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Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, and Iconoclasts - the Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution Paperback – Oct 10 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (Oct. 10 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465042260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465042265
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #39,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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A LONE SAILBOAT IN THE DISTANCE makes its way across the ripples surface of Lake Washington in the crisp autumn dusk, famed on the horizon by the skyline of Seattle. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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By Nathan Moore on Feb. 13 2004
Format: Paperback
This book could have been better edited and better organized, but it is still worth reading. "GO TO" (which probably should have been called "goto" or "GOTO") covers the history of computing, touching on several of the famous legends. It even tells of the work some of them did pryor to becoming legends. All computer scientists, computer engineers, and sys-admins should have a good understanding of the history of computing and this book is a good place to get it. This book should prove informative and enjoyable to any one else, especially people interested in history.
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Format: Paperback
This book ranks among the best in the history of technology and one of the few that specifically addresses software. Most other histories of technology or computing center on hardware, with some even focusing on a single computer such as the Eniac, the Difference Engine or Apple. But recognize that hardware commoditizes over time, while good software largely holds its value. Software creates fortunes but also deeply felt-opinions about quality, and as Lohr demonstrates, a constant stream of innovation. The book showcases the creators of breakthrough operating systems and applications, and makes clear their contributions to the rise of the computer industry. It is worthwhile for readers following technology, business, current events and even law and philosophy- the concepts have indeed become major disruptions in the history of ideas.
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Format: Paperback
This book isn't aimed specifically at experienced programmers, but rather at the general public. My mom could read it. That doesn't even mean it's a bad book if you are a programmer. It's an amazing software-history crash course and a must for younger programmers. The emphasis is on the people and concepts, not on technicalities. This is why I disagree with the other reviewer who suggested "The Design and Evolution of C++" instead of this book. While Stroustrup's document is also a must for any serious programmer, it only covers the history of C++, and his motivations for particular features of the language. GOTO on the other hand gives a birds-eye view of software and software development from the ENIAC to open-source Linux in a simple and concise way.
I found the writing to be good and funny, making it an enjoyable read. Quotes are used very well and the information that each page is full of is well layed out on the length of the book. The author stays objective and doesn't impose you his opinion as some of the more "controversial" topics are often revisited from different perspectives, giving you the chance to make your own mind.
An enjoyable and instructive book.
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Format: Paperback
Everybody will find something of interest in this history of software engineering. I'm not much of an historian, so I particularly enjoyed learning some of the historical perspective. For example, there's a great description of the group that created COBOL, a now reviled business programming language. They were the senior programmers of their day. Some of them had been working for four years! Do you know what kind of dreck I was writing when I had been working for four years? Suddenly COBOL seems like quite an accomplishment.
Despite the interest of the material and the well-chosen breadth of coverage, this book does suffer from a strange lack of fluency. Part of the problem is that the prose has some of the wooden quality that tends to emerge when reporters write full-length books. (Though let me note that some reporters, like George Johnson or Malcolm Gladwell, write superlative books.) But the greater problem is that this book was written by somebody a little too removed from the field; it's like hearing a history of computing from your slightly technophobic uncle, the one who pretty much peaked with the advent of cordless phones. It's hard for me to explain exactly why it seems this little bit awkward. It's not a technical problem -- I don't expect any concrete details in a book like this. The problem is more a lack of cultural fluency, as revealed by such minor slips as references to "work stations" (usually spelled without a space) or "the hitchhiker's guide to the universe" (my copy says "galaxy"). Part of the problem may also be that the author's editors failed him, letting phrases like "he would took advantage" or "the experience did not little to alter" slip through.
(NB - I write my reviews before reading others, and it was interesting to note how much my impressions agreed with everybody else's when it came time to post.)
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Format: Hardcover
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the _Universe_"?
" ... because 31 in octal is 25 in decimal." instead of " ... because OCT 31 == DEC 25"?
Plenty of typos, misspellings and typesetting errors too. Overall a decent read if you can get over this, but one can't help but wonder, if Lohr pays this little attention to his own craft (writing), how accurate can his statements about the software world be?
If he's cleaned up these "bugs" for the second edition, and my suspicions about carelessness in other areas are unfounded, then it gets four stars.
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Format: Hardcover
The history of computer software, told by a senior technology writer for the New York Times. Software arose after WWII along with the first computers. Early programming was handled by squads of technicians, mostly young women, who custom-wired early machines such as ENIAC for each new calculation. Then John von Neumann, a mathematician working for the Manhattan Project, postulated the idea of a "stored program," permanent instructions built into the machine. This concept allowed engineers to build a general-purpose contraption into which programmers could feed instructions on punch cards or paper tape for specific tasks. The next step came in the mid-1950s, when an IBM team led by John Backus created Fortran. A strange blend of shorthand and math that allowed ordinary users to write programs, Fortran (a contraction of "formula translator") opened the door to almost everything that has followed. Lohr profiles the members of Backus's team and gives a taste of how the language works. He follows the same formula with other languages from Cobol (designed as a business applications language) to Unix (which led the way to non-mainframe computing). BASIC taught millions of ordinary users the rudiments of programming on simple home machines. Later, the software emphasis shifted to applications: word processors, spreadsheets, and database managers. A more sophisticated generation of home users now happily program in Java and HTML. Today's frontier is the Open Source movement, whose adherents tinker with the code of such software as Linux. The rhetoric of open source is revolutionary, with the likes of Microsoft as the class enemy, but the battle is far from over. Stay tuned. A clear and colorful look at the people and programs that have shaped the computer era.
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