A Comment from the Editor
Jeffrey R. Yost, Associate Director
Charles Babbage Institute
13 September 2002
the history of computer hardware has grown precipitously over
the past two decades. Research has detailed many different
technical and contextual issues of mainframe computers, and
to a lesser extent mini-computers and microcomputers. Conversely,
software, the technology that defines the potential operations
and applications of this hardware, has been ignored. The recent
flood of journalistic accounts of leading software companies
and their founders offer at best limited knowledge of how
people developed, marketed, and used software in the past.
More substantive studies of software have been rare and have
often focused on but a single areaprogramming languages.
In the last few years however, successful scholarly conferences
on software history have been held and a small number of significant
research projects in this area have been published.
Iterations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Software History
is being published by the Charles Babbage Institute to provide
an outlet for scholarship and lend momentum to this emerging
field of inquiry. From the technical, business, and institutional
to the social, cultural, and intellectual history of software,
Iterations seeks to add to both the breadth and depth
of this subdiscipline. This electronic journal will also aim
to provide a lively forum for researchers, readers, and other
interested individuals to share knowledge and perspectives.
The launch of Iterations is partially sponsored by
the National Science Foundation (NSF 9979981), as a component
of CBI's "Building a Future for Software History"
project. By disseminating scholarship and providing mechanisms
for ongoing dialogue, Iterations complements CBI's
two other software history project components: developing
an online historical dictionary of software technologies and
techniques; and conducting, transcribing, and making available
oral history interviews with pioneers in software development
and the software industry. These latter two initiatives aim
to offer starting points, fill in some of the many gaps in
the documentary record, and expand interest in conducting
scholarly research in software history. [end of page 1]
The content of Iterations at its launch (September
2002) provides some sense of the range of important and understudied
areas of software history the journal hopes to address. IBM
Global Services Executive James W. Cortada's article on computer
and software applications in the petroleum industry provides
a compelling model of understanding how software helps shape
possibilities and practices in an industry over time. His
insightful historiographical discussion offers perspective
on the current state of the history of software and the sources
and techniques historians can use to better understand software's
past within many different trades.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Curator Paul Ceruzzi
offers an intriguing technical, political, business, and legal
analysis of perhaps the most defining contemporary issue in
the software field: the Department of Justice's antitrust
case against Microsoft. He details how Microsoft simultaneously
faces charges of anti-competitive practices for bundling Internet
application software to their operating systems and a competitive
threat from Linux and supporters of open source.
University of Nevada-Las Vegas Professor Julian Kilker's article
on the history of email gives a rich analysis of social and
cultural factors influencing the development and use of this
networking application. More specifically, he demonstrates how
technical interoperation and social collaboration influenced
the evolution of the technology and resulted in flexible standards
While the quality of information varies widely, an increasing
amount of primary source material, reflections, and other documentation
on the history of software is now available on the Internet.
Iterations' review department concentrates on these electronic
resources, rather than the limited print publications that are
often reviewed elsewhere. CBI's Juliet Burba
and Philip Frana provide an informed survey of the voluminous
types and content of Web material on software history. They
categorize these materials and offer insights into their potential
use by historians and other scholars.
Burba and Frana's review article is followed by shorter analyses
of individual software history Web resources. "Memories
of John Tukey;" "Multics and Multicians;" and
the "Allen Newell and Herbert Simon Collections"
are reviewed, respectively, by Atsushi Akera (RPI), Thomas
Haigh (Colby College), and Corinna Schlombs (University of
John G. Zabolitzky, General Manager of ICOS Vision Systems,
and CBI Archivist Elisabeth Kaplan get things started in the
commentary section with their individual perspectives on the
significant issue of software preservation. Iterations
welcomes commentary on this issue, reactions to articles or
other content of the journal, or views on any topic related
to the history of software (all published at the discretion
of the editorial staff). Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
(longer comments should be sent as a MS Word attachment). Please
use this same address for submission of articles for consideration
(see "Call for Papers" on the CBI Web site at: www.cbi.umn.edu/iterations/cfp.html).
Iterations will publish continuously and will inform
"subscribers" of new scholarly articles as they are
published. Iterations is free of charge and individuals
can be added to (or removed from) the email list for notification of future articles
by sending an email message to email@example.com.
[end of page 2]
Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the editorial
board (see list in "About Iterations"), CBI
Director Arthur Norberg, and CBI Software History Project
Manager Philip Frana. Dr. Norberg provided important advice
throughout the planning of this journal and Dr. Frana helped
in nearly every aspect of the its development and launchwithout
their many contributions it would not have been possible.
Graduate research assistants from the University of Minnesota
Program in the History of Science and Technology, Juliet Burba,
Karin Matchett, and Elizabeth van Meer, were also very helpful.
Ms. Van Meer worked with Dr. Frana and myself in designing
the journal. CBI Assistant Archivist Carrie Seib also deserves
special thanks for her technical assistance. [end of page
Jeffrey R. Yost, "A Comment from the Editor,"
Iterations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Software History
1 (September 13, 2002): 1-3.
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