The 15 Best Computing History Books

9 min read

This article examines some of the most fascinating and informative books on computing history. From tracing the development of computers, consoles, and games to exploring how hackers changed our world, these volumes provide an in-depth look at this rapidly evolving field. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the past or gaining insight into current breakthroughs, reading one (or all) of these best computing history books is sure to be a rewarding experience!

  1. The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

    The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn
    Richard W. Hamming, Bret Victor
    Published in 2020

    The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn is a groundbreaking treatise by renowned mathematician Richard Hamming. This book encourages readers to adopt the same style of thinking that leads to great ideas, using stories from some of history’s most influential scientists like Shannon’s information theory, Einstein’s relativity, Hopper’s high-level programming and Kaiser’s digital fillers. It includes an all-new foreword by Bret Victor along with more than 70 redrawn graphs and charts. In this edition, Hamming prepares aspiring scientists for greater distinction in their field while reflecting on his own successes as well as his failures – both offering valuable lessons which can be learned from. The Art of Doing Science & Engineering serves as a reminder that learning capacity is accessible to everyone; it’s a must read for anyone in any STEM field or looking to expand upon their knowledge base.

  2. Computing: A Concise History

    Computing: A Concise History
    Paul E. Ceruzzi
    Published in 2012

    This illuminating book by computer historian Paul Ceruzzi, entitled “Computing: A Concise History,” offers an informative and accessible exploration of computing from the first punch cards and calculators to present day Silicon Valley. It looks at four key threads in this evolution – digitization, convergence, electronic technology (Moore’s Law) and human-machine interaction – providing insight into how digital technology has continued to shape our lives over time. With detailed accounts exploring topics such as ENIAC and UNIVAC computers; ARPANET – the internet’s predecessor; silicon chips; personal computers; networks like Facebook, Twitter and more, this is a valuable resource for anyone looking to gain greater understanding of computer history. The lucid writing style makes it easy-to-follow while giving readers all they need to know about computing development throughout recent decades in an engaging way.

  3. The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech: Computer, Consoles and Games

    The Nostalgia Nerd's Retro Tech: Computer, Consoles and Games
    Peter Leigh
    Published in 2018

    The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech: Computer, Consoles and Games is a comprehensive guide to the world of gaming in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Written by YouTube star Peter Leigh with over 200,000 followers on his channel, it provides an entertaining journey through this exciting period in technology history. The book features screenshots from nostalgic games as well as stunning studio photography of the computers that left an imprint on many generations’ minds. Despite some minor errors such as spelling mistakes and misplaced photos found within its 220 pages, this delightful publication will bring joy to any avid fan or collector with its detailed descriptions and lively writing style – making it a must-have for all retro tech aficionados!

  4. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

    Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution
    Steven Levy
    Published in 2010

    Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution is a 25th anniversary edition book by Steven Levy. It dives into the lives, stories and culture of computer revolutionist pioneers from the late 1950s to early ’80s, which includes updated material from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Stallman and Steve Wozniak with their own interpretation on ‘the hacker ethic’. Through its pages it recounts how they escaped normal human interaction through computers labs and transformed human experience in politics, entertainment and business. The narrative begins at MIT students finagling access to clunky machines for data storage up until Homebrew Club’s invention of personal computers such as 1975’s Altair kit. This exploration delves into ideas such as that information should be free regardless if one can pay or not; this concept was tested when 19-year-old Bill Gates wrote BASIC language for Altair but charged money for it – only making people more adamant about finding ways around paying him. All these elements make Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution an intriguing story rooted in history that still resonates today!

  5. Dealers of Lightning

    Dealers of Lightning
    Michael A. Hiltzik
    Published in 2000

    Dealers of Lightning is a captivating story about the ground-breaking achievements made by Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) in the 1970s and 1980s. This fascinating read recounts how these revolutionary inventions came to be, such as laser printers, graphical interfaces and personal computers – all of which had an immense impact on modern day life. The book delves deep into the minds behind these creations; detailing their interactions with one another and insight into why it was that Xerox never truly capitalised upon them. Michael Hiltzik has conducted exhaustive interviews with those involved in order to tell this remarkable tale from start to finish, making Dealers of Lightning both informative and entertaining for readers who have even just a passing interest in technology history.

  6. Endless Loop: The History of the BASIC Programming Language

    Endless Loop: The History of the BASIC Programming Language
    Mark Jones Lorenzo
    Published in 2017

    Endless Loop: The History of the BASIC Programming Language is an insightful look at one of the most influential computer languages in history. Author Mark Jones Lorenzo covers every aspect from its inception, to its rise and fall as a world-wide phenomenon, to its current modern rebirth. This comprehensive book takes readers back in time to Dartmouth College where mathematics professors John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz created Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC). It then follows it through various implementations by Microsoft on microcomputers with less memory than necessary for all features found within Dartmouth BASIC. Along the way, readers are shown how jealousy, rivalry, creativity and hard work went into making this language so widely used throughout schools during the 1980s before coming under attack due to lack of structure. Finally they will learn about standardization efforts being made today including True BASIC and 9845 BASIC amongst others. Endless Loop offers an invaluable insight into what makes a programming language successful – or not – giving those interested in technology something truly worthwhile reading.

  7. A People’s History of Computing in the United States

    A People’s History of Computing in the United States
    Joy Lisi Rankin
    Published in 2018

    A People’s History of Computing in the United States by Joy Rankin is an important, insightful book that delves into a period before PCs and Silicon Valley took center stage. Through detailed records, she explores how teachers and students used academic computing systems to communicate messages, program music and poetry, foster communities and develop computer games like The Oregon Trail. With her radical precedent for a more democratic digital culture, Rankin offers new models for activists, educators, coders and makers alike who are interested in technology as a tool for social connection. This thought-provoking work highlights forgotten pioneers who helped shape our digital world much prior to the rise of Apple Inc., garage hobbyists or eccentric billionaires from Palo Alto. It also examines racism and misogyny’s role in molding digital culture since its inception whilst providing insight on early experiments with online learning & edtech. Highly recommended; this excellent read helps bury the ‘Silicon Valley Myth’ while enriching our understanding of history – both technological development as well as public relationships therein!

  8. IBM

    James W. Cortada
    Published in 2019

    In this comprehensive and well-researched history of IBM, James Cortada presents an in-depth exploration of the company’s success, failures, and reinvention over the last century. He delves into key aspects such as technology breakthroughs from punch cards to PCs; business culture; global expansion strategies; regulatory issues; CEOs that shaped its destiny; and more. IBM is a thorough examination of one of America’s most iconic companies ever – not just for tech aficionados but for anyone interested in learning about how businesses survive long term. It provides valuable insight on why Big Blue has been so successful throughout its existence despite changes in markets, technologies and competitive forces. With rigorous detail Cortada reveals what it takes to be a leader in innovation while also maintaining stability during times of upheaval. This book is essential reading for all those curious about corporate longevity or looking at the past with decades old wisdom to inform present day decisions.

  9. Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs
    Walter Isaacson
    Published in 2011

    Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs is a captivating, comprehensive biography of the late Apple cofounder. Through more than 40 interviews and conversations with over 100 people close to him, as well as extensive research, it examines every aspect of Jobs’ life from his youth to his success in revolutionizing six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing. This thrilling portrait reveals not only Job’s astounding creative genius but also his obsessions for perfectionism and control that shaped the innovative products he created. Critical reviews praise the unvarnished insights into this iconic entrepreneur—a man whose influence will be remembered long after his death—and recommend it to anyone interested in exploring how ambition can merge with talent to change history.

  10. Countdown to Zero Day

    Countdown to Zero Day
    Kim Zetter
    Published in 2015

    Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day is a compelling exploration of the world’s first cyberweapon, Stuxnet. It unravels an intricately constructed story of sabotage that took years in the making and resulted in physical destruction on an Iranian nuclear facility. Through her exhaustive research, Zetter paints a vivid picture of this new age of digital warfare and its potential ramifications if our infrastructure were ever targeted with such force again. Her narrative style masterfully combines elements of both detective work and techno-thriller writing for maximum effect, keeping readers captivated right up until the book’s conclusion. This stimulating read offers gripping insight into one incredibly innovative piece of malware as well as a broader understanding about today’s evolving landscape when it comes to cyberspace security threats. Countdown to Zero Day is sure to be essential reading for anyone interested in global cybersecurity issues or fascinated by tales from behind enemy lines

  11. Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy

    Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy
    Neel Mehta, Aditya Agashe, Parth Detroja
    Published in 2017

    Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy is a revolutionary book, garnering much attention for its valuable insights into the digital world. Authored by three experienced product managers from Google, Facebook and Microsoft, this Amazon #1 Bestseller provides readers with the tools they need to understand technology trends and how it impacts our lives in today’s society. From exploring software development and business models & strategies to uncovering security threats posed by hackers – Swipe to Unlock dives deep into all aspects of tech while also teaching key concepts such as economics and emerging markets. With an accessible writing style that has been praised by experts like Jeremy Schifeling (Founder at Break Into Tech) as “our generation’s Rosetta Stone,” this award-winning guidebook offers detailed case studies featuring popular companies like Apple, Tesla, Netflix — plus many more! Whether you’re preparing for interviews or simply wanting to become a better-educated digital citizen, Swipe To Unlock will be sure provide invaluable knowledge.

  12. The Innovators

    The Innovators
    Walter Isaacson
    Published in 2015

    Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators is an expansive and moving account of the people who have shaped our digital revolution. This masterfully written book examines the creative leaps behind these technological advances, exploring the talents that allowed certain inventors to turn their ideas into realities. It delves deep into the mindsets of major players in this epochal transformation such as Ada Lovelace, Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann and Steve Jobs among many others. An inspiring read for those interested in innovation, The Innovators takes readers on a journey from its inception to present day with vibrant descriptions and thoughtful analysis throughout. A must-have guidebook to understanding how disruption really happens within technology while providing insight into teamwork’s role in creativity; it strikes a perfect balance between technical jargon and graceful prose making it accessible to all types of readers. With moments ranging from awe-inspiring breakthroughs to tenderhearted realizations about joy being at the root of progress – Walter Issacson has created an essential narrative that reminds us what Americans are capable when they work together towards big goals.

  13. The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation

    The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation
    Frank O’Brien
    Published in 2010

    The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation, by Frank O’Brien is a comprehensive account of the Apollo computer. The book explains how hardware and software engineers overcame immense challenges to create this advanced system capable of guiding a spacecraft away from Earth towards the Moon. It covers topics such as logical design, computer architecture, language interpreters and real-time executive software in great detail. This book also offers valuable insight into cislunar navigation techniques employed during mission applications. As an essential reference for space historians and engineers, it serves well as supplementary text material for computer science courses too. With its rich descriptions ranging from internal organization to user interface flight software – all presented clearly without jargon or technical complexity – readers can enjoy learning about this remarkable piece of technology that made human exploration beyond our planet possible!

  14. The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993

    The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993
    Jordan Mechner
    Published in 2020

    The Making of Prince of Persia, Journals 1985-1993 by Jordan Mechner is a fascinating insight into the video game industry’s early days. This 300 page collector’s edition contains Mechner’s original journals and his present day margin notations with added explanation, context and cartoons. It also includes archival visuals illustrating stages in the creation process as well as sketches, rotoscoped animation, screen shots and more. The 32 pages of ‘Legacy’ section feature memories from fans around the world regarding their experiences with this timeless classic over its 30 year history. With an indelible look at the creative process that will resonate with writers, artists and creators alike; it serves both as a tribute to a timeless classic and an inspiring record for anyone aspiring to create something new.

  15. The Soul of A New Machine

    The Soul of A New Machine
    Tracy Kidder
    Published in 2000

    Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of A New Machine” is an award-winning, documentary style account of the development of a mini computer in the 1980s. Set against the backdrop of Data General’s efforts to keep up with their main competitor (DEC), this riveting story follows Tom West and his team as they try to create a ‘backup’ 32-bit system that would be compatible with their old 16-bit model. It examines what it takes to make a computer, how computers are organized and who puts them together; all while exploring the culture of feverish pace within the high tech industry. With its surprising gripping accounts from people at work, this book offers readers insight into not just technological innovation but also human ambition and dedication towards achieving something greater than themselves. From internal rivalries between engineers and management struggles – this essential read provides both entertainment value as well as being educational for those interested in understanding how technology has revolutionized our world today.

Additional resources

If you are looking for more information about computing history, here are some useful blogs and websites:

  • Computer History Museum offers an interactive timeline of computing history and information about the pioneers of computing.
  • Digital History offers a wealth of resources on the history of computing and the impact of digital technology on society.
  • Live Science: Computer History provides a comprehensive overview of the history of computing, from its early beginnings to the present day.
  • The History of Computing on YouTube is a video series exploring the history and impact of computing and its evolution over time.
  • The History of Computing offers a wealth of information on the history of computing, including a timeline of computing history, biographies of computing pioneers, and resources for further learning.

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