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Från Evgeny Morozovs recension av Turing’s Cathedral:

Strictly speaking, Von Neumann’s was not the first computer. However, it played an extremely important role in getting the nascent computer industry off the ground. First of all, its origins in academia made it easier to get working scientists to pay close attention to what computing had to offer. Second, Von Neumann wanted to ensure that any work that the institute did on the EPC was put in the public domain and widely disseminated rather than patented by engineers [...]. Third – and most important – Von Neumann chose not to optimise his computer to do only pressing or lucrative tasks; he knew that its most useful applications had not been anticipated yet. By arguing that “the projected device… is so radically new that many of its uses will become clear only after it has been put into operation”, Von Neumann helped to usher in the era of general-purpose computing which, alas, may now be finally coming to a close, as consumers embrace single-purpose apps and tightly controlled computing devices.