Books : reviews

Haroon Ahmed.
Cambridge Computing: the first 75 years.
Third Millennium Publishing. 2013

Cambridge Computing: The First 75 Years is an illustrated, readable and informative account of computing in Cambridge. It will appeal to everyone interested in the history of computing and Cambridge University. The book is published to mark the 75th anniversary of the Computer Laboratory and the centenary of Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes who directed the Laboratory for 35 years.

The story begins with Charles Babbage and his ‘magical machines’ and includes Alan Turing, whose ‘Universal Turing Machine’ defined the theoretical basis of computability. Today’s striking William Gates Building is a far cry from the original Laboratory, founded by John Lennard-Jones, in 1938. After the Second World War, his successor, Maurice Wilkes, entered the laboratory space through a small green door with the freshly painted title ‘Mathematical Laboratory’ and led the Laboratory with remarkable prescience and energy making it internationally famous for innovative research; beginning with the EDSAC, the first-ever stored program computer to come into general service.

The book covers the ‘halcyon’ years of Roger Needham’s reign and the brief period of his successor Robin Milner. It describes the expansionist eras of Ian Leslie and Andy Hopper and covers the exciting current research in the Computer Laboratory. The Department now offers a four-year course leading to a degree in Computer Science. The hundreds of commercial ventures started by Computer Laboratory graduates provide ample evidence of the Laboratory’s contribution to the national economy. Among the many spectacularly successful ventures, Acorn Computers with its BBC Micro, and the world’s most successful chip design company, ARM, both have links to the Computer Laboratory.

This book recognises the contributions of all members of the Computer Laboratory, past and present.