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History of Computer Science

by Philip Greenspun in September 2000

Site Home : Ancient History : One artifact

Editor's Note: This article is part of an archive. Please do not expect the links to work.

The Original Text of the Article:

This timeline is a biased perspective giving weight to computing advances that directly aided collaboration among human beings. References:

Reader's Comments

It is worth noting that the US government persecuted Phil Zimmermann for several years after he released PGP because he released PGP.

-- Paul Walker, September 23, 2000
The title should be "Cool stuff MIT guys did"

-- George Fairbanks, October 22, 2000

Another conclusion one is likely to draw from this page is this:

The British Government did more to stifle Computer Science in the 60s and 70s than Microsoft did during the 90s.

-- Rick Bischoff, December 12, 2000

"John" Baran I think should be Paul Baran. AT&T of course had a communications monopoly at that time based on analog networking and wasn't too receptive to technology requiring a digital network...

-- Paul Epps, January 17, 2001
While we are on the subject of bashing the British government, just think about this: Alan Turing could have lived to see the Internet.

-- Oren Tirosh, March 15, 2001
This list has more to do with engineering than science. The history of engineering useful machines and software may only be about 2 centuries old, but the underlying science is much older.

Nevermind the RSA algorithm, what about inventing the concept of an algorithm itself? The term algorithm is derived from a "Latinised" form of Mohammed ibn Musa al-Kwarizmi, who worked around 825A.D. Euclid's algorithm has been dated circa 300 B.C. [At least that's what my old college notes say ;-) ]

Here are just some profound developments I'd like to acknowledge:

The Hindu-Arabic number system (Why? Try building a calculator that works with Roman numerals.) Would it have been possible to build computers without an inductive number system?

The realisation that 0 is a number Try defining addition and multiplication without the number 0.

Symbolic forms of logic Work by Goedel and others has brought the same kinds of advantages to logic that an inductive number system has brought to arithmetic.

The best discoveries are difficult to appreciate because they have changed the way we think.

-- Dafydd Rees, October 9, 2001

Nothing about Stallman and GNU? GPL as well as the compiler. In a history of Computer Science that is like ignoring the Guttenburg Printing Press in a history of technology. Without GNU how effective would PGP have been for example?

-- Greg morse, May 16, 2002
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