The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution

Tony Hey presented his book ‘The Computing Universe: A Journey Through a Revolution’ at Microsoft research. Below are some quotes and notes. Very interesting stories and thoughts.

The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution

Tony Hey – 2015

Computers now impact almost every aspect of our lives, from our social interactions to the safety and performance of our cars. How did this happen in such a short time? And this is just the beginning. . . . In this book, Tony Hey and Gyuri Pápay lead us on a journey from the early days of computers in the 1930s to the cutting-edge research of the present day that will shape computing in the coming decades. Along the way, they explain the ideas behind hardware, software, algorithms, Moore’s Law, the birth of the personal computer, the Internet and the Web, the Turing Test, Jeopardy’s Watson, World of Warcraft, spyware, Google, Facebook, and quantum computing. This book also introduces the fascinating cast of dreamers and inventors who brought these great technological developments into every corner of the modern world. This exciting and accessible introduction will open up the universe of computing to anyone who has ever wondered where his or her smartphone came from.


The earliest known algorithm was invented between 400 and 300 the Greek mathematician Euclid as a method for finding the greatest common divisor of two positive integers.

For example, the fraction 8/12 can be reduced to 2/3 by dividing both numerator and denominator by 4.

Whenever any result is sought by [the aid of the analytical engine], the question will arise: by what course of calculation can these results be arrived at by the machine in the shortest time?
‒ Charles Babbage 1864

The First Age of Computing – Computers for simulation

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) was the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was Turing-complete, digital, and capable of being reprogrammed to solve “a large class of numerical problems.”

Though ENIAC was designed and primarily used to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, its first programs included a study of the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb.

When ENIAC was announced in 1946, it was heralded in the press as a “Giant Brain.” It had a speed on the order of one thousand (103) times faster than that of electro-mechanical machines; this computational power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists alike.

I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be finding mistakes in my own programs.
‒ Maurice Wilkes

David Wheeler was awarded probably the first Ph.D. in ‘Computer Science’ in 1951

The 1950s and 1960s: The IBM Mainframe Era

Punch cards were used to input computer programs and data

1973: The Miracle of Xerox PARC

  • WYSIWYG Word Processor
  • Ethernet
  • WIMP interface
  • Laser printer

1975: Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and the Altair

1976: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Apple

1976: The ‘Killer App’ for the PC – VisiCalc spreadsheet

The Second Age of Computing: Computers for Communication

Lilcklider’s Intergalactic Computing Network

Lick had this concept of the intergalactic network which he believed was everybody could use computers anywhere and get at data in the world..
‒ Larry Roberts

From the ARPANET to the Internet

The ‘Killer App’ for the ARPANET: Ray Tomlinson was the first engineer at BBN who first extended the idea of email to computers linked by the ARPANET and introduced the now ubiquitous @ sign.

The Third Age of Computing – Computers for Embodiment

A Fourth Age of Computing…

… or just Feynman’s dumb file clerk?

The inside of a computer is as dumb as hell but it goes like mad!
‒ Richard Feynman

Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery.
‒ Daniel Dennett

See also: The third age of computing

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