computing can challenge some expectations, there are many attempts
to legislate computing. For example, it may be considered a felony
to export an encryption algortihm and many legislators are attempting
to control what information appears on the web.
- Computing can both narrow and increase the barriers between classes,
nationalities, races, etc.
- Networks, computing, and particularly the World-Wide Web are forcing
many to rethink notions of information, particularly with regards to
intellectual property laws (copyright, patent, etc.) and the
veracity and usefulness of information.
- For example, many complain that little of the information on the web is
refereed or edited in any way. Unfortunately, some people believe
"if it's in printed form (or on the web) it must be true."
- How do we teach people about "levels of accuracy".
- If someone writes an incorrect set of instructions for doing
X (e.g., picking a college), are they responsible
if someone else uses them and suffers the consequences?
- If another site links to the incorrect information (e.g., on
"The Official Xylinks Magazine List of Recommended College
Tips"), is the linker responsible for the incorrect information?
- Of course, it's never been clear to me why people think that print
is much better about accuracy. Amateur 'zines have existed for a
long time (certainly as far back as the broadsides of the
revolution) and much of what appears in print is still biased
according to the knowledge, limitations, or even goals of writers,
editors, and publishers.
- Another example has to do with linking and copyright.
- Is it (or should it be) a violation of copyright to make a document
link to another URL? Most would say no, as we have a tradition
of writing things like "for more information, see ...".
- Is it (or should it be) a violation of copyright to follow a link to
Again, most would say no, as the standard on the web is "if a link
to a document works, the provider of the document expects me to
be able to read the document".
- Is it (or should it be) a violation of copyright to include an image
tag that links
to another site? For example, if I create a page at Grinnell, can I
include an image from Dartmouth, even if I don't copy the image but
instead write code that says "Put this image from Dartmouth at this
point in my page?" This is less clear, as it seems like a link, and
the actual downloading of the image is done by the reader. However,
the image appears within the Grinnell page, making it seem like the
property of Grinnell, rather than Dartmouth.
- Is it (or should it be) a violation of copyright to save a copy
of an image or file I obtained from the web on my local disk, given
that I don't allow anyone else to access it? Note that most
browsers do this automatically. Does it make a difference whether
the saving is explicit or implicit?
- Is it (or should it be) a violation of copyright to print a page
from the web?
- To return to our first two questions, consider the following links
to an archive of comic strips.
as you may note, even though the "main" page limits access to
strips from over two weeks ago, the second link is to a strip not
yet published. (And yes, I will be writing to the maintainers of
those pages to indicate the problem.)
- These days, there are also many questions of deception, intentional
- The Princeton Review once purchased the domain name
kaplan.com and used it to advertise their
- If I purchase the domain name
grinnell.com and write about a fictitious
Grinnell University, am I impinging upon the rights of Grinnell
- I've been told that there were three "front doors" for Bob Dole before
the last election. None was authorized.
- There are also many questions of internationalization.
- What happens when one government tries to control the web (as
ours tends to do)?
- Does the web promote the "Americanization" of the world?
- Many also worry about issues of access, particularly for the disabled.
My notes on social issues in computing are based on a variety of sources
and experiences, not all of which are things I've seen, used, or heard
recently. Recent and remembered sources include:
- Sara Baase (1997). A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and
Ethical Issues in Computing. Prentice-Hall.
- Rick Decker and Stuart Hirshfield (1998). The Analytical
Engine: An Introduction to Comptuer Science Using the Internet.
International Thomson Press.
- Richard G. Epstein (1997). The Case of the Killer Robot.
John Wiley and Sons.
- Peter G. Neumann (1995). Computer-Related Risks. ACM Press /