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The information : a history, a theory, a flood
James Gleick
Adult Nonfiction Z665 .G547 2011

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In 1948, Bell Laboratories announced the invention of the electronic semiconductor and its revolutionary ability to do anything a vacuum tube could do but more efficiently. While the revolution in communications was taking these steps, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon helped to write a monograph for them, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, in which he coined the word bit to name a fundamental unit of computer information. As bestselling author Gleick (Chaos) astutely argues, Shannon's neologism profoundly changed our view of the world; his brilliant work introduced us to the notion that a tiny piece of hardware could transmit messages that contained meaning and that a physical unit, a bit, could measure a quality as elusive as information. Shannon's story is only one of many in this sprawling history of information. With his brilliant ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick leads us on a journey from one form of communicating information to another, beginning with African tribes' use of drums and including along the way scientists like Samuel B. Morse, who invented the telegraph; Norbert Wiener, who developed cybernetics; and Ada Byron, the great Romantic poet's daughter, who collaborated with Charles Babbage in developing the first mechanical computer. Gleick's exceptional history of culture concludes that information is indeed the blood, the fuel, and the vital principle on which our world runs. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

We sometimes forget that our information technologies and our desire and ability to communicate have long and complicated histories. Gleick, best-selling author of Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, acknowledges this by exploring the history of information, in all its modern ambiguity, and covering ideas, people, and technologies involved in its development. Gleick discusses African talking drums, information theory and its contributions to physics and biology, cryptography, alphabets and scripts, dictionaries, telegraphs, and more. Although accessible and enjoyable, from chapter to chapter the book sometimes feels loose and unstructured, as the author jumps too quickly from one subject to another. Too often he emphasizes biographical information about historical individuals at the expense of a coherent historical account. VERDICT Despite the disjointed narrative, this is recommended for general readers interested in the history of information technology and enamored of the information age who wonder what it means to characterize our era as such.-Jonathan Bodnar, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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