The Other Computer History
It is almost impossible to live without computers today. Many things we do—from how we make payments and communicate to how we enjoy music, sleep, and more—are heavily influenced by computers. It’s easy to forget about the magnificence of this man-made phenomenon, never bothering to find out about its origin. In The Other Computer History, Hans Bodmer details how he took on different jobs during the early phase of the computer revolution, including hanging on roofs and lamp posts as a telephone soldier in the Swiss Air Force, taking up machine servicing jobs with BULL (an IT company in France directly competing with IBM), working as a technician for a company’s supercomputer CDC 6600 in Minneapolis, USA, and more. Read the captivating story of how Hans worked and troubleshot for a number of big companies in different countries, attended several parties hosted by the companies, met and discussed computers with Seymour Cray, and got to witness different breakthroughs in the world of computers.
What a privilege to read about someone who was present in the era and the environment that the supercomputers were born in. The Other Computer History is highly detailed with helpful technical information, which would appeal to tech-savvy readers and professionals in the technological world. However, readers like me, who are not professionals in technology, would also find Hans Bodmer’s different exploits relatable and exciting. I was greatly inspired by how a foreigner in a new country learned the language—English—and a lot about supercomputers while dealing with angry bosses, unknown parking rules, and the failure and rise of the different companies he worked for. Also, I was completely immersed in the book due to its descriptive recounts; it was thrilling to imagine “the roar of the winter storm” and a pilot’s three approaches to land an airplane in tough conditions.
There are some noticeable language errors in the book, which is understandable since the author is not a native English speaker. However, it wasn’t too distracting because the book is mostly error-free. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about the author’s family or personal life. I wished to know more about the author and discover more about what he did outside of work.
The Other Computer History is mightily educational, immersing, and inspiring as it made me feel like a part of the events and showed me the harsh realities and tough phases that people with dreams and ideas have to go through to achieve great feats. Some companies succeeded, while others failed embarrassingly; ultimately, a new, phenomenal reality was born out of the collective works of different companies and individuals such as Hans Bodmer—who might not be as glorified as the celebrated names, but who were surely important contributors to the creation of world-changing supercomputers.
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