Volume 51, Number 3 (Aug/Sept 2016)

America’s Early Computer Clusters: History, Geography, and Economics. Part I: Patterns

Florencia Garcia-Vicente, Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz, and Martin Campbell-Kelly


This study is an interpretation of the early computer industry in America from the perspective of evolutionary economic geography. That is, we attempt to disentangle the historical processes that led to the formation of the early computer clusters in the US. We analyze the County Business Patterns micro-data files for the 1970s and identify a variety of early computer clusters—some of them purely focused on hardware, some on software, and many on both. Contrary to the popular perception that the American computer industry has tended to agglomerate purely in Silicon Valley and Route 128, we find clusters of a variety of sizes in numerous states. We explore the economic factors that led to the formation of these clusters, including pre-existing conditions and Marshallian externalities, and suggest that a combination of these factors goes a long way toward explaining the location patterns we observe in the data. Our study is organized in two parts. In Part I we analyze the clustering patterns of the early computer industry. In Part II we develop explanations for those patterns.

The Multiple Meanings of a Flowchart

Nathan Ensmenger


From the very earliest days of electronic computing, flowcharts have been used to represent the conceptual structure of complex software systems. In much of the literature on software development, the flowchart serves as the central design document around which systems analysts, computer programmers, and end-users communicate, negotiate, and represent complexity. And yet the meaning of any particular flowchart was often highly contested, and the apparent specificity of such design documents rarely reflected reality. Drawing on the sociological concept of the boundary object, this paper explores the material culture of software development, with a particular focus on the ways in which flowcharts served as political artifacts within the emerging communities of practices of computer programming.

How to Respond to Data Science: Early Data Criticism by Lionel Trilling

Brian Beaton


This article was originally drafted just four weeks after the publishing of Dataclysm, a 2014 book by Christian Rudder that sought to popularize data and data science by, in part, dismissing the social sciences and humanities as obsolete approaches to knowledge production. In looking for a potential way of responding to data scientists like Rudder, this article examines a 1948–50 essay about data that was written by Lionel Trilling (1905–75). Trilling frames data as part of our broader cultural history, which includes literature, drama, epic poetry, and the arts. This article argues that what Trilling models in the essay is a line of writing and thinking about data—a type of data criticism—that today offers tremendous promise for responding to data science and to evangelists like Christian Rudder.

The Reign of Children: The Role of Games and Toys in American Public Libraries, 1876-1925

Jennifer Burek Pierce


Histories of children’s libraries reveal that a bright and colorful décor, paired with kindly, child-oriented services, were established in a handful of late-nineteenth century United States libraries. This essay, by examining the contemporary professional literature and the non-book resources described there, demonstrates that specialized toys and games were also significant elements of children's rooms throughout the nation. Informed by the child study and kindergarten movements, practitioners responsible for managing children’s rooms argued that their services should reflect children’s needs by offering resources that promoted tactile and creative learning. Supported by interdisciplinary scrutiny of child development and children’s living conditions, these librarians filled children’s rooms with a variety of toys, games, and illustrative matter in order to provide young library users with engaging, informative resources. The provision of information resources was matched by creative programming that recognized children’s inclination to do and make as well as read. This trend, though, was quashed as children’ s services transitioned from a novelty into norm, and library leaders sought a consistency in the resources and services provided throughout the public library.

Historical Research in Marketing:  Literature, Knowledge, and Disciplinary Status

Terrence H. Witkowski & D. G. Brian Jones


Historical research in marketing consists of a body of literature and specific norms regarding knowledge generation and presentation. Marketing academics have published historical studies in marketing journals since the 1930s, but over the past 30 years associational activities have greatly stimulated the growth of the literature, although it remains less developed than history subfields in accountancy, management, business, and economics. Historical studies published in mainstream marketing journals have favored explicit literature reviews, data borrowing, multiple types of primary sources, and transparency in research methods. We conclude with an assessment of marketing historiography as a legitimate discipline in its own right, but with future challenges.

Ed Fredkin and the Physics of Information: An Inside Story of an Outsider Scientist

Amit Hagar


This article tells the story of Ed Fredkin, a pilot, programmer, engineer, hardware designer and entrepreneur, whose work inside and outside academia has influenced major developments in computer science and in the foundations of theoretical physics, and in particular in the intersection thereof, for the past fifty years.

This issue is available at Project MUSE