17 February 2014

Delete. A Design History of Computer Vapourware

Paul Atkinson
Bloomsbury Academic, London
256 pages
€ 29
ISBN 978-0-85785-347-9


The Hofgaard Machine, Honeywell Kitchen Computer, IBM Yellow Bird, GO PenPoint Computer, IBM Leapfrog Tablet Computer and Sun Modular Computer are all data processors from the past sixty years, not one of which ever made it onto the shelves of a department store, still less into the warehouse of a major online retailer. In “Delete”, Paul Atkinson, professor of design and design history at Sheffield Hallam University, takes a closer look at these sadly neglected and in some cases never publicized mainframes and mini-computers, personal and portable computers, pen computers and mobile computers.


His richly illustrated collection tells the stories behind these quaintly named products – from the initial idea to their development and product planning – in a language that is readily understandable even for non-geeks. He describes the situation on the computer market, the competition the systems faced and tries to reconstruct how they ended up as “vapourware”. Atkinson’s collection of prototypes is not confined to the products of any one manufacturer, nor to the success stories; rather, it offers a new and worthwhile introduction to the history of program-controlled computers.


Nº 283
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