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Six schemes for encoding the words "United States" via telegraphic messaging. Source: H. Nyquist, “Certain factors affecting telegraph speed,” Bell Syst. Tech. J., Apr. 1924, p. 338.

Computing and Historiography, Part 1

sigcis debate origins email evgeny morozov Shiva Ayyadurai

How does the work of building computers relate to the writing of computing history? At first glance, this seems an easy enough thing to describe: Scientists, engineers, and industries invent or innovate while historians and other observers report on these events. This is a more or less linear model of cause and effect, where work with computers is an ostensible “cause” or “source” for writing computer history. But I think this model is so reductive as to be false. It seems to me that the reception or interpretation of computational history is itself a participant in the shaping and consolidation of computational innovation. Recognizing this relation has important consequences for a number of issues in ‘informatics proper’ (design and protection of intellectual property, raising capital, and workplace diversity are three areas I will touch on in coming posts) as well those societies that would like to identify social well being with technological innovation.

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