Graphic showing the grey and white user interface of the Xerox Alto, showing icons in the shape of computers and documents

A new book recounts the invention and evolution of computers

The Computer lays out, in glorious detail, the last 300 years of technological progress, and the figures and groups behind it

Taschen has published a new book called The Computer, which traces the evolution of machines in computer history. Written by German author and graphic designer Jens Müller and edited by Brazilian designer Julius Wiedemann, this publication takes on the monumental task of explaining the computer’s significance, through the many twists and turns in its past.

Beginning with the very first ideas of creating a calculating machine in the 17th century, through to the advent of oversized office computers in the 1950s and, finally, to the ubiquity of laptops and wearable devices in the present day, The Computer lays out in extraordinary detail how we invented and popularised these fascinating pieces of technology.

Image of the pink book cover of The Computer, featuring the book name in white monospace font and images of an iPod advert, a Westworld poster, an image that reads 'Think', and several images of old computers
Top: The graphical user interface of the Xerox Alto. Image © Taschen; Above: The Computer

Beyond just the machines themselves, the book also reveals the stories of the tech visionaries, pioneers and entrepreneurs that were behind these major advancements. The important creations of Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Grace Hopper, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs can be found inside, along with many forgotten experiments and prototypes.

Through engaging visuals, historical documents, and helpful explanations and infographics, the ideas and theories that drove these figures in their respective fields are laid out clearly for the reader. Accessibility is provided to esoteric subjects as wide-ranging as coding, software development, wireless communication, and the invention of machines.

Black and white photograph showing a person in a white shirt with curly, coiffed hair, holding a pile of tape above their head
NACA Langley Research Center employee in 1953 posing with manometer tape that contained programming for a Bell computer. Image © NASA
Image shows a piece of paper containing hand written notes featuring yellowed image of a moth
In 1947, a malfunction was caused by a moth that found its way into a relay of the Mark II computer in Harvard University’s computer laboratory. Image courtesy Naval Surface Warfare Center

The book even explores the impact of game-changing corporations such as IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Atari, Amazon, and Google, attempting to understand their long and winding histories through the use of rarely seen photographs and old advertising campaigns.

Through a riveting and informative recount of humanity’s technological progress over the last few hundred years, The Computer provides readers with a better understanding of not just where we have been, but where we are headed. In the current digital age, surrounded by constant advancements – almost too many to keep up with – this book cuts through the noise with its simple yet expansive premise.

Image of a poster advertisement showing an illustration of a man in a suit holding a phone to his ear as he looks at a screen. The poster is headlined 'How soon will you be able to see over the phone?'
Advertisement for Hughes Aircraft Company, 1956. Courtesy Hughes Products
Image shows the yellow poster design for Westworld, showing an illustration of a man in a black rimmed hat holding a hand gun and text written in katakana beneath
Poster for Westworld, released in 1973 © Taschen
Image shows a 1998 poster advertising Apple's iMacs, showing an aerial shot of different coloured iMacs arranged in a spiral, with the headline' The thrill of surfing. The agony of choosing a colour'
Advertisement for the iMac, 1998. Image courtesy Apple
Image shows the user interface of the browser Netscape
Netscape browser. Image © Taschen
AI generated image appaering to show an astronaut riding on the back of a white horse against a starry sky
‘A photo of an astronaut riding a horse’ by the Dall-E software. Image © Taschen

The Computer by Jens Müller is published by Taschen;