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Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years

Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years

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Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years

4/5 (2 evaluări)
73 pages
1 hour
Jul 7, 2011


In this short e-book (about 14,000 words), Stanford mathematician and NPR's "Math Guy" Keith Devlin Ph.D. presents the fascinating similarities between 13th Century mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, more commonly known as Fibonacci, and Steve Jobs, the 20th Century founder of Apple computers.

In 1202, 32-year old Italian Leonardo of Pisa finished one of the most influential books of all time, which introduced modern arithmetic to Western Europe. Devised in India in the 7th and 8th centuries and brought to North Africa by Muslim traders, the Hindu-Arabic system helped transform the West into the dominant force in science, technology, and commerce, leaving behind Muslim cultures which had long known it but had failed to see its potential. Leonardo had learned the Hindu number system when he traveled to North Africa with his father, a customs agent. The book he created was Liber Abbaci, the "Book of Calculation," and the revolution that followed its publication was enormous. Arithmetic made it possible for ordinary people to buy and sell goods, convert currencies, and keep accurate records of possessions more readily than ever before. Liber Abbaci's publication led directly to large-scale international commerce and the scientific revolution of the Renaissance.

In "Leonardo & Steve," Devlin shows the uncanny parallels between Leonardo's arithmetic revolution that took place in Tuscany in the Thirteenth Century and the one that began in California's Silicon Valley in more recent times. It is a story about the personal computing revolution that occurred in the 1980s, but with the novel twist that it was actually history repeating itself.

Also included is a special preview, the first chapter of Keith Devlin's book "Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution" (Walker/Bloomsbury).

Jul 7, 2011

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Leonardo and Steve - Keith Devlin

Leonardo and Steve:

The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years

by Keith Devlin, Ph.D.

Smashwords edition

Copyright 2011 Keith Devlin

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For more information, contact Keith Devlin at http://www.stanford.edu/~kdevlin/

ISBN 978-1-4524-0759-3

Table of Contents

Prelude: The Statue

Chapter One: WYSIWYG and WIMPS

Chapter Two: Game Changer

Chapter Three: Right Time, Right Place

Chapter Four: The Book of Calculation

Chapter Five: The Revolution

Chapter Six: The Secrets of Their Success

Chapter Seven: The Visionary Is Forgotten

Chapter Eight: Doubts Set In

Chapter Nine: Unraveling the Thread

Chapter Ten: The Final Piece of the Puzzle

Chapter Eleven: The Key to Success

Chapter Twelve: Parallel Lines

Chapter Thirteen: Parallel Lines Never Meet

Chapter Fourteen: A Lens to the Past


Preview - The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution

Prelude: The Statue

Toward the end of the Second World War, American and German troops faced one another from opposite sides of the River Arno in the center of the Italian city of Pisa. After a month-long battle, the bridge that connected the two banks, the Ponte di Mezzo (Central Bridge), was left destroyed, as were most of the buildings on either side. Yet remarkably, amidst all the rubble, there remained standing a white marble statue of a man. Barely scratched, apart from the loss of the ends of some fingers, it had been the centerpiece of the Piazza XX Settembre (20th September Square), an elegant square at the southern end of the bridge.

The sculpture, which is now on display in the in the Piazza dei Miracoli near the Leaning Tower of Pisa, depicts a thirteenth-century Pisan mathematician named Leonardo, better known today by the modern nickname of Fibonacci. Who was this Leonardo, and why did the citizens of Pisa see fit to grace one of their most prominent piazzas with his likeness? (Actually, almost certainly not his likeness, but the artistic creation of the nineteenth-century sculptor who crafted it.)

While Leonardo is most commonly associated with a simple numerical sequence (the Fibonacci numbers), it was his more relevant and deserving stature as the world’s most prominent mathematician during the thirteenth century that earned him the honor of memorialization in stone. He was the author of a number of highly influential mathematics texts, in particular Liber Abbaci (The Book of Calculation), the first arithmetic textbook in Europe.

What was not known at the time the statue was completed in 1863 was that Leonardo was also the instigator of the world’s first wide-scale personal computing revolution, beating Apple’s first Macintosh computer to market by eight hundred years. (It’s reasonable to take the release of the Macintosh in 1984 as the start of the modern personal computing revolution, since that was when personal computers—operated using a mouse and keyboard, with a windowed screen that looks like a paper document on a desktop—became available to ordinary people. More on this choice later.)

In my book The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution, I describe the contents of Liber Abbaci, recount the story of how Leonardo came to write it, and trace the enormous influence it had on the development of modern society. In focusing on the historical story, what I left out of that account are the uncanny parallels between the personal computing revolution that took place in Tuscany in the thirteenth century and the one that began in California’s Silicon Valley in more recent times. This is the story I will tell in these pages. For through the eyes of the present, we can come to understand something of the past; and conversely, by reflecting on the past, we can better appreciate events that take place in our own time.

Caption: Leonardo’s statue at the end of the Second World War, photographer unknown. This amazing photograph was published in the magazine Pisa Economica, Pisan Chamber of Commerce, 1977.

Chapter One: WYSIWYG and WIMPS

In December 1979, a boyish-looking young man with a short, wispy beard and long, flowing, black hair paid a visit to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. His name was Steven P. Jobs. Xerox PARC, located just a few miles to the north of Cupertino, the Californian suburb where Jobs grew up, was already famous among the high-tech crowd that had been gravitating toward the Palo Alto region for the past decade. Though the rest of the world would not know it for another five years, PARC’s hundred or so computer engineers and designers—recruited from the word's top talent—had been secretly developing most of the components of modern personal computing, including the windows-mouse-pointer system for displaying files and navigating through the computer’s memory, the ethernet, the laser printer,

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