Mike Hally | Granta

Mike Hally

Mike Hally trained as an electronics engineer and worked at British Aerospace for seventeen years. He started working for Radio 4 in 1989 as a freelancer, and later formed Square Dog Radio, which produces programmes for Radio 4. He is the author of Electronic Brains: Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age.


Electronic Brains

Mike Hally

By the 1960s, IBM had beaten all rivals and dominated the world computer market. But IBM came late to the race. From the 1930s to the 1960s, small independent teams on four continents worked on the development of the first modern computers. From interviews with surviving members of those original teams, Mike Hally builds up a picture of the eccentric men and women who laid the foundations for the computerized world we now live in, recreating the atmosphere of those early days. Some of the early projects, such as LEO, the Lyons Electronic Office, developed by the catering company J. Lyons and Co in London in the 1940s, are now famous; others, such as the RAND 409, constructed in a barn in Connecticut under the watchful eye of a stuffed moose, almost unknown. This fascinating and engaging book describes these and other projects that came and went in the years before IBM ruled the world, including the Phillips Hydraulic Economics Computer, or MONIAC, which perfectly demonstrated the workings of the economy by way of coloured water flowing through plastic tubes, and the UNIVAC, which became a household name when, live on television, it correctly predicted the results of the 1952 US presidential election.