Writer and teacher. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, intern, 1984, 1985; George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, research associate, 1986-87; Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Austin, TX, technology analyst, 1988-91; University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Philadelphia, associate curator, 1995-96, historical consultant, 1994-96, instructor, 1994, 1999; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, lecturer, 1999-2002, assistant professor, 2002—.
University of Pennsylvania fellowship, 1991-92; Mellon Foundation research fellowship, 1992-94; Adelle and Erwin Tomash Fellowship, 1995-96; Smithsonian Institute fellowship, 1995-96; University of Pennsylvania dissertation fellowship, 1996-97; IEEE History Center fellowship in electrical history, 1999-2000; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Undergraduate Curriculum Innovation Grant, 2001-02.
Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers, and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
Atsushi Akera is a historian of technology. He currently works as a professor in the science and technology studies department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. His primary interest is in the social and institutional history of the Cold War, with an emphasis on the early history of scientific and technical computing in the United States. In general, he focuses his research on the history of invention and innovation in computer systems.
In 2002, Akera, along with Frederik Nebeker, edited the book From 0 to 1: An Authoritative History of Modern Computing, a collection of essays focused on two centuries of the history of information processing. However, not all the information is about the past. Also included is a more detailed account of more recent subjects, such as computer software, user interfaces, and the Internet. The essays in this book answer questions such as how and why computers were created and how they have changed over the years, based on the intent of those people who created the computers. The essays were all written by experts in their fields and were composed with general readers in mind, so the information is accessible to a wide range of readers, from the general public to students, historians, and computer professionals.
In 2007, Akera wrote his first book, Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers, and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research. Akera researched the history of computing and then used this history as a kind of metaphor by which he describes the changes in the U.S. infrastructure of scientific and engineering research. It was during the Cold War (primarily the 1940s and 1950s) that rapid and extensive progress was made in the field of computing. Great scientific discoveries were made through the combined interests and efforts formed from the interconnectedness of academia, business, and the federal government. Akera analyzes the first computers by looking at what they accomplished and how they were influenced by the people and the institutions that developed them. In particular, he presents details on the early dominance of IBM as well as the developmental programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the University of Michigan as they both attempted to define who these computers were supposed to benefit. One of the questions that faced developers at these early stages involved whether or not computers would be used just as a project for research, or would they be used as a businesses technology.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2007, T.S. Reynolds, review of Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers, and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research, p. 318.
Technology and Culture, October, 2003, Thomas Haigh, review of From 0 to 1: An Authoritative History of Modern Computing, p. 841; January, 2008, Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, review of Calculating a Natural World, p. 249.