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Well, i want to compete in History Day, an event in which students all over America make projects and enter a contest to advance to the next stage, from city to state to national. My teacher requires us to make the project, but gives us the option of entering. With the topic, "Communications in History, i wrote a paper on computers, and i want to enter. Enclosed is my paper.

Here's the problem: I'm way over the word limit. The limit is 2500. I'm not asking you to shorten it for me, just if anything is longer than it is supposed to, or is incorrect. Thanks in advance!


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First, excellent paper. It warms my heart to see someone under 60 who is at all interested in the golden age of computing. Or at least willing pretend they're interested :D

There are a lot things that could be removed. The sections on Zuse and the Mark I could be reduced to one paragraph each, or a single paragraph covering the pre-WWII developments. The IBM 700 series probably wasn't important enough to justify a full page and half. The paragraphs on programming languages could be compressed, and the details about assembly and FORTRAN removed and replaced with a more general overview of the evolution of languages. The page covering ICs could be reduced or eliminated. The retrospective on page seven probably isn't needed in a paper this short and it breaks the flow of the paper. The networking section could be compressed a little by dropping details about ARPANET and NSFNET, but not too much. It is a communications project, after all. The early history of MS and Apple could be compressed to a paragraph or two each, and the Lisa could be omitted. The paragraph about Jobs's power struggle can go without impacting the paper.

There are many things that could be added. The history section focuses too much on IBM; some mention of UNIVAC, DEC, et al would be nice. The IBM section also focuses too much on the 700/7000 series and FORTRAN. The research done at XEROX PARC, especially by the Smalltalk team, is relevant. The paper is kind of lurches around without creating any sense of continuity between the history sections. Going straight from 1958 to 1975 is a bit disorienting. Smoothing it out by either generalization or adding more details about the intervening years would help.

Now, some minor quibbles:

Upon investigation, it was discovered that a moth had landed on a computer part, thus rendering it incapable of processing information. This "bug" was the first computer flaw that started hundreds of malware programs, or virus-like programs, to attack millions of people’s computers in the future.

The moth was only significant as a pun on the (long established) term 'bug'. The failure itself wasn't unusual; computers in those days were notoriously unreliable. The connection to malware seems tenuous, malware being fundamentally the result of software issues while the incident with the bug was hardware failure.

It was the first supercomputer of the world, with its float-pointing hardware and new magnetic core memory (upgraded from the less reliable magnetic drum storage) made it a significant upgrade.

The 704 wasn't really what I would call a supercomputer, though I must admit that I'm not sure what the term would have meant in those days. Also, its predecessors used electrostatic memory (William's tubes) or core. Drum memory was used across the 70x line for backing storage.

Also in the 700 series, the 7090s were the fastest computer in the world. They were built in the 1960s, and they were the first commercial transistorized computer.

That sounds more like the IBM 7030. The 7030 (Stretch) was the first transistorized general-purpose computer and IBM's first supercomputer. It was designed between '55 and '61 and while it never met expectations it was by some accounts the fastest machine in the world until around '64. It was commercial failure, but had a profound influence on computer architecture.

AFAICT the 7030 was nominally part of the 700/7000 series, but architecturally it was very different. The 7090 was part of that series and incorporated some of the technology from the 7030, but it was actually deployed before the 7030 and AFAIK never matched its performance.

During the time of the IBM 704s, beginning in 1954, IBM led a group of computer scientists to create FORTRAN, the first High Level Language (HLL).

The status of FORTRAN as the first HLL is debatable. It was preceded by Grace Hopper's A-0 and the Manchester Mark I Autocode. Neither of them were especially high-level, but they're were a bit more abstract than assembly. There was also some work being done on an algebraic language at MIT, but I don't know the details.

Making matters more confusing, the FORTRAN project was initiated in '54 but an implementation wasn't available until '57. By then Hopper had produced three or four more languages, there were a small number of math-oriented interpreters and high-level assemblers available, the initial version of IPL had been designed and IPL-II was being implemented.

Anyway, like I said, it's debatable. FORTRAN does have the distinction of being the oldest HLL language still in use.

Now, when FORTRAN was developed in 1957, its comprehensiveness changed many things. Instead of using assembly language to program, programmers could use FORTRAN, which made things a great deal easier, and more detailed. It was such a major advancement; it was the most used programming code for 20 years.

The impact of FORTRAN can be overstated. It was (and is) fundamentally a numerical language. It was never very well-suited for non-numerical computing. It may well have been the most popular HLL through the '60s, but that would be more an indication of the importance of numerical computing than FORTRAN itself.

As for assembly, it's hard to say how it was impacted by FORTRAN, or indeed by HLLs in general. It certainly lost its status as the primary language of serious programmers at some point in the '70s or '80s, but there has been some research that indicated that it was still more popular than any single HLL through at least the early '90s. It's quite possible that the growth and fragmentation of the computing world has made HLLs appear more popular than they really are, in particular because of the marginalization of embedded systems programmers in the wider programming world.

Not that your teacher cares :D

National Academy of Engineering's Charles Stark Draper Prize in 1993, the most prestigious award given in the field of computer science.

Never heard of it. I always thought the Turing Award was the most prestigious. Backus won it in '77. His Turing lecture ("Can Programming be Liberated from the von Neumann Style?") is a classic.

In 1986, one of these LANs extended out to become National Science Foundation Network (NSFnet).

AFAIK NSFNET was designed as a WAN from the start.

In addition, it was the company which Bill Gates began working for as a freshman at Harvard.

I don't believe Gates ever worked for MITS. Micro-Soft's (sic) first product was a BASIC for the Altair though.

Apple, after releasing the Apple I/II, had began to work on a new project code named “Lisa,†for Local Integrated Software Architecture, and planned to work with this new technology.

That may be a backronym.

"Lisa" was the first personal computer to use a GUI.

Might want to throw a qualifier in there. There were personal computers with graphical interfaces in the mid-'70s.

“Lisa 2†was released, with updated feature and better hardware than the original “Lisa.†It was renamed “Macintosh XL†and bundled with MacWorks software.

You might want to move the comment about Mac XL down to the next paragraph. As it is now, it sounds like the Lisa 2 was the original Mac.

Edited by jcl
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