Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The first half of RAMs, ROMs, and Robots: The Inside Story of Computers is a discussion of the historical development of computers and the people who aided in that development. James Jespersen and Jane Fitz-Randolph begin their story of computers by explaining how and why people count items in order to reveal the reasons for building calculating machines. They start with simple stories of counting farm animals, bushels of food, warriors, and seasons. The authors then describe one of the earliest computing devices—the arrangement of massive stones known as Stonehenge. The overview in chapter 1 ends with an explanation of how analog devices influenced computer development and of the need for new ideas.

Chapters 2 through 5 continue the history of computers. Young readers are introduced to some of the major figures who directly influenced the construction of modern computers. For example, the authors present a brief biographical sketch of Charles Babbage, who invented the “Analytical Engine.” Included in the sketch is an anecdote about Babbage correcting two lines written by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, because they were not mathematically sound. The authors provide information about the Analytical Engine and how its four parts—the store, mill, bus, and the input/output—are related to modern computers. Other contributors to computer development are discussed in these chapters: Ada Lovelace, who wrote a detailed account of the Analytical...

(The entire section is 473 words.)