Best Computing Industry History Books

We tend to take computers for granted these days, so much so that we don’t even think of them as computers. Your smartphone has processing power that would have been unthinkable in such a small package even a few short decades ago.

1. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

Author: by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster
656 pages

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Walter Isaacson’s enthralling (The New Yorker) worldwide bestselling biography of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two yearsas well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleaguesWalter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

Isaacson’s portrait touched millions of readers. At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology.

He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering. Although Jobs cooperated with the author, he asked for no control over what was written. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly.

2. The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

Author: by Richard W. Hamming
432 pages

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A groundbreaking treatise by one of the great mathematicians of our time, who argues that highly effective thinking can be learned. What spurs on and inspires a great idea? Can we train ourselves to think in a way that will enable world-changing understandings and insights to emerge?

Richard Hamming said we can, and first inspired a generation of engineers, scientists, and researchers in 1986 with “You and Your Research”; an electrifying sermon on why some scientists do great work, why most don’t, why he did, and why you should, too.

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering is the full expression of what “You and Your Research” outlined. It’s a book about thinking; more specifically, a style of thinking by which great ideas are conceived. The book is filled with stories of great people performing mighty deeds-but they are not meant to simply be admired.

Instead, they are to be aspired to, learned from, and surpassed. Hamming consistently returns to Shannon’s information theory, Einstein’s relativity, Grace Hopper’s work on high-level programming, Kaiser’s work on digital fillers, and his own error-correcting codes. He also recounts a number of his spectacular failures as clear examples of what to avoid.

3. Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy (Fast Forward Your Product Career: The Two Books Required to Land Any PM Job)

Author: by Neel Mehta
347 pages

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Authored by 3 Product Managers at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, Swipe to Unlock is a comprehensive guide on the must-know concepts of technology and business strategy. It is a must-read for anyone pursuing product management, design, marketing, consulting or business strategy roles in the tech industry.

Swipe to Unlock was updated in 2020 to include over 40 pages of new content to cover the latest developments in the world of tech. We highly recommend buying our book directly from Amazon rather than a third-party seller as it’s the only way to ensure you get the latest version.

This #1 Amazon Business Bestseller won a medal from the North American Book Awards and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Business Insider. Swipe to Unlock has been translated into 11 languages including Chinese, Korean, & Russian and was touted as “our generation’s Rosetta Stone for enabling anyone to peer into the technology changing everyday life” by Jeremy Schifeling.

4. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Author: by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster
560 pages

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Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed The Innovators is a riveting, propulsive, and at times deeply moving (The Atlantic) story of the people who created the computer and the internet.

What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail? The Innovators is a masterly saga of collaborative genius destined to be the standard history of the digital revolutionand an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.

Isaacson begins the adventure with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R.

Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page. This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

5. The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do

Author: by Erik J. Larson
320 pages

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If you want to know about AI, read this bookit shows how a supposedly futuristic reverence for Artificial Intelligence retards progress when it denigrates our most irreplaceable resource for any future progress: our own human intelligence. Peter ThielA cutting-edge AI researcher and tech entrepreneur debunks the fantasy that superintelligence is just a few clicks awayand argues that this myth is not just wrong, it’s actively blocking innovation and distorting our ability to make the crucial next leap.

Futurists insist that AI will soon eclipse the capacities of the most gifted human mind. What hope do we have against superintelligent machines? But we aren’t really on the path to developing intelligent machines. In fact, we don’t even know where that path might be.

A tech entrepreneur and pioneering research scientist working at the forefront of natural language processing, Erik Larson takes us on a tour of the landscape of AI to show how far we are from superintelligence, and what it would take to get there.

6. The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993–Illustrated Edition

Author: by Jordan Mechner
Stripe Press
336 pages

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A deep dive into the origins of the epic, best-selling video game, featuring previously unreleased content, in the game creator’s own words “Mechner’s journey is a universal one for anyone creating something brand new… I’m excited to revisit these journals in newly illustrated form.”- Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram The creator of one of the most innovative and best-selling video games of all time gives an unvarnished look into the process in this one-of-a-kind compilation.

Before Prince of Persia was a best-selling video game franchise and a Disney movie, it was an Apple II computer game created and programmed by one person, Jordan Mechner. Mechner’s candid and revealing journals from the time capture the journey from his parents’ basement to the forefront of the fast-growing 1980s video game industry…

And the creative, technical, and personal struggles that brought the prince into being and ultimately into the homes of millions of people worldwide. Now, on the 30th anniversary of Prince of Persia’s release, Mechner looks back at the journals he kept from 1985 to 1993, offering new insights into the game that established him as a pioneer of cinematic storytelling in the industry.

7. Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software

Author: by Nadia Eghbal
256 pages

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An inside look at modern open source software developers-and their influence on our online social world. “Nadia is one of today’s most nuanced thinkers about the depth and potential of online communities, and this book could not have come at a better time.” -Devon Zuegel, director of product, communities at GitHub Open source software in which developers publish code that anyone can use has long served as a bellwether for other online behavior.

In the late 1990s, it provided an optimistic model for public collaboration, but in the last 20 years it s shifted to solo operators who write and publish code that’s consumed by millions. In Working in Public, Nadia Eghbal takes an inside look at modern open source software development, its evolution over the last two decades, and its ramifications for an internet reorienting itself around individual creators.

Eghbal, who interviewed hundreds of developers while working to improve their experience at GitHub, argues that modern open source offers us a model through which to understand the challenges faced by online creators. She examines the trajectory of open source projects, including: – the platform of GitHub, for hosting and development; – the structures, roles, incentives, and relationships involved; – the often-overlooked maintenance required of its creators; – and the costs of production that endure through an application’s lifetime.

8. Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science

Author: by Harry R. Lewis
520 pages

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Classic papers by thinkers ranging from from Aristotle and Leibniz to Norbert Wiener and Gordon Moore that chart the evolution of computer science. Ideas That Created the Future collects forty-six classic papers in computer science that map the evolution of the field.

It covers all aspects of computer science: theory and practice, architectures and algorithms, and logic and software systems, with an emphasis on the period of 1936-1980 but also including important early work. Offering papers by thinkers ranging from Aristotle and Leibniz to Alan Turing and Nobert Wiener, the book documents the discoveries and inventions that created today’s digital world.

Each paper is accompanied by a brief essay by Harry Lewis, the volume’s editor, offering historical and intellectual context.

9. The Dream Machine

Author: by M. Mitchell Waldrop
Stripe Press
528 pages

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Behind every great revolution is a vision and behind perhaps the greatest revolution of our time, personal computing, is the vision of J.C.R.Licklider. He did not design the first personal computers or write the software that ran on them, nor was he involved in the legendary early companies that brought them to the forefront of our everyday experience.

He was instead a relentless visionary that saw the potential of the way individuals could interact with computers and software. At a time when computers were a short step removed from mechanical data processors, Licklider was writing treatises on “human-computer symbiosis”, “computers as communication devices”, and a now not-so-unfamiliar “Intergalactic Network.” His ideas became so influential, his passion so contagious, that Waldrop called him “computing’s Johnny Appleseed.

In a simultaneously compelling personal narrative and comprehensive historical exposition, Waldrop tells the story of the man who not only instigated the work that led to the internet, but also shifted our understanding of what computers were and could be.

10. Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

Author: by Kim Zetter


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A top cybersecurity journalist tells the story behind the virus that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear efforts and shows how its existence has ushered in a new age of warfareone in which a digital attack can have the same destructive capability as a megaton bomb.

Immensely enjoyable … Zetter turns a complicated and technical cyber story into an engrossing whodunit. The Washington Post The virus now known as Stuxnet was unlike any other piece of malware built before: Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it proved that a piece of code could escape the digital realm and wreak actual, physical destructionin this case, on an Iranian nuclear facility.

In these pages, journalist Kim Zetter tells the whole story behind the world’s first cyberweapon, covering its genesis in the corridors of the White House and its effects in Iranand telling the spectacular, unlikely tale of the security geeks who managed to unravel a top secret sabotage campaign years in the making.

11. The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History

Author: by J. R. McNeill
368 pages

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Why did the first civilizations emerge when and where they did? How did Islam become a unifying force in the world of its birth? What enabled the West to project its goods and power around the world from the fifteenth century on?

Why was agriculture invented seven times and the steam engine just once? World-historical questions such as these, the subjects of major works by Jared Diamond, David Landes, and others, are now of great moment as global frictions increase. In a spirited and original contribution to this quickening discussion, two renowned historians, father and son, explore the webs that have drawn humans together in patterns of interaction and exchange, cooperation and competition, since earliest times.

Whether small or large, loose or dense, these webs have provided the medium for the movement of ideas, goods, power, and money within and across cultures, societies, and nations. From the thin, localized webs that characterized agricultural communities twelve thousand years ago, through the denser, more interactive metropolitan webs that surrounded ancient Sumer, Athens, and Timbuktu, to the electrified global web that today envelops virtually the entire world in a maelstrom of cooperation and competition, J.R.

12. A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication

Author: by Michael Friendly
Harvard University Press
320 pages

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A comprehensive history of data visualizationits origins, rise, and effects on the ways we think about and solve problems. With complex information everywhere, graphics have become indispensable to our daily lives. Navigation apps show real-time, interactive traffic data. A color-coded map of exit polls details election balloting down to the county level.

Charts communicate stock market trends, government spending, and the dangers of epidemics. A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication tells the story of how graphics left the exclusive confines of scientific research and became ubiquitous. As data visualization spread, it changed the way we think.

Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer take us back to the beginnings of graphic communication in the mid-seventeenth century, when the Dutch cartographer Michael Florent van Langren created the first chart of statistical data, which showed estimates of the distance from Rome to Toledo.

By 1786 William Playfair had invented the line graph and bar chart to explain trade imports and exports. In the nineteenth century, the golden age of data display, graphics found new uses in tracking disease outbreaks and understanding social issues. Friendly and Wainer make the case that the explosion in graphical communication both reinforced and was advanced by a cognitive revolution: visual thinking.

13. PoC or GTFO, Volume 3

Author: by Manul Laphroaig
800 pages

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Volume 3 of the PoC || GTFO collection-read as Proof of Concept or Get the Fuck Out-continues the series of wildly popular collections of this hacker journal. Contributions range from humorous poems to deeply technical essays bound in the form of a bible.

The International Journal of Proof-of-Concept or Get The Fuck Out is a celebrated collection of short essays on computer security, reverse engineering and retrocomputing topics by many of the world’s most famous hackers. This third volume contains all articles from releases 14 to 18 in the form of an actual, bound bible.

Topics include how to dump the ROM from one of the most secure Sega Genesis games ever created; how to create a PDF that is also a Git repository; how to extract the Game Boy Advance BIOS ROM; how to sniff Bluetooth Low Energy communications with the BCC Micro:Bit; how to conceal ZIP Files in NES Cartridges; how to remotely exploit a TetriNET Server; and more.

The journal exists to remind us of what a clever engineer can build from a box of parts and a bit of free time. Not to showcase what others have done, but to explain how they did it so that readers can do these and other clever things themselves.

14. Combinators: A Centennial View

Author: by Stephen Wolfram
362 pages


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Combinators have inspired ideas about computation ever since they were first invented in 1920, and in this innovative book, Stephen Wolfram provides a modern view of combinators and their significance. Informed by his work on the computational universe of possible programs and on computational language design, Wolfram explains new and existing ideas about combinators with unique clarity and stunning visualizations, as well as provides insights on their historical connections and the curious story of Moses Schnfinkel, inventor of combinators.

Though invented well before Turing machines, combinators have often been viewed as an inaccessibly abstract approach to computation. This book brings them to life as never before in a thought-provoking and broadly accessible exposition of interest across mathematics and computer science, as well as to those concerned with the foundations of formal and computational thinking, and with the history of ideas.

Contents Preface Combinators: A Centennial View: Ultimate Symbolic Abstraction Computing with Combinators A Hundred Years Later… Combinators in the Wild: Some Zoology Visualizing Combinators Updating Schemes and Multiway Systems The Question of Evaluation Order The World of the S Combinator Causal Graphs and the Physicalization of Combinators Combinator Expressions as Dynamical Systems Equality and Theorem Proving for Combinators Lemmas and the Structure of Combinator Space Empirical Computation Theory with Combinators The Future of Combinators Historical & Other Notes Combinators and the Story of Computation The Abstract Representation of Things What Is Mathematicsand LogicMade Of?

15. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World

Author: by Pedro Domingos
Basic Books
352 pages

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A thought-provoking and wide-ranging exploration of machine learning and the race to build computer intelligences as flexible as our ownIn the world’s top research labs and universities, the race is on to invent the ultimate learning algorithm: one capable of discovering any knowledge from data, and doing anything we want, before we even ask.

In The Master Algorithm, Pedro Domingos lifts the veil to give us a peek inside the learning machines that power Google, Amazon, and your smartphone. He assembles a blueprint for the future universal learner-the Master Algorithm-and discusses what it will mean for business, science, and society.

If data-ism is today’s philosophy, this book is its bible.

16. Algorithms (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)

Author: by Panos Louridas

312 pages

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An accessible introduction to algorithms, explaining not just what they are but how they work, with examples from a wide range of application areas. Digital technology runs on algorithms, sets of instructions that describe how to do something efficiently. Application areas range from search engines to tournament scheduling, DNA sequencing, and machine learning.

Arguing that every educated person today needs to have some understanding of algorithms and what they do, in this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Panos Louridas offers an introduction to algorithms that is accessible to the nonspecialist reader.

Louridas explains not just what algorithms are but also how they work, offering a wide range of examples and keeping mathematics to a minimum. After discussing what an algorithm does and how its effectiveness can be measured, Louridas covers three of the most fundamental applications areas: graphs, which describe networks, from eighteenth-century problems to today’s social networks; searching, and how to find the fastest way to search; and sorting, and the importance of choosing the best algorithm for particular tasks.