host computer

Computer: A History of the Information Machine

Computer: A History of the Information Machine , is a 1996 book by Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray. It offers an overview of the history of computing and computer hardware which ends with the rise of the world wide web in the mid-1990s.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Before the Computer
    • 1: When Computers Were People
    • 2: The Mechanical Office
    • 3: Babbage's Dream Comes True
  • Part Two: Creating the Computer
    • 4: Inventing the Computer
    • 5: The Computer Becomes A Business Machine
    • 6: The Maturing of the Mainframe: The Rise and Fall of IBM
  • Part Three: Innovation and Expansion
    • 7: Real Time: Reaping the Whirlwind
    • 8: Software
    • 9: New Modes of Computing
  • Part Four: Getting Personal
    • 10: The Shaping of the Personal Computer
    • 11: The Shift To Software
    • 12: From the World Brain to The World Wide Web


During the second half of the 1980s, the joys of 'surfing the net,' began to excite the interest of people beyond the professional computer-using communities [...] However, the existing computer networks were largely in government, higher education and business. They were not a free good and were not open to hobbyists or private firms that did not have access to a host computer. To fill this gap, a number of firms such as CompuServe, Prodigy, GEnie, and America Online sprang up to provide low cost network access [...] While these networks gave access to Internet for e-mail (typically on a pay-per-message basis), they did not give the ordinary citizen access to the full range of the Internet, or to the glories of [(protocol)|gopherspace] or the World Wide Web. In a country whose Constitution enshrines freedom of information, most of its citizens were effectively locked out of the library of the future. The Internet was no longer a technical issue, but a political one. (1996:298).


According to the "IEEE Annals of the History of Computing", Campbell-Kelly and Aspray's account is "a highly readable, broad-brush picture of the development of computing, or rather of the computer industry, from its beginning to the present" which "sets a new standard for the history of computing."

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