Book Reviews,  History,  Middle Grade,  Non-Fiction

Book Review: The History of the Computer

The History of the ComputerThe History of the Computer by Rachel Ignotofsky
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: computers have played an important role in this reviewer’s life since 1974 when I majored in data processing in college. My working career started with mainframes and progressed to the current generation of personal computers. I’ve worked and created within the virtual collaborative space of Second Life for the past fifteen years.

While I enjoy the illustration style and find it engaging in a way that will help readers feel comfortable with the learning process, I have concerns about the book’s content. Great illustrations aren’t enough to mask the fact that the information presented is disorganized. Kids will be expected to take in a lot of information, and presenting it in a smooth chronological order helps. Progress builds on the achievements of the past, so it’s good to know where we started to understand where we are going. Examples from this book showing jumbled dates include “Important Inventions”, which moves from 1947 to 1934 to 1945, and “The Personal Computer 1970-1979” shows a whirlwind illustration of PC’s in an artistic but random order.

The author states that “This book will highlight the milestones of computer history and explore the idea that technological knowledge is power…this book focuses on the intent, purpose and impact of the people and machines that changed our world.” This is wording that can easily lead towards biased statements. For example, I was dismayed to see that “Mainstream Virtual Reality” only mentioned VR headsets, while on the same page, “World of Warcraft Goes Online” highlights the ability to connect users all over the globe to quest together. I saw no mention of user-created virtual spaces such as Second Life (created in 2003, the first metaverse) or High Fidelity, InWorldz, Sansar, or others that have left their mark on virtual world development. With the Metaverse currently re-emerging as the newest darling on social media, this slighting does a disservice to curious students who will be creating avatars of their own, if they haven’t already.

And no mention of Ada Lovelace, the world’s *first* computer programmer? In the Victorian era, she worked side by side with Charles Babbage to create algorithms for his Difference Engine.

Lastly: I don’t usually mention typos since I know advance review copies are still in the editing process, but this heading, “THE ABACUS AROUND THE WOLRD” needs to be fixed. It’s part of the artwork, so I felt it needed to be mentioned.

My thanks to author Rachel Ignotofsky, Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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