[SIGCIS-Members] ENIAC in Action - book, website, and free poster

Subramanian, Ramesh Prof. Ramesh.Subramanian at quinnipiac.edu
Wed Feb 3 14:49:25 PST 2016

Hearty Congrats, Tom!


Ramesh Subramanian, Ph.D.
Gabriel Ferrucci Professor of Computer Information Systems
Quinnipiac University
Hamden, CT 06518.
Phone: 203-582-5276
Email:rameshs at quinnipiac.edu
Web: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/about/directory/faculty-detail/?Dept=16&Person=23345
Fellow, Yale Law School - Information Society Project
New Haven, CT 06511
Email: ramesh.subramanian at yale.edu
Web: http://www.law.yale.edu/intellectuallife/9841.htm
From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Thomas Haigh [thaigh at computer.org]
Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2016 3:34 PM
To: members at sigcis.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] ENIAC in Action - book, website, and free poster


I’m pleased to announce the publication by MIT Press of ENIAC in Action: Making and Remaking the Modern Computer, which I wrote with Mark Priestley and Crispin Rope. Thanks to all those in the SIGCIS community who helped us at various points along the way. Copies are now shipping from the MIT Press warehouse, and Paul Ceruzzi tells me that his has already arrived. You can get 30% off this or any other MIT Press STS title by using the code M16STS30 at checkout from the MIT Press store. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/eniac-action<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cHM6Ly9taXRwcmVzcy5taXQuZWR1L2Jvb2tzL2VuaWFjLWFjdGlvbg%3D%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D>

The book is much less boring than you probably expect. Because the book focuses on a single artifact we could expand our breadth of coverage in time (from 1943 to the present day) and in the variety of historical approaches taken. Thanks to a series of major legal battles running from the 1950s to the 1970s we could draw on an exceptionally extensive archival collections. We used these to dig deep into the technical mysteries of ENIAC, reconstructing the programming techniques used, the physical spaces built to house it, and the evolution of its design. Yet we also explore ENIAC as a workplace (literally, as its operators stood inside it), as an object in historical memory, and as the product of a bureaucratic organization. This challenged us to integrate historical methods from fields as disparate as business history and the history of mathematics and to package the results in a form accessible to diverse audiences. It chimes with several recent topics of discussion on this list, from the importance of the “maintainers” (by broadening ENIAC from a dot on a timeline of innovation to a place for humdrum and diverse human toil) to the recent announcement of a summer school on the history of computer simulation.

Any help that members of the SIGCIS community can give in drawing the book to the attention of other potential readers would be appreciated. I’m confident that it will be well received by people who already know that they would like to read an academic book about ENIAC, which is not all that many people. I have no idea whether it will be noticed in broader communities such as the history of physics, media studies, people interested in cold war technology, etc. Within the history of computing we’ve tended to view a disinclination to engage with technological detail as the hallmark of scholarly professionalism, but within the humanities more broadly there’s a lot of enthusiasm for “the digital,” non-human turns, thing theory, object oriented ontology, media archaeology, racism in Unix, etc. This relates very much the questions about the role of technical history I explored in the Communications of the ACM column “The Tears of Donald Knuth<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cDovL3d3dy50b21hbmRtYXJpYS5jb20vVG9tL1dyaXRpbmcvQ0FDTUtudXRoVGVhcnMucGRm&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D>” last year (which with more than 115,000 downloads seems to have been by some distance the most popular article published in Communications last year).

There is a lot of material already on the book website at www.EniacInAction.com<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5FbmlhY0luQWN0aW9uLmNvbQ%3D%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D>. This includes downloads of related articles, technical reports, and archival documents. These include the earliest known ENIAC set-up diagrams. There is also a poster http://eniacinaction.com/the-book/eniac-monte-carlo-poster/<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cDovL2VuaWFjaW5hY3Rpb24uY29tL3RoZS1ib29rL2VuaWFjLW1vbnRlLWNhcmxvLXBvc3Rlci8%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D> of the astonishing December 1947 flow diagram for the Los Alamos Monte Carlo program run on ENIAC, which we view as the first modern computer code ever executed. Even if it wasn’t a “first”, it would still be of great interest as the best documented and most complex application program preserved from the 1940s. There’s a PDF version online, but if you like it and want a free glossy poster (24x18 inches) then just email me your mailing address (offer limited to first 100 requests).

We also have an extensive tabulation of ENIAC-related errors in Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators. So if you ever feel tempted to believe a detail from that book, check it first at http://eniacinaction.com/the-articles/eniac-errors-in-isaacsons-the-innovators/<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cDovL2VuaWFjaW5hY3Rpb24uY29tL3RoZS1hcnRpY2xlcy9lbmlhYy1lcnJvcnMtaW4taXNhYWNzb25zLXRoZS1pbm5vdmF0b3JzLw%3D%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D>.

Best wishes,


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