'The Story of Computing' - Book Review

The Story of Computing
by Dermot Turing
Arcturus, 208p.

Back in November I got a request to use one of my photos in a book. I asked for a copy of the book as payment: it arrived in the mail in mid-July. So my review is somewhat suspect: while I have no commercial interest in the sales of the book, I'd like it to succeed because of my connection with it.

Turing starts the book way back, in Babylonian times, with the concept of the "computer:" a person who does computations. And he works forward from there to the present day. It's no surprise that the nephew of Alan Turing thinks highly of his famous uncle, but he handles that aspect of the book well. He gives Turing respect, but no more than the man deserves (and that leaves a lot of room, because Alan Turing's importance in the history of computing would be difficult to overstate). He talks about the Antikythera mechanism, Babbage, Lovelace, the Enigma, the Bombe, and quantum computers - and everything in between. His writing is fairly subdued and quiet - so much so that when I came across a joke I had to check a couple times because it was hard to believe. But he does manage to drop in several.

I approached the book with a certain snobbishness common among those who've been in the computing industry a long time: I assumed that he would make technical mistakes, not understand some important but difficult concept. I got through the entire book without finding any such error: the man did his homework. Better yet, after years of reading Packt's poorly written and edited technical books, it was a real pleasure to read a book so precisely written. I found one typo in the entire book: on the last page (excluding the glossary and index), a "polarized" filter is referred to as a "polaroid" filter.

I found the book considerably more educational than I expected. It's well written, and there were a number of topics he covered that were important parts of the history of computing that I was entirely unaware of. Definitely worth a read if it's an area of interest to you.