Found in 17 comments on Hacker News
tosh · 2019-07-16 · Original thread
The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal

dangoldin · 2018-12-30 · Original thread
And don't forget "The Dream Machine" (

It's not solely about the internet but does an awesome job covering the rise of the PC industry and the launch of the internet.

fsloth · 2018-08-27 · Original thread
The practical aspects of modern computing were to a large extent born from US defence funding. Starting from the theoretical roots: Von Neumann architecture [0] and various defence projects including ARPA[1].

"But that doesn't necessarily and always mean that people couldn't have invented something without military funding and uses in mind."

Sure, it doesn't. But funding and large number of end users combined with price-inelastic demand for your product enable product development and field testing like no other scenario does.



I can really recommend Waldrop's The Dream Machine [1]. It is a pretty detailed description of the different driving forces that let to the Internet, personal computers, AI research etc. Yes, a lot was influenced by the US military and DARPA, starting with RADAR systems and the need for computation in WW2 and continuing with the cold war, the Sputnik shock and increased research spending afterwards. On the other hand, a lot of the folks involved certainly had no militaristic attitude or intentions. A lot of government funding early on sparked an amazing development, the foundations of the things we work with today.


chubot · 2017-10-01 · Original thread
The book The Dream Machine [1] touches on the controversy and patent litigation around the "von Neumann" machine.

IIRC a colleague of von Neumann circulated a technical report by him, where he was summarizing the work of others along with his own, with regard to the stored program architecture. But his name was the only one on it, and the inventors of other machines got pissed off.

There was a rush to patent the idea, and patent litigation. But the idea was never patented, I think because of prior art.

It's interesting to think about what would happen if the idea was patented... I mean it is a significant idea and probably deserves a patent under the law. But would that have set computing history back by a decade or two?

The Dream Machine also goes into some other "inside baseball"... e.g. the relationship between Turing and Church, etc.


ericssmith · 2017-05-11 · Original thread
Kay mentions The Dream Machine, which in my opinion is one of the better books on some of the early work in computing systems. Heartily recommend it.

Yet another book showcasing Bob Taylor's impact on personal computing and networking is The Dream Machine .

This one tells the story from the precursors to time-sharing to PARC, using the figure of J.C.R. Licklider as a pivot, and was recommended by Alan Kay as better than Dealers of Lightning. I personally enjoyed both.

ismdubey · 2016-07-27 · Original thread
Has anyone read 'Dream Machine' by Mitchel Waldrop.

I have heard Patrick collision talking about this book quite a few times.

davedx · 2016-07-06 · Original thread
I'm currently reading "The Dream Machine" [1], about the first evolutions of computing. At the moment it's describing the period during and immediately after the Second World War, with computers like ENIAC. It blows my mind that in the space of around 20 years, we progressed from computers that were programmed by turning shafts and ran computations using systems of wheels and mechanical relays [2] to the Lunar Module Guidance Computer with its pre-emptive multitasking and automatic pilot.

Sometimes the rate of technological advance is just staggering.



ontouchstart · 2016-05-31 · Original thread
Alan, I am rereading

It was published in 2001. What do you think of its relevancy 15 years later in the context of our age of "big data" and "Machine Learning"?

chl · 2016-02-27 · Original thread
To learn more about the LINC (and why, in the grand scheme of things, it was so incredibly important):

- "The LINC Revolution", in "Biomedical Computing" by Joseph November:

- "Computing in the Middle Ages" by Severo Ornstein:

- "The Dream Machine" by M. Mitchell Waldrop:


base698 · 2016-02-06 · Original thread
I just finished reading "The Dream Machine" and recommend it highly to anyone in the industry. It's got Licklider a the forefront.

grosales · 2015-07-07 · Original thread
The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal. I read this book 8 years ago and I still feel like quoting it sometimes. It's not just a biography but a well researched work on the history of the later part of computing history.
apu · 2014-10-07 · Original thread
I highly recommend this book [1] on Licklider's life, because it's also one of the best books on the computing movement from the creation of the early machines through the Xerox PARC years and slightly beyond. It's also the only one recommended by Alan Kay[2].


[2][email protected]/msg04144.html

softbuilder · 2014-04-07 · Original thread
I'm currently reading "The Dream Machine"[1] and coincidentally at the point where BASIC is being invented. What I found interesting is how closely linked LISP and BASIC are in motivation and the spirit of the era. Not to mention the direct connection of Dartmouth, McCarthy, and time sharing.


chl · 2013-12-29 · Original thread
Two excellent technology history books I read in 2013 are _Dream Machine_ by M. Mitchell Waldrop and _Computing in the Middle Ages_ by Severo Ornstein.

_Dream Machine_ in particular tied together many strands that I had previously explored separately; it's a far-ranging, incredibly well-researched work that covers the development of interactive (and, eventually, personal & networked) computing from its origins at MIT's Whirlwind and Lincoln projects, leading, in big part thanks to J.C.R. Licklider's long-term research (management) vision, to the development of the ARPANET, and, maybe even more importantly, the formation of an "ARPA community", where many of the big ideas were first brought to reality and explored in depth (at BBN, SRI, Utah, PARC &c.).

All in all, it's probably the best history of computing-as-we-know-it-today and a clear recommendation for anyone with just the slightest interest in the idea history of the field.

_Computing in the Middle Ages_ is a very personal account, supplying the critically important perspective of someone actually working in the trenches in the time-frame covered by _Dream Machine_.

Severo Ornstein co-designed the ARPANET "Interface Message Processors", essentially the first routers. It's also a wonderful history of the LINC (by Wesley Clark et al.), a remarkable (and remarkably forgotten) machine and the direct philosophical fore-runner of all "personal computers".

RWilson · 2009-04-07 · Original thread
It's not a programming book but... "The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal"

It's an awesome book about the history of computing, human-computer interaction, and all sorts of things you're familiar with but may never have known where they came from or how they evolved.

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