September 22, 2006

Computer History Timelines

We have seen before how timelines are a particularly attractive mode of historical production among non-professionals, perhaps especially among those interested in computer history. Here’s another example. French programmer Eric Levenez has assembled an impressive collection of incredibly detailed techie timelines and sets of annotated links. The most recent is his Unix History. The most widely known is his Computer Languages History, which has been reprinted commercially by O’Reilly. Elsewhere Lenevez tackles Windows and NeXT.

Spend five minutes with one of Lenevez’s timelines, and you’ll see these are histories only a geek could love. They are certainly very different from anything a university-trained historian would produce. Yet they are undoubtedly very formidable and important works of historical research. Lenevez’s work won’t be published in Technology and Culture or even the Annals of the History of Computing anytime soon, but it’s hard to imagine how anyone, professional or otherwise, could write a decent history of Unix or Windows or computer programming languages without first having done the kind of backbreaking work Lenevez has already done for us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.