Crossing the Newton-Maxwell Gap: Convergences and Contingencies

Matti Tedre, Erkki Sutinen


The shift from electromechanical computing to fully electronic, digital, Turing-complete computing was one of the most in?uential technological developments of the twentieth century. The social, economic, political, interdisciplinary, and cultural aspects behind that shift were signi?cant, but are often ignored. When the contingencies and controversies behind the birth of modern computing are forgotten, the history of computing is often misrepresented as one of uncomplicated linear progress. In this article some of the sociocultural aspects of the birth of modern computing are reviewed. The signi?cance of interdisciplinary work is discussed. The concept of the stored-program paradigm is introduced, and some sociocultural factors behind its birth are discussed. Finally, it is argued that some traits of research that are often considered to be negative, such as opportunism, eclecticism, and stubbornness, have played a positive role in the birth of modern computing technology.

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