Publications From Gutenberg to the Internet

From Gutenberg to the Internet: A Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology

From Gutenberg to the Internet: A Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology Edited by Jeremy M. Norman

From Gutenberg to the Internet presents 63 original readings from the history of computing, networking, and telecommunications arranged thematically by chapters. Most of the readings record basic discoveries from the 1830s through the 1960s that laid the foundation of the world of digital information in which we live. These readings, some of which are illustrated, trace historic steps from the early nineteenth century development of telegraph systems—the first data networks—through the development of the earliest general-purpose programmable computers and the earliest software, to the foundation in 1969 of ARPANET, the first national computer network that eventually became the Internet. The readings will allow you to review early developments and ideas in the history of information technology that eventually led to the convergence of computing, data networking, and telecommunications in the Internet.

8-1/2" x 11". xvi, 900 pp. Over 200 illustrations. Laminated printed boards, acid-free paper. [Shipping weight 6 lbs/2.7 kg]. ISBN 0-930405-87-0. 2005.

Buy Now »

» Skip to: Table of Contents | Reviews

The editor has written a lengthy illustrated historical introduction concerning the impact of the Internet on book culture. It compares and contrasts the transition from manuscript to print initiated by Gutenberg’s invention of printing by moveable type in the 15th century with the transition that began in the mid-19th century from a print-centric world to the present world in which printing co-exists with various electronic media that converged to form the Internet. He also provided a comprehensive and wide-ranging annotated timeline covering selected developments in the history of information technology from the year 100 up to 2004, and supplied introductory notes to each reading. Some introductory notes contain supplementary illustrations.

Buy Now »

Table of Contents

  1. From Gutenberg’s Press to the Foundations of the Internet
  2. From Gutenberg to the Internet Timeline. Developments in the History of Information Technology from the Years 100 to 2004
  3. Human Computers
  4. Mechanizing the Production of Mathematical Tables
  5. The Earliest Data Networks
    • Optical Telegraphy
    • Electric Telegraphy
    • Telephones
    • Wireless Telegraphy
    • Television
  6. Origins of the General Purpose Programmable Computer—Babbage’s Analytical Engine
  7. The Theory of the Universal Machine
  8. Logical Design and Production of the First Electronic Digital Computers
  9. The Origins of Computer Programming
  10. Early Applications of Electronic Computers
  11. Computing and Intelligence
  12. Communication Theory
  13. Origins of the Internet
  14. Index of Names


This is a very interesting, informative account of how information technology has evolved into what it is today. It shows the reader what had to be accomplished so we could use the Internet, a research tool that we use in our everyday lives.

This handbook could be useful to anyone who has an interest in information technology and its abundant history. With that said, I don’t feel that there is a particular target audience; this book has a relatively broad scope and would be something that anyone would benefit from reading. This could also be used as a study tool for students of computer science or communications.

This book has a very extensive table of contents and a lengthy introduction that explains how certain technologies eventually became the Internet as we know it today. A chapter at the end of the book lists materials for further reading, and an index of names is included to make the book easier to use when locating information. There are a few illustrations and drawings throughout the book that add interest for the reader. Some of the text can be difficult to understand, but the images are a tool to help the reader understand what is trying to be conveyed.

The book is divided into topic areas and the information contained in this handbook has been compiled from the writings of many different individuals, many of whom are experts in the field. For example, Charles Babbage, known to some as the “Father of Computing” is the source of much of the information contained in this book. This book exhibits the authority necessary to be of value to its readers.

This book educates the reader about how much work went into what we now know as the Internet. It was a step-by-step process that took the work of many people. In today’s society it is amazing how dependent everyone is on the technology that is available. It is important to realize also that the children of today never knew a world without the Internet. It raises the question: What’s next?

This sourcebook does a good job of getting its message across and it would be a valuable tool to add to any collection, especially if the library has students or others who wish to learn the roots of information technology, as we know it today.

—D. Lynn Koenig, in Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship (Fall 2005).

Thank you for sending me “From Gutenberg to the Internet.” It is quite an achievement. I keep it on my desk and whenever I have some time between meetings or just want to give myself a break from routine assignments, I browse through this invaluable source on the history of the greatest intellectual revolution. I have learned a lot and was surprised to discover what seminal roles certain Ph.D. dissertations or papers, which were unknown to me, played in this process.

—Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, former president of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Andre Aisenstadt Chair in Theoretical Physics at the university (in a letter dated August 8, 2005).

Similar in concept to previous anthologies such as Great Papers in Computer Science, [ed. by] Phillip Laplante (1996), this is the first collection of primary source papers in information technology to cover such a large time span. The 63 readings were originally published between the 1850s and 1970s, and are organized by topics such as the mechanical production of mathematical tables, data networks, logical design of early electronic computers, origins of computer programming, and the origins of the Internet. In a well-researched and thought-provoking introduction, Norman effectively compares and contrasts the invention of the printing press to the Internet. He includes a comprehensive time line of selected scientific, social, and commercial developments from the year 105 to 2004; this is also available online ( The texts of the original papers have been reformatted in a consistent, easy-to-read type and appropriate supplementary images and illustrations have been added. A name index is included but unfortunately a subject index is not. For upper-division undergraduate and graduate collections; also suitable as a resource for information technology and history of science and technology courses. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.

—K. D. Winward, Missouri State University, in (Dec. 2005).

“Is it is possible that within the next ten years more information will be generated electronically and stored on the web than was printed in the 550 years since Gutenberg?” (p. 17). This question follows us throughout the content of this fundamental volume, “a source book on the history of information technology”, as the subtitle clearly declares. The book puts together, for the first time, a collection of some of the most important papers in the history of digital technology, including interesting and rare pieces of “grey literature” and some papers that, in spite of belonging to the XIX century, were written by scientists that could be reasonably considered as precursors of the new digital era.

The stimulating idea behind this thought-provoking book is the comparison between the advent of the Gutenberg era and the digital information revolution. Jeremy Norman, the editor of the work, in his long and detailed introduction, explicitly connects the two phases of the information representation and delivery technology. He traces the history of the Gutenberg invention and its consequences for the creation of knowledge and the beginning of science with the aim of showing similarities withe most recent revolutionary changes concerning the digitalization of information.

The project of the book has its roots in a monumental work presenting an annotated descriptive bibliography of primary printed sources on the history of computing, which Norman co-authored with D.H. Hook (Origins of Cyberspace, published in 2002 by the same editor in a deluxe limited edition). At the time of the first bibliographic work, Norman conceived the idea of collecting some of these sources together so that a wider audience could consult them, a project that was realized with this book. The huge anthology, 900 pages long, has 63 seminal readings written by the pioneers of the history of technology, including some very early works on human computers, on the mechanization of mathematical tables, together with the fundamental and forgotten work of Charles Babbage, probably the real inventor of the idea of a general-purpose programmable computer.

The explicit objective of the book is to facilitate the study of the history of technology for scholars, even if they are not expert in the technical field. Technicalities are introduced through the explanation of the original scientists, technologists and thinkers who invented them, presenting the current outcome of technological development in the context of the first attempts to reach the aims.

The book is completed by by a useful, wide and rich timeline, with an updated and expanded version available on the helpful companion website…

In the fascinating introduction, Norman declares “With respect to their influence upon society these landmarks [the chosen readings] are similar in their significance to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and printing by moveable type.” (p.7). However in order to fulfill completely the anticipated task of analyzing the influence of technology upon society, there should be some extra sections. For example, I missed sections on the history of the human-machine interaction design, on cybernetics and its impact on computing, on the social impact of technology, on the personal computing revolution, and on the advent of hypertext and the web. Though the editor is aware of the relevance of computing and networking technologies as tools for organizing and distributing information, he did not include in the listing of readings those whose social and collective impact was more explicit, such as, for example the works of Douglas Engelbart, the progenitor of user-friendliness concept of computing, of the mouse and of groupware, among other innovations. The idea of machines that emerges from the choice of material is too concentrated on the technical side of the innovation and less attentive to the interactions between users and machines, which were key factors in determining the form of present devices. It is clear, though, that in such a large enterprise the editor had the arduous, painful and inevitable task of taking decisions in establishing borders. In order to overcome this slightly disappointing aspect of the book, I would suggest to the editor to plan a second volume that could anthologize at least some of the missing areas. The volume, despite this criticism, represents a useful tool for the community of scholars studying the history of technology. AIn addition, it represents an interesting reaching no only for expert researchers, but also for a larger audience of curious readers.

—Teresa Numerico, University of Salerno and University of Rome, in Nuncius: Journal of the History of Science, XXI, no. 2, 2006.

back to top