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A Brief History of the Future

digex had this book sitting on his office bookshelf when I went up to see him last week, and as I am perpetually curious about the history of things (and the Internet in particular, since I've been peripherally involved in it since the days when it was still ARPANET) I borrowed it.

It was well worth the time. John Naughton writes from an English perspective, so he has some insights into the early history of computers that one probably wouldn't see from an American writer, and his writing style reminds me a lot of Neal Stephenson, which is another plus. Unlike Stephenson, he doesn't feel the need to take extended side trips into higher mathematics, but he nonetheless covers all the odd geniuses responsible for the ideas behind the internet (Vannevar Bush's Memex makes an appearance, and rightly so) as well as the engineers, grad students, and (yes) visonary bureaucrats who brought the Internet from a Defense Department dream of unstoppable tactical communications to a wide-open bazaar that brings us everything from scholarly essays to cat macros to cheap goods to rare treasures to pr0n. In other hands, this could have been a dull and thudding tale, but Naughton does an awesome job of spinning an enthralling story reaching from his father's frustrated ham radio dreams to the billion-volt limitless future where all the world's information and treasures are literally at our fingertips. Highly recommended; A Brief History of the Future is not available in a Kindle edition, but used copies of the hardback and paperback are available for literally pennies.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
433
May. 12th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)
Sounds neat!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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