Making IT Work: A History of the Computer Services Industry

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



Department of Humanities


In an excerpt from his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, published in the Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari makes a provocative statement: the way to save democracy is “to find ways to keep distributed data processing more efficient than centralized data processing.”1 Should one be interested in rising to Harari’s challenge, Jeffery R. Yost’s Making IT Work: A History of the Computer Services Industry provides an excellent primer on the mostly overlooked history of computer services (from consulting and programming to data analytics and cloud computing), which remain at the periphery of most people’s awareness, in spite of being a trillion-dollar business worldwide with significant political and economic import, as Harari’s provocation suggests. Yost, associate director of the Charles Babbage Institute, has written the first full-length business history of this important sector, highlighting newly available archival materials and oral histories recorded specifically for this project. The historical approach is largely descriptive but provides a foundation of authoritative facts about the key businesses and personnel that established and defined the computer services industry during the twentieth century. The book provides a necessary baseline for future scholarship in this important area.

Publisher's Statement

Published by University of Texas Press. 2019. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Information & Culture: A Journal of History