, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 82-83
Date: 07 May 2003

Ulf Hashagen, Reinhard Keil-Slawik and Arthur L. Norberg (eds): History of computing: software issues

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This software is so user-friendly, a three year old child could use it.

In that case, fetch me a three year old child.

Grandiose claims are made by software vendors. We need to make sense of the situation, and to incorporate that understanding in our teaching, not just in formal courses, but in museums and exhibitions intended for a wider public audience. Accounts of what software can do need to be balanced with a reminder of what software cannot do.

As a trained historian who has worked with computers for over 30 years, I face the problem that a large proportion of the history of computing, and in particular the history of software, has taken place since I ended my own undergraduate studies, a time deep in ancient history as far as my current students are concerned. It is all too easy to take the present situation for granted, neglecting the diverse contexts from which it has come. For those of us teaching, we have been part of those contexts, and perhaps played humble parts in that hist ...