Books of Computer History and Folklore

This is the first draft of an eclectic list of books of computer history and folklore, suggested by posters to alt.folklore.computers beginning in September, 2020.

For this draft, no attempt has been made to clean up the format or add missing information. The only editing is to alphabetize books by author. Posters' comments have been retained.


Bagnall, Brian; The Story of Commodore: A Company on the Edge. Unfortunately, this book looks out of print, but I read it in 2007 and it left a strong impression on me. History is written by the winners, so we know all the history of Microsoft and Apple but Commodore could have been a winner. The book shows just how different things were back in 70s and 80s, how wide open the industry was. Very fascinating!

%A Brooks, Frederick P., Jr. %T The mythical man-month: Essays on software engineering %I Addison-Wesley %D 1995 %O Anniversary edition with four new chapters This is more about ways of working, but the examples range back to the 1950s

Bush, Vannevar; As We May Think (The Atlantic, January 1945)

Ceruzzi, Paul E.; A History of Modern Computing

%A Hellström, Gunnar %T Programmering av datamaskiner %S W&Wserien %V 166 %I Wahlström & Widstrand %C Stockholm %D 1967 A rare example of swedish books on programming, pre-home computer era. I think its purpose was mostly to educate the public, but it's obvious that it's written by a programmer. He teaches some FORTRAN.

Hiltzik, Michael: Dealers of Lightning, Xerox PARC and the dawn of the Computer Age; HarperCollins, 1999 ISBN: 0-88730-891-0

Jackson, Tim: Inside Intel; Dutton, 1997 ISBN: 0-525-94141-X

Kernighan, Brian; UNIX: A History and a Memoir. He self-published this in 2019, and it's an intriguing look at the culture of AT&T Bell Labs that spawned C and Unix. I learned that typesetting played a big driver in the growth of Unix.

Kidder, Tracy, "The Soul Of A New Machine", of how Data General developed a competitor for the VAX by hiring a team of college graduates and exploiting them to the bone. The project succeeded, and saved the company for a while, but I certainly would not have liked to work there.

Leavitt, David;The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

@book{book, title = {Abstracting away the machine: the history of the FORTRAN programming language (FORmula Translation)}, author = {Mark Jones Lorenzo}, publisher = {SE BOOKS}, edition {1st}, year = 2019, isbn = {979-1-082-39594-9}, address = {Philadelphia, PA}, } A fascinating view of the attitudes of early programmers (where even using an assembler was discouraged for being a waste of machine time, and that a compiler would never create efficient code), plus what Backus' team did to prove them wrong.

Lukoff, Herman; From Dits to Bits: A Personal History of the Electronic Computer

Macrae, Norman; John Von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More

McCartney, Scott; Eniac: The Triumph and Tragedies of the World's First Computer

Mollenhoff, Clark R.;"Atanasoff" Dr. J. V. Atanasoff invented the electronic digital computer.

%A Moody, Fred %T I sing the body electronic: a year with Microsoft on the multimedia frontier %D 1995 %I Hodder and Stoughton %C London

Nelson, Ted, Computer Lib/Dream Machines

Osborne, Adam; Dvorak, John Hyper-Growth -- The Rise and Fall of Osborne Computer Corporation Idthekkethan Publishing, 1984 The paperback edition (1985) has an additional forward by Adam Osborne.

%A Raymond, Eric Steven %T The Art of Unix Programming %S Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series %I Addison-Wesley %D 2004 Teaches a variant of the Unix philosophy; contains bits of text from various people who were involved in the 1970s and 1980s. Available online.

Strassman, Paul, The Computers Nobody Wanted, My Years at Xerox; The Information Economics Press, 2008 ISBN: 978-1-4276-3270-8 (Xerox purchase of SDS and Sigma systems)

Waldrop, M. Mitchell; The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal Computer

[Sep 6, 2020]