Information Ages (Magill Book Reviews)
The personal computer is the logical culmination of centuries of accomplishments by poets, philosophers, and mathematicians, according to Michael E. Hobart, professor of history at Bryant College, and Zachary S. Schiffman, Northeastern Illinois University history professor. These scholars trace the evolution of the alphabet, writing, printing, and mathematics since the ancient Greeks and Mesopotamians in INFORMATION AGES: LITERACY, NUMERACY, AND THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION.
The thesis of what its authors call “an historical essay” is that developments in many fields in several centuries were necessary to pave the way for contemporary computer technology. Hobart and Schiffman look at the information transmitted by such works as THE ILIAD in preliterate Greece, the development of classification and list making in Mesopotamia, the importance of classification in the philosophy of Aristotle, the invention of printing in the fifteenth century, Rene Descartes’ mathematical theories, the ideas of such nineteenth century mathematicians as Charles Babbage and George Boole, and the more recent contributions of Alan Turing and John von Neumann toward the creation of the modern computer. Once the authors reach the present, they offer a clear, concise explanation of what a digital computer actually is and how it works.
Aimed at a general educated reader curious about intellectual history, INFORMATION AGES does not always show the relationships between...
(The entire section is 275 words.)
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Information Ages (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Because of the growing impact of computers in general and the Internet in particular on all aspects of daily life, ours has been termed the “Information Age” by many. Was this an overnight development or the result of a series of stages that grew out of one another? In Information Ages: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Computer Revolution, Michael E. Hobart and Zachary S. Schiffman, professors of history at Bryant College and Northeastern Illinois University, respectively, argue that civilization has experienced a series of interrelated information ages from the birth of the alphabet to the present, with the development of writing, literacy, printing, mathematics, and science all leading to the creation of the computer.
What they call “our historical essay” is a blending of analyses of history, science, mathematics, anthropology, literature, philosophy, and technology. Their multidisciplinary approach works reasonably well, since the concept of information is central to so many fields. Exactly what information consists of, however, is another matter. Hobart and Schiffman cheat a bit by claiming information, “the dominant metaphor of our age,” is too elusive and mercurial a concept to define. Their goal is to place the term in a historical context.
In tracing the evolution of information, Hobart and Schiffman expand beyond developments in Europe but admit they have omitted such key topics as how writing came to exist in China....
(The entire section is 1833 words.)