Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant follow-up to a landmark international bestseller
"Suppose every instrument could by command or by anticipation of need execute its function on its own; suppose that spindles could weave of their own accord, and plectra strike the strings of zithers by themselves; then craftsmen would have no need of hand-work, and masters have no need of slaves." Aristotle Called the Indiana Jones of arithmetic, Georges Ifrah embarked in 1974 on a ten-year quest to discover where numbers come from and what they say about us. His first book, the highly praised Universal History of Numbers, drew from this remarkable journey, presented the first complete account of the invention and evolution of numbers the world overand became an international bestseller. In The Universal History of Computing, Ifrah continues his exhilarating exploration into the fascinating world of numbers. In this fun, engaging but no less learned book, he traces the development of computing from the invention of the abacus to the creation of the binary system three centuries ago to the incredible conceptual, scientific, and technical achievements that made the first modern computers possible. He shows us how various cultures, scientists, and industries across the world struggled to break free of the tedious labor of mental calculation and, as a result, he reveals the evolution of the human mind. Evoking the excitement and joy that accompanied the grand mathematical undertakings throughout history, Ifrah takes us along as he revisits a multitude of cultures, from Roman times and the Chinese Common Era to twentieth-century England and America. We meet mathematicians, visionaries, philosophers, and scholars from every corner of the world and from every period of history. We witness the dead ends and regressions in the computers development, as well as the advances and illuminating discoveries. We learn about the births of the pocket calculator, the adding machine, the cash register, and even automata. We find out how the origins of the computer can be found in the European Renaissance, along with how World War II influenced the development of analytical calculation. And we explore such hot topics as numerical codes and the recent discovery of new kinds of number systems, such as "surreal" numbers. Adventurous and enthralling, The Universal History of Computing is an astonishing achievement that not only unravels the epic tale of computing, but also tells the compelling story of human intelligenceand how much farther we still have to go.
GEORGES IFRAH is an independent scholar and former math teacher. E. F. Harding, the primary translator, is a statistician and mathematician who has taught at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Cambridge Universities. SOPHIE WOOD, cotranslator, is a specialist in technical translation from French. Ian Monk, cotranslator, has translated the works of Georges Perec and Daniel Pennac. ELIZABETH CLEGG, cotranslator, is also an interpreter who has worked on a number of government and international agency projects. Guido Waldman, cotranslator, has translated several classic literary works.
In this engaging successor to The Universal History of Numbers, youll discover the entire story of the calculation of yesteryear and the computation of today. From the invention of the abacus to the creation of the binary system three centuries ago to the conceptual, scientific, and technical achievements that made the earliest computers possible, highly acclaimed author and mathematician Georges Ifrah provides an illuminating glimpse into humankinds greatest intellectual tale: the story of computing.
PRAISE FOR GEORGES IFRAHS The Universal History of Numbers
"Georges Ifrah is the man. This book, quite simply, rules. . . . It is outstanding . . . a mind-boggling and enriching experience." The Guardian (London)
"Monumental . . . a fascinating journey taking us through many different cultures."The Times (London)
"Ifrahs book amazes and fascinates by the scope of its scholarship. It is nothing less than the history of the human race told through figures."International Herald Tribune
"Dazzling."Kirkus Reviews
"Sure to transfix readers."Publishers Weekly
Review
A fascinating compendium of information about writing systems - both for words
and numbers - and ancient systems of calculation, this followup book by the author of The Universal History of Numbers will enthrall specialists, though its perplexing structure may put off other readers. Part One begins with a 19-page chronology of significant events in the development of number writing up to 1654, followed by 38 pages of charts with codes and figures that are not explained or referenced anywhere in the book. Some of these charts make sense, such as a diagram showing how medieval accountants wrote very large numbers with Roman numerals. Others remain cryptic. However, in Part Two, Ifrah begins to weave together a cogent intellectual history of physical representations of numbers and calculations with compelling stories and philosophical analyses of computational processing. Occasionally, his facts are ungrounded: for example,
he places John Patterson (the promoter of the cash register, born 1844) before the Revolutionary War. But since the book is primarily concerned with ideas rather than people or events, this sort of carelessness is not a major problem. Originally writing in French, Ifrah distinguishes sharply between "computing" and "computers" - and the modern computer has almost no place in his story. Unfortunately, the translator chooses to use "compute" in both senses,
which makes some sections of the book unintelligible, and may lead readers to mistakenly expect this book to be a history of computers.
--Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2000
Synopsis
Continues Ifrah's story from The Universal History of Numbers to cover the story of the invention of computers and the binary number system, as well as recently discovered number systems (eg. "surreal" numbers) and hot topics (eg. numerical codes).
Synopsis
"Suppose every instrument could by command or by anticipation of need execute its function on its own; suppose that spindles could weave of their own accord, and plectra strike the strings of zithers by themselves; then craftsmen would have no need of hand-work, and masters have no need of slaves." Aristotle Called the Indiana Jones of arithmetic, Georges Ifrah embarked in 1974 on a ten-year quest to discover where numbers come from and what they say about us. His first book, the highly praised Universal History of Numbers, drew from this remarkable journey, presented the first complete account of the invention and evolution of numbers the world overand became an international bestseller.
In The Universal History of Computing, Ifrah continues his exhilarating exploration into the fascinating world of numbers. In this fun, engaging but no less learned book, he traces the development of computing from the invention of the abacus to the creation of the binary system three centuries ago to the incredible conceptual, scientific, and technical achievements that made the first modern computers possible. He shows us how various cultures, scientists, and industries across the world struggled to break free of the tedious labor of mental calculation and, as a result, he reveals the evolution of the human mind.
Evoking the excitement and joy that accompanied the grand mathematical undertakings throughout history, Ifrah takes us along as he revisits a multitude of cultures, from Roman times and the Chinese Common Era to twentieth-century England and America. We meet mathematicians, visionaries, philosophers, and scholars from every corner of the world and from every period of history. We witness the dead ends and regressions in the computers development, as well as the advances and illuminating discoveries. We learn about the births of the pocket calculator, the adding machine, the cash register, and even automata. We find out how the origins of the computer can be found in the European Renaissance, along with how World War II influenced the development of analytical calculation. And we explore such hot topics as numerical codes and the recent discovery of new kinds of number systems, such as "surreal" numbers.Adventurous and enthralling, The Universal History of Computing is an astonishing achievement that not only unravels the epic tale of computing, but also tells the compelling story of human intelligenceand how much farther we still have to go.
About the Author
GEORGES IFRAH is an independent scholar and former math teacher. E. F. Harding, the primary translator, is a statistician and mathematician who has taught at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Cambridge Universities. SOPHIE WOOD, cotranslator, is a specialist in technical translation from French. Ian Monk, cotranslator, has translated the works of Georges Perec and Daniel Pennac. ELIZABETH CLEGG, cotranslator, is also an interpreter who has worked on a number of government and international agency projects. Guido Waldman, cotranslator, has translated several classic literary works.
Table of Contents
PART ONE.
Chapter 1: Historical Summary of Arithmetic, Numerical Notation, and Writing Systems.
chapter 2: From the Particular to the General: Arithmetic Leads to Algebra.
Chapter 3: From Calculation to Calculus.
Chapter 4: Binary Arithmetic and Other Non-Decimal Systems.
PART TWO.
Chapter 5: From Clockwork Calculator to Computer: The History of Automatic Calculation.
Chapter 6: What is a Computer?
PART TWO.
Chapter 7: Information, the New Universal Dimension.
Conclusion: Intelligence, Science, and the Future of Mankind.
List of Abbreviations.
Bibliography.
Index.