This article is a slightly revised version of a position paper prepared for the Seminar on Information Technologies in Historical Context, held at the National Museum of American History, 11 September 1987. It benefitted at that time from the critical comments of David K. Allison, William Aspray, I. Bernard Cohen, and Arthur Norberg. The research from which it stems has been generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Foundation under its New Liberal Arts Program.

[1] To characterize the unprecedented capabilities of computers linked to telecommunications, Nora and Minc (1978) coined the term télématique.

[2] See Aspray (1984) for a recent, brief survey of the state of the field.

[3] Many of the articles in Computing Surveys, begun in 1969, include an historical review of the subject.

[4] The 25th-anniversary issues of the leading journals also contain useful collections of important articles.

[5] Wexelblatt (1981), a record of the 1978 ACM Conference on the History of Programming Languages, is an excellent example, as is a recent issue of the Annals of the History of Computing on the Burroughs B5000.

[6] George Daniels (1970) put the question as an assertion (p.6): "... the real effect of technical innovation [has been] to help Americans do better what they had already shown a marked inclination to do." The seeming "social lag" in adapting to new technology, he argued, is more likely economic in nature.

[7] See in particular Wallace's "Thinking About Machinery" (Wallace 1978, pp.237ff.).

[8] In The Sciences of the Artificial Herbert Simon (1981; cf. Newell and Simon 1976) argues forcefully for the empirical nature of computer research that underlies its mathematical trappings. The thinking of computer designers and programmers is embodied in the way their machines and programs work, and the languages they use to specify how things are to work are themselves artifacts. The models they use are filled with images difficult or distractingly tedious to translate into words; cf. Bolter (1984).

[9] I do not make this claim in ignorance of Konrad Zuse's Z4 or Alan Turing's ACE, which realized roughly the same goals as von Neumann's along independent paths. Clearly the computer was "in the air" by the 1940s. But it was the 1940s, not the 1840s.

[10] I am including the history of mathematical logic in the history of mathematics

[11] It should sharpen the question for the history of science as well, if only by giving special force to the reciprocal influence of scientific theory and scientific instrumentation. But up to now at least it has not attracted the same attention. The computer may well change that as the shaping of scientific concepts and the pursuit of scientific inquiry come to depend on the state of computer technology.

[12] Elting E. Morison (1974) pursued this point along slightly different but equally revealing lines.

[13] Lundstrom (1987) has recently chronicled the failure of some companies to make the requisite adjustments.

[14] The obvious citations here are Kraft (1977) and Greenbaum (1979), but both works are concerned more with politics than with computing, and the focus of their political concerns, the "deskilling" of programmers through the imposition of methods of structured programming, has proved ephemeral, as subsequent experience and data show that programmers have made the transition with no significant loss of control over their work; cf. Boehm (1981).

[15] See, for example, Burke (1970): "Thus technological innovation is not the product of society as a whole but emanates rather from certain segments within or outside of it; the men or institutions responsible for the innovation, to be successful, must 'sell' it to the general public; and innovation does have the effect of creating broad social change.(p.23)" Ferguson (1979a) has made a similar observation about selling new technology.

[16] Along these lines, historians of computing would do well to remember that a line of writings on the nature, impact, and even history of computing stretching from Edmund C. Berkeley's (1949) Giant Brains through John Diebold's several volumes to Edward Feigenbaum's and Pamela McCorduck's (1983) The Fifth Generation stems from people with a product to sell, whether management consulting or expert systems.

[17] An effort at international cooperation in establishing a standard programming language, ALGOL from its inception in 1956 to its final (and, some argued, over-refined) form in 1968 provides a multileveled view of computing in the '60s. While contributing richly to the conceptual development of programming languages, it also has a political history which carries down to the present in differing directions of research, both in computer science and, perhaps most clearly, in software engineering.

[18] One has to wonder about an article on software engineering that envisions progress on an industrial model and uses photographs taken from the Great Depression.

[19] The latter designation stems from Frand (1983).