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B C, Before Computers

Stephen Robertson


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What follows is a short list of books and essays (and one film) that have inspired me and that I have mentioned in this book for one reason or another. But I must give one reference pride of place as my go-to source of first and often only resort:

Wikipedia: Many articles, by many authors.

Jim Al-Khalili, Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Penguin, 2012).

Isaac Asimov, Foundaton Trilogy (Gnome Press, 1951).

Antonio Badia, The Information Manifold: Why Computers Can’t Solve Algorithmic Bias and Fake News (MIT Press, 2019).

The Venerable Bede, On the Reckoning of Time (c. 723).

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (Ballantine, 1953).

Vera Britain, Testament of Youth (Victor Gollancz, 1933).

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).

James Essinger, Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Luciano Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010).

James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Fourth Estate, 2011).

Stephen Jay Gould, ‘The Panda’s Thumb of Technology’, in Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (Penguin, 1992).

GPO Film Unit, Night Mail (1936).

Robert Kaplan, The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero (Allen Lane, 1999).

John Man, Alphabeta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World (Headline, 2000).

John Man, The Gutenberg Revolution: The story of a genius and an invention that changed the world (Review, 2002).

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress (Houghton Mifflin, 1957).

Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind (Harper, 1994).

Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs and Pictograms (Thames & Hudson, 1995; 2nd ed 2007).

David Rothenberg, Hand’s End: Technology and the Limits of Nature (University of California Press, 1995).

Paul Saenger, Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford University Press, 2000).

Claude Shannon, ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’ The Bell System Technical Journal XXVII, No. 3 (July 1948), pp. 379–423.

Adam Silverstein, Postal Systems in the Pre-Modern Islamic World (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Simon Singh, The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Fourth Estate, 1999).

Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers (Walker, 1998).

JoAnne Yates, ‘Co-evolution of Information-Processing Technology and Use: Interaction between the Life Insurance and Tabulating Industries’ The Business History Review 67, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 1–51.


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