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Other titles in the Writing Science series:
Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing (Writing Science)by Thierry Bardini
Synopses & Reviews
Bootstrapping analyzes the genesis of personal computing from both technological and social perspectives, through a close study of the pathbreaking work of one researcher, Douglas Engelbart. In his lab at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s, Engelbart, along with a small team of researchers, developed some of the cornerstones of personal computing as we know it, including the mouse, the windowed user interface, and hypertext. Today, all these technologies are well known, even taken for granted, but the assumptions and motivations behind their invention are not. Bootstrapping establishes Douglas Engelbarts contribution through a detailed history of both the material and the symbolic constitution of his systems human-computer interface in the context of the computer research community in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.
Engelbart felt that the complexity of many of the worlds problems was becoming overwhelming, and the time for solving these problems was becoming shorter and shorter. What was needed, he determined, was a system that would augment human intelligence, co-transforming or co-evolving both humans and the machines they use. He sought a systematic way to think and organize this coevolution in an effort to discover a path on which a radical technological improvement could lead to a radical improvement in how to make people work effectively. What was involved in Engelbarts project was not just the invention of a computerized system that would enable humans, acting together, to manage complexity, but the invention of a new kind of human, “the user.” What he ultimately envisioned was a “bootstrapping” process by which those who actually invented the hardware and software of this new system would simultaneously reinvent the human in a new form.
The book also offers a careful narrative of the collapse of Engelbarts laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, and the further translation of Engelbarts vision. It shows that Engelbarts ultimate goal of coevolution came to be translated in terms of technological progress and human adaptation to supposedly user-friendly technologies. At a time of the massive diffusion of the World Wide Web, Bootstrapping recalls the early experiments and original ideals that led to todays “information revolution.”
Book News Annotation:
Bardini (communication, Universit<'e> de Montr<'e>al) analyzes the genesis of personal computing through a close study of Engelbart's life. It also examines the "bootstrapping" process by which the invention of new hardware and software systems was simultaneously matched with the creation of a new concept we call the "user." Engelbart's work and his vision for a human-computer interface is considered in its historical context.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Bootstrapping analyzes the genesis of personal computing from both technological and social perspectives, through a study of the pioneering work of Douglas Engelbart, winner of the 2000 National Medal of Technology. He and his small team of researchers at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s developed some of the cornerstones of personal computing, including the mouse, the windowed user interface, and hypertext.
“Bootstrapping fills an important gap in the story of personal computing.”—Technology and Culture
“Thierry Bardini particularly explores the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of Engelbarts book. . . . Indeed, the breadth of Engelbarts contributions and influence, documented in meticulous detail, are astonishing. . . .”—Enterprise and Society
Examines the genesis of personal computing through the case study of Douglas Engelbart's contribution.
About the Author
Thierry Bardini is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the Université de Montréal.
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