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Paul E. Ceruzzi

Paul E. Ceruzzi is a Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He is the author of A History of Modern Computing, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005, both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

Titles by This Author

A Concise History

The history of computing could be told as the story of hardware and software, or the story of the Internet, or the story of “smart” hand-held devices, with subplots involving IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. In this concise and accessible account of the invention and development of digital technology, computer historian Paul Ceruzzi offers a broader and more useful perspective. He identifies four major threads that run throughout all of computing’s technological development: digitization--the coding of information, computation, and control in binary form, ones and zeros; the convergence of multiple streams of techniques, devices, and machines, yielding more than the sum of their parts; the steady advance of electronic technology, as characterized famously by “Moore’s Law”; and the human-machine interface.

Ceruzzi guides us through computing history, telling how a Bell Labs mathematician coined the word “digital” in 1942 (to describe a high-speed method of calculating used in anti-aircraft devices), and recounting the development of the punch card (for use in the 1890 U.S. Census). He describes the ENIAC, built for scientific and military applications; the UNIVAC, the first general purpose computer; and ARPANET, the Internet’s precursor. Ceruzzi’s account traces the world-changing evolution of the computer from a room-size ensemble of machinery to a “minicomputer” to a desktop computer to a pocket-sized smart phone. He describes the development of the silicon chip, which could store ever-increasing amounts of data and enabled ever-decreasing device size. He visits that hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, and brings the story up to the present with the Internet, the World Wide Web, and social networking.

High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005

Much of the world’s Internet management and governance takes place in a corridor extending west from Washington, DC, through northern Virginia toward Washington Dulles International Airport. Much of the United States’ military planning and analysis takes place here as well. At the center of that corridor is Tysons Corner--an unincorporated suburban crossroads once dominated by dairy farms and gravel pits. Today, the government contractors and high- tech firms--companies like DynCorp, CACI, Verisign, and SAIC--that now populate this corridor have created an “Internet Alley” off the Washington Beltway. In From Tysons Corner to Internet Alley, Paul Ceruzzi examines this compact area of intense commercial development and describes its transformation into one of the most dynamic and prosperous regions in the country. Ceruzzi explains how a concentration of military contractors carrying out weapons analysis, systems engineering, operations research, and telecommunications combined with suburban growth patterns to drive the region’s development. The dot-com bubble’s burst was offset here, he points out, by the government’s growing national security-related need for information technology. Ceruzzi looks in detail at the nature of the work carried out by these government contractors and how it can be considered truly innovative in terms of both technology and management. Today in Tysons Corner, clusters of sleek new office buildings housing high-technology companies stand out against the suburban landscape, and the upscale Tysons Galleria Mall is neighbor to a government-owned radio tower marked by a sign warning visitors not to photograph or sketch it. Ceruzzi finds that a variety of perennially relevant issues intersect here, making it both a literal and figurative crossroads: federal support of scientific research, the shift of government activities to private contractors, local politics of land use, and the postwar movement from central cities to suburbs. Paul E. Ceruzzi is Curator of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He is the author of A History of Modern Computing (second edition, MIT Press, 2003) and other books, and coeditor of The Internet and American Business (MIT Press, 2008).

This engaging history covers modern computing from the development of the first electronic digital computer through the dot-com crash. The author concentrates on five key moments of transition: the transformation of the computer in the late 1940s from a specialized scientific instrument to a commercial product; the emergence of small systems in the late 1960s; the beginning of personal computing in the 1970s; the spread of networking after 1985; and, in a chapter written for this edition, the period 1995-2001. The new material focuses on the Microsoft antitrust suit, the rise and fall of the dot-coms, and the advent of open source software, particularly Linux. Within the chronological narrative, the book traces several overlapping threads: the evolution of the computer's internal design; the effect of economic trends and the Cold War; the long-term role of IBM as a player and as a target for upstart entrepreneurs; the growth of software from a hidden element to a major character in the story of computing; and the recurring issue of the place of information and computing in a democratic society. The focus is on the United States (though Europe and Japan enter the story at crucial points), on computing per se rather than on applications such as artificial intelligence, and on systems that were sold commercially and installed in quantities.

Flight Enters the Computer Age

Computers and flying machines are two dominant technologies of our time. Beyond the Limits shows the ways in which they interact, clearly illustrating the complex issues and devices involved in their mutual evolution. It describes and illustrates how computer technology has affected the theory and practice of the engineering and operations of aircraft and spacecraft from 1945 to the present.

Paul Ceruzzi points out that the "revolution" in aerospace technology has been going on for at least forty years. For the first time, he tells how modern flight depends on computers, how this came about, and what its consequences are. He brings to light new facets of the individual stories of aerospace and computing, while also revealing more general themes about the dynamics and evolution of these modern technologies.

Spacecraft and fighters make use of leading-edge computer technologies in their design, testing manufacture, navigation and operation; moreover pilots and astronauts rely on computer simulations throughout their training. Ceruzzi describes these technologies and their history. In separate chapters he focuses on Northrop ("midwife of the computer industry"), missile tracking, Whirlwind, Apollo, Minuteman, and the software involved. An appendix discusses the role that on-board and ground computers played in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Titles by This Editor

When we think of the Internet, we generally think of Amazon, Google, Hotmail, Napster, MySpace, and other sites for buying products, searching for information, downloading entertainment, chatting with friends, or posting photographs. In the academic literature about the Internet, however, these uses are rarely covered. The Internet and American Business fills this gap, picking up where most scholarly histories of the Internet leave off--with the commercialization of the Internet established and its effect on traditional business a fact of life. These essays, describing challenges successfully met by some companies and failures to adapt by others, are a first attempt to understand a dynamic and exciting period of American business history. Tracing the impact of the commercialized Internet since 1995 on American business and society, the book describes new business models, new companies and adjustments by established companies, the rise of e-commerce, and community building; it considers dot-com busts and difficulties encountered by traditional industries; and it discusses such newly created problems as copyright violations associated with music file-sharing and the proliferation of Internet pornography. ContributorsAtsushi Akera, William Aspray, Randal A. Beam, Martin Campbell-Kelly, Paul E. Ceruzzi, James W. Cortada, Wolfgang Coy, Blaise Cronin, Nathan Ensmenger, Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz, Brent Goldfarb, Shane Greenstein, Thomas Haigh, Ward Hanson, David Kirsch, Christine Ogan, Jeffrey R. Yost William Aspray is Rudy Professor of Informatics at Indiana University in Bloomington. He is the editor (with J. McGrath Cohoon) of Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation (MIT Press, 2006 Paul E. Ceruzzi is Curator of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He is the author of A History of Modern Computing (second edition, MIT Press, 2003) and Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 (MIT Press, 2008)