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‘The Machine That Changed the World’: ACM and the History of Computing, 1947-2010

The Machine That Changed the World



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In 1992, ACM sponsored a five-part television series on the history of computers entitled The Machine That Changed the World.  The series, which was shown on public television, was part of ACM’s efforts in education and outreach.  Included in ACM’s promotional material for the series were guides for teachers that provided background information and discussion questions for each episode and suggested accompanying student activities.  Sample activities include “make a timeline depicting how calculations have been performed through the ages” and “look up the definition of ‘computer’ in a pre-World War II dictionary and compare it with the definitions in dictionaries from the 1950s and 1990s.”

Episodes moved from the origins of modern computing in World War II through modern efforts in the area of artificial intelligence and social computing.  The episodes were entitled “Giant Brains,” “Inventing the Future,”  “The Paperback Computer,” “The Thinking Machine,” and “The World at Your Fingertips.”