Rankin tells a history of digital culture that counters the usual origin story that is the Silicon Valley mythology. One that starts with large, remote, room-sized mainframe machines and is followed by the development on the personal computers by white men tinkering in their garages in the San Francisco bay area, then by the Internet and then another round of white men who start and develop the “fiefdoms of Silicon Valley.” Following Howard Zinn’s example in his, A People’s History of the United States, Rankin attempts to tell a bottom up history of computing, from the user up. Like Zinn, she attempts to tell a history “not about Founding Fathers and presidents, captains of industry, war heroes, and other influential white men, instead, featured people rarely seen or heard in synthetic or textbook history.” While Rankin openly acknowledges that the subjects she discusses could be considered elite, she still sees it as a counter narrative. She also touches on the evolution of computing in a space that was primarily white, male and affluent and that, in many ways, reinforced gendered expectations, racism, and stereotypes. However, she only touches the surface here and falls short of the depth of the strategy that Zinn employs. What results is still a story of primarily white men, in privileged positions and spaces. I would have like to have understood the Kiewit Computation Center at Dartmouth, for example, from the perspective of a women working there (she does share this a bit, but not primarily) or an African American or other non-white student – a deeper nod to the strategy of Zinn’s People’s History.
Rankin also emphasizes this state of “computing citizenship” — a culture of sharing for collaborative and communal goals and network access conceived of as a civic project. Both of which were critical qualities to Kurtz and Kemeny’s Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. How might ideas about good computing citizenship inform how we develop digital tools and platform in a time when our phones and watches are computers and we are constantly connected to and engaging the network? Do we have communal goals outside of enclaves like schools and universities? Zinn asserts that “nations are not communities.” How do we regain a collaborative spirit in a market that is driven by intellectual property rights and patents?