Paul E. Ceruzzi, Ph.D.
(National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
9.5 – The Visionaries (6.10.16)
Paul E. Ceruzzi is a curator emeritus and is an authority in aerospace electronics and computing. His work includes research, writing, planning exhibits, collecting artifacts, and lecturing on the subjects of microelectronics, computing, and control as they apply to the practice of air and space flight.
Dr. Ceruzzi attended Yale University and the University of Kansas, from which received a PhD in American studies in 1981. Before joining the staff of the National Air and Space Museum, he taught history of technology at Clemson University in South Carolina.
He is the author or co-author of several books on the history of computing and related topics:
- Computing, a Concise History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).
- A History of Modern Computing (MIT Press, 1998).
- Smithsonian Landmarks in the History of Digital Computing: A Smithsonian Pictorial History (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994, with Peggy Kidwell).
- Reckoners: The Prehistory of The Digital Computer (Greenwood Press, 1983).
- Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age (MIT Press, 1989, companion volume to the exhibition of the same name at the Museum).
- Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (Routledge, 2001, co-edited with James Trefil and Harold Morowitz).
- Internet Alley: High Technology in Northern Virginia, 1945-2005 (MIT Press, 2008).
Dr. Ceruzzi was a co-curator for Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There, and worked on such major exhibitions as Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age; Space Race; and How Things Fly.
Dr. Ceruzzi retired in 2018 and is now a curator emeritus. 
A compact and accessible history, from punch cards and calculators to UNIVAC and ENIAC, the personal computer, Silicon Valley, and the Internet. The history of computing could be told as the story of hardware and software, or the story of the Internet, or the story of “smart” hand-held devices, with subplots involving IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. In this concise and accessible account of the invention and development of digital technology, computer historian Paul Ceruzzi offers a broader and more useful perspective. He identifies four major threads that run throughout all of computing’s technological development: digitization-the coding of information, computation, and control in binary form, ones and zeros; the convergence of multiple streams of techniques, devices, and machines, yielding more than the sum of their parts; the steady advance of electronic technology, as characterized famously by “Moore’s Law”; and the human-machine interface. Ceruzzi guides us through computing history, telling how a Bell Labs mathematician coined the word “digital” in 1942 (to describe a high-speed method of calculating used in anti-aircraft devices), and recounting the development of the punch card (for use in the 1890 U.S. Census). He describes the ENIAC, built for scientific and military applications; the UNIVAC, the first general purpose computer; and ARPANET, the Internet’s precursor. Ceruzzi’s account traces the world-changing evolution of the computer from a room-size ensemble of machinery to a “minicomputer” to a desktop computer to a pocket-sized smart phone. He describes the development of the silicon chip, which could store ever-increasing amounts of data and enabled ever-decreasing device size. He visits that hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, and brings the story up to the present with the Internet, the World Wide Web, and social networking.
From the first digital computer to the dot-com crash-a story of individuals, institutions, and the forces that led to a series of dramatic transformations. This engaging history covers modern computing from the development of the first electronic digital computer through the dot-com crash. The author concentrates on five key moments of transition: the transformation of the computer in the late 1940s from a specialized scientific instrument to a commercial product; the emergence of small systems in the late 1960s; the beginning of personal computing in the 1970s; the spread of networking after 1985; and, in a chapter written for this edition, the period 1995-2001. The new material focuses on the Microsoft antitrust suit, the rise and fall of the dot-coms, and the advent of open source software, particularly Linux. Within the chronological narrative, the book traces several overlapping threads: the evolution of the computer’s internal design; the effect of economic trends and the Cold War; the long-term role of IBM as a player and as a target for upstart entrepreneurs; the growth of software from a hidden element to a major character in the story of computing; and the recurring issue of the place of information and computing in a democratic society. The focus is on the United States (though Europe and Japan enter the story at crucial points), on computing per se rather than on applications such as artificial intelligence, and on systems that were sold commercially and installed in quantities.
A history of the development of computer technology discusses the operation and capabilities of the early computers
How government military contractors and high-tech firms transformed an unincorporated suburban crossroads into the center of the world’s Internet management and governance. Much of the world’s Internet management and governance takes place in a corridor extending west from Washington, DC, through northern Virginia toward Washington Dulles International Airport. Much of the United States’ military planning and analysis takes place here as well. At the center of that corridor is Tysons Corner-an unincorporated suburban crossroads once dominated by dairy farms and gravel pits. Today, the government contractors and high- tech firms-companies like DynCorp, CACI, Verisign, and SAIC-that now populate this corridor have created an “Internet Alley” off the Washington Beltway. In From Tysons Corner to Internet Alley, Paul Ceruzzi examines this compact area of intense commercial development and describes its transformation into one of the most dynamic and prosperous regions in the country. Ceruzzi explains how a concentration of military contractors carrying out weapons analysis, systems engineering, operations research, and telecommunications combined with suburban growth patterns to drive the region’s development. The dot-com bubble’s burst was offset here, he points out, by the government’s growing national security-related need for information technology. Ceruzzi looks in detail at the nature of the work carried out by these government contractors and how it can be considered truly innovative in terms of both technology and management. Today in Tysons Corner, clusters of sleek new office buildings housing high-technology companies stand out against the suburban landscape, and the upscale Tysons Galleria Mall is neighbor to a government-owned radio tower marked by a sign warning visitors not to photograph or sketch it. Ceruzzi finds that a variety of perennially relevant issues intersect here, making it both a literal and figurative crossroads: federal support of scientific research, the shift of government activities to private contractors, local politics of land use, and the postwar movement from central cities to suburbs.