History of computer design: Bibliography and related links

Home || Introduction || Historiography || 1-Cottage industry || 2-Emerging standards || 3-Macintosh
frogdesign || 5-Corporate focus || Conclusion || Bibliography & links
Bibliography: Business-related || Technology journalism || Design || Material culture & history of technology

Links: Commercial || General computer history || Apple specific


Much of the available historical work on computers concentrates on business models and economics. They rarely discuss computers as artifacts, but they do provide some of the historical background necessary for a study of material culture.

  • Apple Computer, Inc., 1990 Annual Report.
      Apple has surprisingly little organization of its archival materials for research such as mine. However, they very happily sent me annual stockholder reports for several of the years within my period, and, though not particularly useful, they are quite interesting in revealing Apple's self-conscious corporate culture. [Since this was written in spring 1998, the organization of Apple's web site has been substantially improved, especially for access to technical archival material - but its meagre history pages have been removed.]
  • Butcher, Lee, Accidental Millionaire: The rise and fall of Steve Jobs at Apple Computer, New York: Paragon, 1988.
  • Carlton, Jim, Apple: The inside story of intrigue, egomania, and business blunders, New York: Random House, 1997.
      This book is the result of many interviews with people in the computer industry and it contains many interesting facts and a few insights. However, its thesis, that Apple persistently ignored great business opportunities to its own eventual decline, is necessarily focussed on managerial conflicts. He seems to have very little knowledge of technical issues, though he offers broad explanations that would satisfy a general reader.
  • Carroll, Paul, Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, Crown: New York, 1993.
  • Chposky, James and Ted Leonsis, Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer, Facts on File: Oxford, 1988.
  • Ferguson, Charles H. and Charles R. Morris, Computer Wars, New York: Random House, 1993.
  • Rose, Frank, West of Eden: The end of innocence at Apple Computer, New York: Viking, 1989.
  • Sculley, John, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple... Journey of adventure, ideas, and the future, New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
  • Smith, Douglas K. and Robert C. Alexander, Fumbling the Future: How Xerox invented, then ignored, the first personal computer, New York: William Morrow, 1988.
  • Young, Jeffrey S., Steve Jobs: The journey is the reward, London: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1988.

  • Garsten, Christina, Apple World: Core and periphery in a transnational organizational culture, Stockhold: Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology, 1994.
      Garsten's Apple World is an anthopological study of a business. It was not of great help to me, but was interesting for having a very different perspective.

  • Levy, Steven, Insanely Great: The life and times of Macintosh, the computer that changed everything. New York: Viking, 1994.
      Levy is a journalist and self-declared computer novice who was allowed access to the Macintosh in its development, became hugely enamored of it, and has been writing for the magazine MacWorld ever since. He gives an anecdotal and celebratory history of the Macintosh and the people influencing Apple.

The most helpful of technology journalism was found in Compute! (particularly 1988-91), Byte (1978-91), and MacWorld (1984-91). These computer magazines provided advertisements, reviews, speculations, opinions, and technical information for the period examined, as well as occasional nostalgia. Cited articles are listed here:

  • Comly, Dan, "User's Report: The PET 2001," Byte, March 1978, p. 114-127.
  • Fluegelman, Andrew, "The Making of the Macintosh," MacWorld, Vol. 1 No. 1, 1984, p. 126-36.
  • Helmer, Carl, "An Apple to Byte," Byte, March 1978, p. 18-46.
  • Levy, Steven, "A Shut and Open Case," MacWorld, Jan. 1987, p. 55-7.
  • Moore, Robin, Apple's Enhanced Computer, the Apple IIe," Byte, February 1983, p. 68-74.
  • Morgan, Chris, "Of IBM, Operating Systems, and Rosetta Stones," Byte, Jan. 1982, p. 6.
  • Smarte, Gene and Andrew Reinhardt, "15 Years of Bits, Bytes, and Other Great Moments," Byte, Sept. 1990, p. 369-400.
  • Williams, Gregg, "A Closer Look at the IBM Personal Computer," Byte, Jan. 1982, p. 36-70.

These books are extremely unusual in showing a concern for the physical design of computers:

  • Gelernter, David, Machine Beauty, BasicBooks: New York, 1998.
      Machine Beauty concentrates on the design of computer interfaces, but it does also briefly criticize the standard physical design, suggesting some very rudimentary alternatives. Gelernter is not a designer, historian or technologist, and his treatment is superficial and vague enough to be accessible yet frustrating to anyone.
  • Kunkel, Paul, AppleDesign: The work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, with photographs by Rick English, New York: Graphis, 1997.
      AppleDesign is a beautiful if often inarticulate book with over 400 photographs of Apple products and concepts for products that were not released. It is often inaccurate in technical details and is remarkably full of typos, but it is the best source of information on the people involved in Apple's industrial design. The variety and creativity of the design work done by Apple and by frogdesign is particularly vivid in the products that were not released, though these are outside the scope of my study.

  • Laurel, Brenda (ed.), The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, New York: Addison-Wesley, 1990.
      This book, containing essays by many Apple employees, provides useful information of the design of computer operating system interfaces. There is a strong link between hardware and software, especially with Macintosh computers, but, more importantly, the interface of a computer is now commonly regarded as analagous to physical space. I'm interested in regarding this kind of "cyber-space" as material culture, and will continue to research this area.

These works describe models for analyzing material culture. As I've said, none are specifically geared towards the study of computers, but they each have contributed to my perspective. The articles by Cooke and Gilborn are particularly useful.

  • Cooke, Edward S., Jr., "The Study of American Furniture from the Perspective of its Maker," Perspectives on American Furniture, ed. Gerald W.R. Ward. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 113-126.
  • Flemming, E. McClung, "Artifact Study: A Proposed Model," Winterthur Portfolio 9 (1974), 153-73.
  • Gilborn, Craig, "Pop Pedagogy: Looking at the Coke Bottle" in Material Culture Studies in America, ed. Thomas J. Schlereth. Nashville: AASLH, 1982, p. 183-191.
  • Kenneth Hudson, "Current Trends in Industrial Archeology," Victorian Studies, Sept. 1972, p. 91-98.
  • Marquet, Jacques, "Objects as Instruments, Objects as Signs" in History from Things: Essays on Material Culture Studies, ed. Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P., 1996, p. 181-203.
  • Prown, Jules, "Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method," Winterthur Portfolio 17, no. 1 (spring, 1982), 1-19.

Material culture studies are gradually becoming more common among historians of technology. Lubar and Gordon are among the growing few in the intersection between these broad fields:

  • Gordon, Robert B., "The Interpretation of artifacts in the history of technology" in History from Things: Essays on Material Culture Studies, ed. Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P., 1996, p. 74-93.
  • Lubar, Steven, "Machine Politics: The political construction of technological artifacts" History from Things: Essays on Material Culture Studies, ed. Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P., 1996, p. 197-214.

The emergance of material culture study is one theme in the history of the history of technology. Staudenmaier's is the most accessible study of his own emerging discipline:

  • Staudenmaier, John M., Technology's Storytellers, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989.

Studies of computer technology are often done by those embracing or advocating the technology itself. As such, many of my primary references are available through the Internet.

  • Apple's own page for its history was always surprisingly meagre, but it has now vanished entirely, assumedly a victim of Jobs' refashioning of the company image. However, general Apple information can be found from the detailed sets of web pages from Apple Computer Inc. and Apple Canada.
  • Also, Apple's Chief Evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, has personally created the Evangelist web page containing links to many resources primarily intended for advocacy.


  • frogdesign, the design house that heavily influenced the look of Apple's products, gives a timeline of their work in the industrial design of several large corporations, including several in the computer industry:


  • IBM has an extensive web page relating their long history in computing industries:


  • The Computer Museum in Boston has a page that gives only very general information about the history of computers and computing:


  • A recent PBS television series, "Triumph of the Nerds," is supported by a website:



Commercial web pages are generally not very helpful for historical information. The study of computers is at a stage similar to that of industrial archeology, as described by Kenneth Hudson in 1972 when a change was beginning to occur; much of the direct work is being done by amateurs. Most of the web pages I have used are done by individuals or clubs, out of interest rather than financial gain. A few of these follow:

General computer history resources:

Apple specific resources:

Home || Introduction || Historiography || 1-Cottage industry || 2-Emerging standards || 3-Macintosh
frogdesign || 5-Corporate focus || Conclusion || Bibliography & links