This study of cold war academic John von Neumann and his early computer is engrossing and well-researchedThe foundation myth of the internet invariably involves an iconoclastic and romantic technology entrepreneur, who, free from government restraint, enlists free-floating venture capitalists in building the Next Great Thing. It's a myth that borders on delusion, for some of the key technologies that led to the internet were underwritten by government subsidies and arose in the context of larger-than-life geopolitical battles.Thus, cryptography, which powers much of today's electronic commerce, advanced in the background of the second world war, while packet switching – a cold war-era technology that made the internet possible – was to guarantee resilient communications in the event of a nuclear attack. More recently, 9/11 and the wars it unleashed have magically transported biometric technologies such as automated facial recognition from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq into our offices and...
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