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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future
    Issue #26      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates        August 17, 1996
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Editor's note
    *** SPIDER OR FLY? results
    *** Of computers, both electronic and social (Stephen L. Talbott)
          What do `computing girls' have to do with high technology?
    *** The Placeless, Neighborless Realm (Tom Jay)
          Does English have a future?
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Editor's note Do not deprive yourself of Tom Jay's essay in this issue. But in case you insist on self-deprivation, I will at least tease you with a fragment or two from the piece.

    On the idea (so often celebrated in online culture) of continual revolution:

    But permanent revolution, economic or political, is terror--a terror as real as Robespierre's, Stalin's, Khomeini's or Mao's. And we are conspiring with that terror in the way we've let ourselves be named.
    And (which is the topic of the entire essay) on the fate of the English language:
    English is forfeiting its descriptive power because it has assumed a generic monocultural perspective. English is spoken everywhere but it doesn't live anywhere. Everywhere but England, English is becoming a language without a landscape. English is an imported language and, though it reigns, it doesn't dwell, a husband without a home.
    I also include in this issue some notes of my own relating to a new book about the history of the computer. You will, I think, find them entertaining--and perhaps disturbing as well.


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    *** SPIDER OR FLY? results

    The judging for the SPIDER OR FLY? writing competition has finally been completed. You will find a brief summary of the results here. Or you can wait for additional coverage in the next issue of NETFUTURE, which will carry one of the winning essays.


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    *** Of computers, both electronic and social

    From Stephen L. Talbott

    Notes concerning the book, Computer: A History of the Information Machine, by Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray (New York: BasicBooks, 1996).

    It is well known how thoroughly the computer's development was driven by the military. But it is not so commonly realized how much the computer owes to economic and organizational theory. In his Wealth of Nations (1776) Adam Smith described an imaginary pin factory based on the novel principle of the division of labor. Some fourteen years later the Frenchman De Prony "conceived all of a sudden the idea of applying the same method to the immense work with which I had been burdened, and to manufacture logarithms as one manufactures pins."

    Campbell-Kelly and Aspray go on to describe De Prony's system for producing mathematical ta