The Man Who Invented the Computer by Jane Smiley
The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 5 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

From one of our most acclaimed novelists, a  David-and-Goliath biography for the digital age.

One night in the late 1930s, in a bar on the Illinois–Iowa border, John Vincent Atanasoff, a professor of physics at Iowa State University, after a frustrating day performing tedious mathematical calculations in his lab, hit on the idea that the binary number system and electronic switches, com­bined with an array of capacitors on a moving drum to serve as memory, could yield a computing machine that would make his life and the lives of other similarly burdened scientists easier. Then he went back and built the machine. It worked. The whole world changed.

Why don’t we know the name of John Atanasoff as well as we know those of Alan Turing and John von Neumann? Because he never patented the device, and because the developers of the far-better-known ENIAC almost certainly stole critical ideas from him. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution.

Jane Smiley tells the quintessentially American story of the child of immigrants John Atanasoff with technical clarity and narrative drive, making the race to develop digital computing as gripping as a real-life techno-thriller.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Jane Smiley

See more books from this Author
JANE SMILEY is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres and more than ten other works of fiction, as well as three works of nonfiction, including a critically acclaimed biography of Charles Dickens. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in northern California.
 
Published October 19, 2010 by Doubleday. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Man Who Invented the Computer

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

One example was the meeting between Atanasoff and John Mauchly, another computer designer, a brief encounter in which Atanasoff revealed the workings of his machine, and ultimately led to the patent case that was found in Atanasoff’s favor as the inventor of the first “automatic electronic digita...

| Read Full Review of The Man Who Invented the Comp...

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

“I did not want to search and invent,” he confessed, “but sadly I turned in that direction.” Atanasoff’s device became known as the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, or the ABC — except that it hardly became known at all.

Nov 26 2010 | Read Full Review of The Man Who Invented the Comp...

Examiner

In any other country in the world, Atanasoff would have entirely lost his chance to claim the ideas behind the computer [since both Iowa State and his patent lawyer at the time, Richard Trexler,] failed to file his application, and Mauchly would have been awarded the patent.

Mar 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Man Who Invented the Comp...

Tampa Bay Times

The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer By Jane Smiley Doubleday, 256 pages, $25.95 Review: Jane Smiley chronicles 'The Man Who Invented the Computer,' John Atanasoff 11/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 13, 2010 3:30am]

Nov 13 2010 | Read Full Review of The Man Who Invented the Comp...

Bookmarks Magazine

Publisher: Doubleday Product Description From one of our most acclaimed novelists, a David-and-Goliath biography for the digital age.

One night in the late 1930s, in a bar on the Illinois–Iowa border, John V...

Oct 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Man Who Invented the Comp...

Reader Rating for The Man Who Invented the Computer
46%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 40 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×