First DNF of the Year

The Computer CoverThe Computer: An Illustrated History from Its Origins to the Present Day

By: Mark Fauenfelder


This book was so frustrating I’m going to embed this blog’s first ever gif:


I’m so upset I’m actually heaving as I write this. Let me begin, as usual, by talking about the writing. While Fauenfelder’s writing skills are alright, this book clearly did not receive enough editing. Fauenfelder repeated himself almost every other page, which makes it feel like he really didn’t have much to say at all. It got to the point where I was ready to throw The Computer out the window is Fauenfelder mentioned Alan Turing’s suicide one more time. Some of this repetition could have been resolved with a little reorganization of the material, but clearly the author and editor couldn’t figure that out.


Speaking of organization, I can’t really tell what the theme of the chapters is for the book. At first it seems as if each chapter contains a specific time period in computing history, but because computer history is so fluid, and because most of the development occurred in the last 70 years, the chapters seem forced and at some point the organization switched from time-based to focusing on the type of machine. I think The Computer would have been much better if Fauenfelder has just stuck with a chronological history of computer development.


Organization aside, the font choice in this atrocious. Though I prefer serif fonts, I can deal with sans-serif fonts if they are applied consitently. The issue with The Computer is that each chapter begins with at least two full pages of bold, sans-serif 8(ish) point font that gave me a headache when I was trying to read it. I can’t stand reading chunks of bold text and I don’t understand why authors and editors think it’s a good idea. I read Ways of Seeing back in January and the entire book was in bold sans-serif font. Just…why? Beside the opening pages of every chapter, The Computer featured tiny but regular sans-serif font. I guess that’s not too bad.


I only read 100 pages of The Computer before I gave up and pretty much every chapter featured blank space. The pictures took up most of the pages and underneath or beside each picture there were little blurbs explaining the photo. As I said earlier, these blurbs became repetitive after a while. Like so many tech writers today, Fauenfelder is an Apple fanb0i who seems disgusted by Bill Gates and PC. Gates received only passing mention in the pages that I read, and it seemed like Fauenfelder believed Gates copied Jobs (although Jobs wasn’t exactly an honest person himself, and both Gates and Jobs took inspiration from the same people and machines). I did have fun flipping through the book and asking my parents about which machines they’ve used before (they were in the US military, so I imagine they say some pretty cool machines before computers became mainstream).


The Computer is very awkwardly sized. It’s about as tall and thick as an average novel, but it is much wider and the hard cover makes it incredibly heavy. This is certainly not a book you would want to carry around in your bag. Actually, the book doesn’t even fit neatly on my bookshelf unless I turn it on its side, which makes it impossible to read the title. The Computer is a coffee table book, the only problem is the book isn’t good enough to be featured on a coffee table. If you have the kind of guests that just look at the pictures I suppose there isn’t any harm in displaying the book, but if you have guests who actually read the books, spare them the headache. I love reading about computers and technology, and I tried so hard to finish this book but I couldn’t do it. I’m so frustrated I wasted my time and shelf space on such a derivative book.


I’m linking Amazon and Goodreads to be fair, but I’m by no means encouraging anyone to read this book.

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