How It All Started

On June 14, 1951, Univac 1 was unveiled in Philadelphia. Designed for the Bureau of the Census, this was the first commercial electronic computer although it had been preceded by ENIAC, both systems developed by John Mauchy and others at the University of Pennsylvania. Massive in size and short on memory compared to our gigabyte world, UNIVAC, as it was soon called, represented a tidal shift in technology whose repercussions have affected every aspect of life as we know it.

Two current and entertaining books on the history of computers are What the Dormouse Said-:How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff and Electronic Brains: Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age by Mike Hally. The first chronicles the beginnings of the PC revolution in 1960's San Francisco and its assortment of colorful characters. The second was inspired by a BBC radio series. A more comprehensive view of the development of the industry in different countries, Hally's book provides a backdrop of historical events that influenced the development of computer technology.