Atsushi Akera

Atsushi Akera is Assistant Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

  • Calculating a Natural World

    Calculating a Natural World

    Scientists, Engineers, and Computers During the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research

    Atsushi Akera

    During the Cold War, the field of computing advanced rapidly within a complex institutional context. In Calculating a Natural World, Atsushi Akera describes the complicated interplay of academic, commercial, and government and military interests that produced a burst of scientific discovery and technological innovation in 1940s and 1950s America. This was the era of big machines—the computers that made the reputations of IBM and of many academic laboratories—and Akera uses the computer as a historical window on the emerging infrastructure of American scientific and engineering research. The military-industrial complex is often spoken of as a coherent and unified power, but Akera argues that it was the tensions as much as the convergences among military, business, and academic forces that fueled scientific and technological advances.

    Akera's study is unique in its integration of a history of postwar computing—usually told in terms of either business or hardware—and a mapping of an "ecology of knowledge" represented by the emerging institutional infrastructure for computing. For example, Akera sees John Mauchly's early work on computers as a product of his peripatetic career—his journey through different institutional ecologies—and John von Neumann's work as emerging from the convergence of physics and applied mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Akera also looks at the ways in which the institutional contexts of the National Bureau of Standards and MIT's Project Whirlwind pulled research in diverging directions, and he examines IBM's dominance from the perspectives of both business and users. Finally, Akera compares the academic computing centers at MIT and the University of Michigan, tracing the tensions on those campuses over whether computers were a service facility, a commercial technology, or a subject of research.

    • Hardcover $40.00
    • Paperback $30.00

Contributor

  • The Internet and American Business

    The Internet and American Business

    William Aspray and Paul E. Ceruzzi

    The effect of a commercialized Internet on American business, from the boom in e-commerce and adjustments by bricks-and-mortar businesses to file-sharing and community building.

    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.

    Contributors Atsushi 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.

    • Hardcover $53.00
    • Paperback $45.00
  • Systems, Experts, and Computers

    Systems, Experts, and Computers

    The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After

    Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas Parke Hughes

    This groundbreaking book charts the origins and spread of the systems movement.

    After World War II, a systems approach to solving complex problems and managing complex systems came into vogue among engineers, scientists, and managers, fostered in part by the diffusion of digital computing power. Enthusiasm for the approach peaked during the Johnson administration, when it was applied to everything from military command and control systems to poverty in American cities. Although its failure in the social sphere, coupled with increasing skepticism about the role of technology and "experts" in American society, led to a retrenchment, systems methods are still part of modern managerial practice.

    This groundbreaking book charts the origins and spread of the systems movement. It describes the major players including RAND, MITRE, Ramo-Wooldrige (later TRW), and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis—and examines applications in a wide variety of military, government, civil, and engineering settings. The book is international in scope, describing the spread of systems thinking in France and Sweden. The story it tells helps to explain engineering thought and managerial practice during the last sixty years.

    • Hardcover $14.75
    • Paperback $35.00