The Machine That Changed the World

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The Machine That Changed the World, produced by Jon Palfreman, was released in 1992 and is available only in the VHS Format. It is the longest and the most complete documentary about the history of computing. This documentary gives a brief view of the computing industry before the widespread use of the web and includes archival footage and interviews with key players of the computing industry. It is also available in the form of a book written by Jon Palfreman. This documentary is divided into a series of 5 parts:

Part 1: Great Brains: In the first part we see a succinct introduction to the series, and highlighting the versatility of computers leading to their high influence on our lives. It is then followed by the history of computing, beginning with the original definition of “computers”, that were human beings like William Shanks that calculated numbers by hand and ending by concluding how Charles Babbage was led to develop his difference engine, the first mechanical computer, after being frustrated with inaccuracy caused by humans.

Part 2: Inventing the Future: The story of ENIAC’s creators is picked up in the second part as they begin their journey of building the first commercial computer company in 1950, and ends with the moon landing in 1969 and the beginning of the Silicon Valley. The documentary gives detailed information on how after the war ended, ENIAC’s creators founded the first commercial computer company, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1946.

Part 3: The Paperback Computer: The third episode of covers the advancement of the personal computer and the modern graphical user interface which made computing easy to use for everyone. Highlights of this part include interviews with Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, drawing with a computer in 1963, great footage from Xerox PARC, apart from some 1992-era predictions of the future from Apple and others.

Part 4: The Thinking Machine: The history of artificial intelligence and the challenges that come from trying to instruct computers to think and learn like us is charted in the fourth part.

Part 5: The World at Your Fingertips: The fifth and final part of The Machine That Changed the World focuses on global information networks including the Internet, and the communication benefits and privacy risks they threaten us with.

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