What do you buy the geek who has everything?

Well, this set of IBM programming manuals would probably hit the spot for plenty of people out there. They're part of a series of lots offered up by Bonhams, the auctioneers. Or;if these don't grab you, how about a set of lecture notes from the same period.

They throw a fascinating insight into the world of computing of 50 to 60 years ago. Subjects  subjects like One's Complement Computer Arithmetic With Particular Reference to the 1101 Computer and A Summary of Probability Distributions show some of the main concerns of the programmers of that time - the idea of a conputer as anything other than a number-cruncher would have been way beyond the ken of those pioneers.

What's most interesting how they compare another throwback of that that era, the TV series Mad Men. These volumes are the total antithesis in style and subject matter of Don Draper's world of glamour, martinis, expense account lunches.and extra-marital sex. Yet, how quickly all that has changed: within 20 to 30 years, the smart people and smart money have all gone into technology - a move that would have been inconceivable to thiose technological pace-setters of the 1950s.

Isaac Newton said that he saw further than his contempories because he'd stood on the shoulders of giants. Those of us who so blithely accept that our phones can keep us in touch with the office, while on the move and see our PCs as a means of playing games should raise a toast to those people dealing with valve-powered machines, punch cards and statistical analysis all those years ago.