Rendezvous with Information? Computers and Communications Networks in the United States

John, Richard R.

The coming of "digital convergence," as the coupling of computers and communications networks is often called, has long been predicted by specialists in information technology. The phrase "information technology" itself dates back at least as far as 1958, when it was invoked by two business school professors to describe the changes in business management that would accompany the widespread adoption of the computer. Beginning in the 1970s, policymakers, engineers, and sociologists coined a series of neologisms—including "telematics," "compunications," and "informationalism"—to describe the emerging integration of information transmission with information processing. Only within the past few years, however, has the coupling of computers and communications networks begun to attract the sustained attention of historians. The four essays featured in this special issue of the Business History Review are part of this larger historical project. These technological changes have occurred so recently that it will be useful for readers of the essays to remember that the origin, character, and significance of recent innovations in information technology remain a matter of debate.


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May 20, 2022