2016 Computer History Museum Prize

Winner: Dinesh C. Sharma, The Outsourcer: The Story of India's IT Revolution (MIT Press, 2015).

Prize Citation: Dinesh Sharma has written a highly accessible book on a significant topic - the history of computing in India - that is well-grounded in sources and interviews. The Outsourcer is full of fascinating stories on the beginnings of computing in India. Sharma does an excellent job contextualizing this story within broader Indian history and the history of computing in the West. Trained as a journalist, Sharma has produced a book that is both carefully researched and engaging to the reader. He regales and rewards readers with a great selection of anecdotes. The committee is pleased to award the 2016 Computer History Museum Prize to Dinesh C. Sharma for The Outsourcer: The Story of India's IT Revolution.

The Outsourcer is available from MIT Press.


2016 Mahoney Prize

Winner: Andrew L. Russell and Valérie Schafer, "In the Shadow of ARPANET and Internet: Louis Pouzin and the Cyclades Network in the 1970s," Technology and Culture 55, no. 4 (October 2014): 880-907.

Prize Citation: This paper expands our understanding of how networks emerged and evolved.  It contributed additional evidence of the international nature of ICTs, in this case, within France.  The paper is another example of the power of international collaboration among scholars.  It provides a meaningful narrative of a key piece of French networking history that has been understudied in a polished essay.

The essay is available via Project Muse

SIGCIS Workshop 2016: Convergence and Divergence

SHOT-SIGCIS Singapore Workshop 

June 26, 2016

“Convergence and Divergence”


The Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS) 2016 annual Workshop will be held on June 26, 2016. The workshop begins immediately after the regular annual meeting of our parent organization, the Society for the History of Technology in Singapore. 



2015 Mahoney Prize

Winner: David Nofre, Mark Priestley, and Gerard Alberts, "When Technology Became Language: The Origins of the Linguistic Conception of Compter Programming, 1950-1960," Technology and Culture 55 (January 2014): 40-75.

Prize Citation: This paper presents a history of the emergence of high-level computer languages, documenting co-evolving relationships between computer technology and communities of practice. In tracing the genealogy of a phenomenon that seems to us today second nature -- the "computer language" -- their work is a particularly worthy inaugural winner of a prize honoring Mike Mahoney, who did so much to conceptualize the history of that most evanescent technology, computer software.

2015 Computer History Museum Prize

Winner: Rebecca Slayton, Arguments That Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012 (MIT, 2013).

Prize Citation: Rebecca Slayton’s Arguments That Count advances the history of computing in several significant ways. Through careful, original research and clear writing, Slayton grants a wide audience access to the complex and highly controversial story of the role of computing in missile defense. Slayton’s book deftly unpacks the institutional and rhetorical aspects of arguments set forth by physicists and computer scientists as they wrangled over the feasibility of developing systems capable of stopping ICBMs. By demonstrating how scientists and computing experts crafted and sold their arguments justifying the development of risky, expensive technological solutions to geopolitical problems, this study yields insights that are relevant to the many other areas in which heavy investment in technological systems is championed as a solution to existential problem.


Did V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai Invent Email?

Did V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai Invent Email? A Computer Historian Responds

Now includes both the original 2012 article comissioned by the Washington Post, a lengthy extension covering Ayyadurai's susequent claims added in August 2012, a second update focused on Ayyadurai's new book The Email Revolution: Unleashing the Power to Connect (Allworth, 2013), and a third update covering the evolution of Ayyadurai's public relations campaign over the next two years.

This page has become rather long, so here is the one paragraph version, focused on some inaccuracies in recent press reports (added September 2014):  V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai is not a member of the MIT faculty and did not invent email. In 1980 he created a small-scale electronic mail system used within University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, but this could not send messages outside the university and included no important features missing from earlier systems. The details of Ayyadurai’s program were never published, it was never commercialized, and it had no apparent influence on any further work in the field. He does not “hold the patent for email” or have a copyright on the word email, though in 1982 he did register a copyright claim covering the exact text of a program called "EMAIL."  The U.S. Government has not recognized him as the inventor of email and he did not win the Westinghouse Science Talent Search for his program. Electronic mail services were widely used in the 1960s and 1970s and were commercially available long before 1980. To substantiate his claim to be the "inventor of email" Ayyadurai would have to show that no electronic mail system was produced prior to 1980, and so he has recently created an absurdly specific and historically inaccurate definition of electronic mail designed to exclude earlier systems.  Ayyadurai has not even been able to show that he was the first to contract “electronic mail” to “email” or “e-mail” – his first documented use is in 1981 whereas the Oxford English Dictionary shows a newspaper usage in 1979. Despite Ayyadurai’s energetic public relations campaign, which presents him as the victim of a racist conspiracy financed by corporate interests, he has not received support from any credible experts in email technology or the history of information technology. His claims have been widely debunked by technology bloggers and articles based on them have been retracted by the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.

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