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57 Computer History Videos, Documentaries and Ebooks

57 Computer History Videos, Documentaries and Ebooks
The history of computers starts out about 2000 years ago in Babylonia (Mesopotamia), at the birth of the abacus, a wooden rack holding two horizontal wires with beads strung on them. Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer. Considered the “father of the computer”, he conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century. From 1939 to 1944 Howard H. Aiken, in collaboration with IBM, developed his first fully functional computer, known as the Harvard Mark I. The machine, like Babbage’s, was huge: more than 50 feet (15 metres) long, weighing five tons, and consisting of about 750,000 separate parts, it was mostly mechanical. Some people say that COMPUTER stands for Common Operating Machine Purposely Used for Technological and Educational Research. The basic definition of a computer is that it is a general purpose electronic device that is used to perform arithmetic and logical operations automatically.

Computing is the bedrock technology that fuels the homes of billions of people around the world. It offers endless possibilities for producing, sharing, and saving information. In this article, a list originally maintained by Thomas Watson, recompiled and cleaned, takes a look at some of the most important innovations in computing history. It covers information from as early as 1953, right down to 2016, in various forms of folklores, recordings, documentaries, interviews, lectures and movies.


  1. The Humble Programmer (1972)
    Dijkstra’s overview of the programming universe as he saw it in 1972
  2. Epigrams on Programming (1982)
  3. The Story of Mel (1983)
  4. Unix Recovery Legend (1986)
  5. The Conscience of a Hacker (1986)
    The Hacker Manifesto
  6. The Jargon File (1988)
  7. The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto (1992)
  8. A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto (1993)
  9. The Story of Getting SSH Port 22 (1995)
  10. The case of the 500-mile email (2002)
  11. UTF-8 history (2003)
  12. How Steve Wozniak Wrote BASIC for the Original Apple From Scratch (2014)

Old recordings

  1. United States Navy Training Media: Basic Mechanisms in Fire Control Computers (1953)
  2. Timesharing: A Solution to Computer Bottlenecks (1963)
  3. The Mother of All Demos (1968)
  4. Xerox Parc – Office Alto Commercial (1972)
  5. A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
    One of the earliest examples of computer animation
  6. KRON San Francisco: Primitive Internet report (1981)
    KRON San Francisco news segment on how early home computer users could read their morning newspapers online
  7. The UNIX System: Making Computers More Productive (1982)
  8. The UNIX System: Making Computers Easier to Use (1982)
  9. The Computer Chronicles (1983-2002) – Simulator Software (1983) / Artificial Intelligence (1985) / The Internet (1993)
  10. We Are Apple (1984)
    Corporate song that was used during the Macintosh rollout in January, 1984
  11. Thinking Allowed – Artificial Intelligence (1989)
    Interview with John McCarthy, creator of Lisp and one of the founders of the discipline of artificial intelligence
  12. Erlang: The Movie (1990)
  13. Net Cafe (1996-2002) – Hackers (1996) / Politics on the Web (1996)
  14. Steve Jobs: The Crazy Ones (1997)
    Steve Jobs talks about The Crazy Ones marketing campaign on internal Apple meeting


  1. The KGB, the Computer, and Me (1990)
    With computer scientist Clifford Stoll
  2. Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires (1996)
    History of the personal computer
  3. Code Rush (2000)
    The story of Netscape and the birth of Mozilla
  4. The Code (2001)
    The Histroy of Linux & FOSS
  5. Revolution OS (2001)
    The story of GNU/linux and Open Source Movement
  6. The Secret History Of Hacking (2001)
    History of early hackers
  7. BBS The Documentary (2005)
    History of the Bulletin Board System
  8. The Codebreakers (2006)
    Documentary about how poor countries are using free and open source software (FOSS) for development purposes.
  9. Hackers Are People Too (2008)
    Documentary about what hackers are
  10. Download: The True Story of the Internet (2008)
    A documentary television series about Internet history
  11. Something Ventured (2011)
    The history of early venture capital
  12. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)
    A documentary on the workings and beliefs of the self-described “hacktivist” collective, Anonymous
  13. TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard (2013)
  14. DEFCON: The Documentary (2013)
    Documentary about DEFCON, the biggest hacker conference
  15. Downloaded (2013)
    The Napster Revolution, a documentary that explores the downloading revolution
  16. Birth of BASIC (2014)
    Invention of the Basic computer language.

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  4. Other free History ebooks

Reflective Interviews

  1. Steve Jobs – The Lost Interview (2012)
    A conversation with Steve Jobs as he was running NeXT, the company he had founded after leaving Apple.
  2. The Great 202 Jailbreak (2013)
    David Brailsford
  3. UNIX Special: Profs Kernighan & Brailsford (2015)
    David Brailsford interviews Brian Kernighan

Talks & Lectures

  1. Computers From The Inside Out (1985)
    Richard Feynman Computer Heuristics Lecture. Not about computer history per se, but about how computers work
  2. The Origins of Linux – Linus Torvalds (2001)
    Linus Torvalds tells the story of how he went from writing code as a graduate student to become an icon for open source software.
  3. The Secret History of Silicon Valley (2008)
    Talk by Steve Blank at the Computer History Museum
  4. Crockford on JavaScript – Volume 1: The Early Years (2011)
    Not actually about JavaScript, but about early computing history
  5. Bret Victor – The Future of Programming (2013)
    Humorous talk about the future of programming as seen from 1973


Dramatized versions of real events

  1. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
    History of Apple and Microsoft
  2. Micro Men (2009)
    History of Acorn Computers and Sinclair Research
  3. The Social Network (2010)
    The history of the birth of Facebook
  4. Halt and Catch Fire (20142017)
    Set in the 1980s, this series dramatizes the personal computing boom
  5. Steve Jobs (2015)
    The story shows Steve Jobs behind the scenes of Apple’s iconic product launches.


  1. Apple 1984 Super Bowl Commercial (1984)
    Apple 1984 Super Bowl Commercial Introducing Macintosh Computer


  1. Internet History Podcast