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I'm writing a giant paper containing the history of computation, and unfortunately, I'm far from being an expert on this. So far I have only a few sentences; I traced computation back to 3000BC, where/when financial information, construction, and astronomy seemed to start relying upon computation.

I'm trying to provide a fairly thorough and very interesting account of computation and computer science up to the present. Any help on writing/improving this paper would be greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to make a big impact on the audience, and really thrill them.

So what and where are good sources to learn about the history of computation? I'm also wondering if there may be others out there who would like to collaborate on this. Thanks very much for any help that you provide!

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I'd like to collaborate, where should I sign? – Gigili May 27 '12 at 18:01
Since you're gathering information, it'd be helpful to post the same question on computer science or theoretical computer science. Not sure if you should ask a moderator if cross-posting is allowed in this case. – Gigili May 27 '12 at 18:06
@Gigili: You can email me at – Matt Groff May 27 '12 at 18:16
@Gigili: Cross-posting is generally discouraged; migration might be a better option if the question doesn't get good answers here. See this discussion at meta.cstheory. – JeffE May 29 '12 at 8:07
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Some assorted references:

  • A History of scientific computing, edited by Stephen G. Nash.

  • John von Neumann and the origins of modern computing, by William Aspray.

  • John Von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More, by Norman MacRae.

  • A Brief History of Computing, by Jack Copeland. See also the reference list at the end of that page.

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I know very little about this topic, but a few years ago I spent some time researching certain issues related to your question for more recent times (at least, as compared to 3000 BC), roughly during the 1600s to the early 1800s, and I found the following two references quite useful. In particular, the historical essay by Hutton at the beginning of the earlier editions of his well known Mathematical Tables (the latest edition I found the essay in was the 1811 5th edition) was probably the most cited reference in the 1800s mathematical literature on its topic.

Report of the Committee on Mathematical Tables (1873) by Cayley, Stokes, Thomson, Smith, and Glaisher. This can be found at Cornell University Library archive and google books archive.

Mathematical Tables (1811) by Charles Hutton. This can be found at Cornell University Library archive and google books archive.

For more recent accounts, the following may be helpful. I read most of Grier's book a few years ago when it showed up at my town's public library, and I found the other two references when I was searching on the internet to find Grier's book (whose title and author I had forgotten).

The History of Mathematical Tables (2003) edited by Martin Campbell-Kelly, Mary Croarken, Raymond Flood, and Eleanor Robson.

When Computers were Human (2005) by David Alan Grier

When computers were women (1999) by Jennifer S. Light

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