Current And Recent Research
CBI historians and archivists conduct and facilitate research in computing, software, and networking, as well as archival theory and history.
History of the US Computer Services Industry
Jeffrey Yost has published his book on the history of the US computer services industry from the mid-1950s to the present, Making IT Work: A History of the Computer Services Industry (The MIT Press, 2017). The study analyzes the growth and rapid change in the computer services industry during the 1950s and 1960s, the subsequent success of focused providers, the role played by industry trade organizations, the broadening of services in both scale and scope, and the growing globalization of the trade in recent years.
Tripling Women's Participation in Computing (1965-1985)
With funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, CBI investigated a two decade period when computing was singularly hospitable to women. The proportion of women gaining computer science undergraduate degrees tripled from 1967 to mid-1980s, from 12 to 37 percent, while the proportion of women in the white-collar professional IT workforce climbed impressively as well, topping out in the mid-1980s at 38 percent. CBI researched archival records to better understand industry attitudes and perspectives, conducted over thirty oral histories with women active in industry during the 1965-85 period, and HST Ph.D. student William Vogel published on the findings in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.
CBI-Los Alamos High-Performance Computing History Project
With funding from the Department of Energy, CBI in 2014 established a multi-year collaborative research project with the High-Performance Computing Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. HST Ph.D. student Nicholas Lewis was in residence at Los Alamos the summers of 2014 and 2015, where he conducted 30 oral histories, accessed rare and valuable archival resources, compiled online history resources, and wrote several essays on Los Alamos computing, including a 60-page survey of the lab's distinctive networking activities and papers delivered at Los Alamos and at the SHOT-SIGCIS workshops in 2014 and 2015. His LANL presentation on "Increasing the Yield: Nuclear Testing, Weapons Strategy, and Supercomputer Selection at Los Alamos" won an award for best poster in August 2015.
Computer Security History
Thomas Misa and Jeffrey Yost have recently completed a major NSF-sponsored four-year research project on the history of computer security. Focusing on the origins of computer security in the 1960s-1990s, the project consisted of oral histories with 31 computer security pioneers, a knowledge-networking wiki, expansion of CBI's already considerable archival holdings on computer security, and a set of peer-reviewed scholarly publications (including a special issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 37 no. 2 (2015): 6-83). Wiki pages provide additional information about the project and oral histories as well as publications. 200+ topical entries explain People, Programs, Publications, Systems, Events, and Mechanisms.
Minnesota as a 'Digital State'
Thomas Misa published Digital State: The Story of Minnesota's Computing Industry (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). It is the first archive-based examination of the state's unique computing history, featuring in-depth profiles of the Engineering Research Associates, Remington Rand Univac, Control Data, Honeywell, and IBM Rochester as well as consideration of how the computing industry paved the way for the state's notable medical devices industry. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president and CEO of Minnesota High Tech Association, calls it "thoroughly researched and engagingly written." The book draws extensively on CBI oral histories, photographs, and archival collections.
History of NSF FastLane
Thomas Misa and Jeffrey Yost have competed an historical assessment of NSF's FastLane system, Fastlane: Managing Science in the Internet World (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016). The project developed a new Web-based interview platform, in addition to traditional oral histories and documentary analysis, to investigate the design and development of FastLane and the use of the system by different higher education institutions (especially at HBCU and EPSCoR-state universities) as well as NSF itself. The project's 400 in-person interviews as well as 400 online interviews created a unique dataset where 643 of these interviews are publicly accessible. Learn more at www.cbi.umn.edu/oh/fastlane.
Historical Overviews of Computing and the Computer Industry
Jeffrey Yost collaborated with Martin Campbell-Kelly, William Aspray, and Nathan Ensmenger on the third edition of the classic text on the history of computing, Computer: A History of the Information Machine, 2014.
Jeffrey Yost published a volume on IBM's history, The IBM Century, coinciding with IBM's 100th anniversary in 2011.
In 2005 Jeffrey Yost’s synthetic historical overview, The Computer Industry, was published by Greenwood. This book concentrates on the trajectories of different sectors of the industry as well as strategy and implementation within firms in the computer hardware, software, and networking trades. Also in 2005, Yost published an overview chapter on the cultural history of computing, “Computers and the Internet: Braiding Irony, Paradox, and Possibility”, in Carroll Pursell's edited volume, Companion to American Technology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers).
Computing and Gender
CBI hosted an international workshop on gender and computing in May 2008, and an edited volume is published by Wiley/IEEE-Computer Society Press: Gender Codes: Why Women are Leaving Computing (2010).
History of IBM Rochester
Arthur Norberg and Jeffrey Yost completed research on the history of IBM's Rochester, Minnesota facility and wrote the text IBM Rochester: A Half Century of Innovation (2006). The publication places IBM Rochester's developments and contributions within the broader context of the corporation and the computer industry. It documents the facility’s early history as a manufacturing unit for record equipment, its formation of a development laboratory, the interaction of the lab and manufacturing, the development and production of IBM's mid-range systems (from System/3 to the AS/400 and beyond), and the origin and growth of its Engineering and Technology Services Division.
Engineering Research Associates/Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation/Remington Rand
In 2005 Arthur L. Norberg’s Computers and Commerce: A Study of Technology and Management at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, Engineering Research Associates, and Remington Rand, 1946-1957 was published by MIT Press. This book provides analysis of the origins, development and contributions of ERA and Eckert-Mauchly in the early computer industry, with a focus on their R&D efforts as independent companies as well as after they were absorbed by Remington Rand in 1952. The study details the activities of the Norwalk Laboratory of Remington Rand from the early to late 1950s.
“Documenting Internet2: A Collaborative Model for Developing Electronic Records Capacities in the Small Archival Repository”
In 2005 the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) completed an 18-month National Historical Publications and Records Commission project entitled, “Documenting Internet2: A Collaborative Model for Developing Electronic Records Capacities in the Small Archival Repository.” The project evaluated methods for selection, description, and long-term preservation of historically significant born-digital records in the subject area of history of information technology. CBI was fortunate to have for its partners in this project the University of Minnesota Libraries Information Technology division, the University of Michigan School of Information, and Internet2. More details about the project are available on the project web site, at:
“Building a Future for Software History”
In 2004 the Charles Babbage Institute completed its multi-year NSF project to develop, organize, and disseminate resources and knowledge on the history of software. The project, led by Jeffrey Yost, was among those highlighted by NSF's KDI Program for its successful deliverables.
The project consisted of the following components:
- Iterations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Software History
- Software History Dictionary
- Oral Histories
- Software History Bibliography