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Download The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer Audiobook, by Jane Smiley Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (93 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jane Smiley Narrator: Kathe Mazur Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2010 ISBN: 9780307751140
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From one of our most acclaimed novelists, a  David-and-Goliath biography for the digital age.
One night in the late 1930s, in a bar on the Illinois–Iowa border, John Vincent Atanasoff, a professor of physics at Iowa State University, after a frustrating day performing tedious mathematical calculations in his lab, hit on the idea that the binary number system and electronic switches, com­bined with an array of capacitors on a moving drum to serve as memory, could yield a computing machine that would make his life and the lives of other similarly burdened scientists easier. Then he went back and built the machine. It worked. The whole world changed. 

Why don’t we know the name of John Atanasoff as well as we know those of Alan Turing and John von Neumann? Because he never patented the device, and because the developers of the far-better-known ENIAC almost certainly stole critical ideas from him. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution. 

Jane Smiley tells the quintessentially American story of the child of immigrants John Atanasoff with technical clarity and narrative drive, making the race to develop digital computing as gripping as a real-life techno-thriller.

Download and start listening now!

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Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Rick Holter | 2/11/2014

    " Smiley's a novelist for a reason. Without her inventive imagination, this bio ends up about as interesting as its title. A real disappointment from one of my fave authors. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Trae | 1/16/2014

    " I thought: it's by Jane Smiley so it must be a good read. I thought: it sounds so boring that it must be interesting. WRONG! B-O-R-I-N-G. Very. The only interesting parts that I could get to were about Allen Turing and the Enigma machine. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jaime | 12/22/2013

    " Amazing how hidden history really did change history. What other classified secrets will be revealed that will rewrite actual history?! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Owen | 7/16/2013

    " I was looking forward to reading this but was pretty disappointed. The author has obviously spent a lot of time researching the facts. Unfortunately she spends most of her time repeating every bit of information she found instead of constructing a compelling narrative. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Florence | 1/12/2013

    " I listened to this at 2x speed to make the endless facts move on a bit more quickly. It consisted of more detail than I needed as a technophobe, but I loved the historical context and players. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lane | 12/24/2012

    " No new information but does bring together the many people involved in the development of the computer. A balanced view of the controversy in claiming credit. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kira | 11/22/2012

    " I love Jane Smiley, but this guy is just not as interesting as she thinks he is. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becca | 10/6/2011

    " interesting biography, looks at innovation, WWII's influence on technology, patent laws, early computing technologies "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jaime | 3/2/2011

    " Amazing how hidden history really did change history. What other classified secrets will be revealed that will rewrite actual history?! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Trae | 1/26/2011

    " I thought: it's by Jane Smiley so it must be a good read. I thought: it sounds so boring that it must be interesting. WRONG! B-O-R-I-N-G. Very. The only interesting parts that I could get to were about Allen Turing and the Enigma machine. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kira | 1/23/2011

    " I love Jane Smiley, but this guy is just not as interesting as she thinks he is. "

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About the Author
Author Jane SmileyJANE SMILEY is the author of eleven novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Thousand Acres, and three works of nonfiction. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. Smiley lives in Northern California.
About the Narrator

Kathe Mazur has narrated many audiobooks, winning the prestigious Audie Award for best narration in 2014, being named a finalist for the Audie Award in 2013 and 2015, and winning seven AudioFile Earphones Awards. As an actress, she can be seen as DDA Hobbs on The Closer and in the upcoming Major Crimes. She has worked extensively in film, theater, and television, including appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, House, Brothers and Sisters, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, ER, Monk, and many others.