On a later inventory, I found three books with a computer or an aspect of one depicted:
- Code Complete, which shows a keyboard and part of a monitor.
- An older edition of Programming Pearls, which shows a keyboard, but with pearls where some of the keys are missing.
- The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, with a man grasping and peering out through a grill that is actually a circuit diagram.
It was surprising to have someone 30 years younger point out something quite obvious that I had just never thought about. Some publishers use a trade dress that has nothing to do with the subject: O'Reilly Associates animals and Manning's clip art are examples of this. Other publishers favor an austere cover with no art, as Prentice-Hall did for The C Programming Language. Some well-known texts have whimsical designs by which they are known: the dragon book, the Cinderella book, the wizard book.
There is also the problem of determining what a computer looks like. When I started to work with computers, they were generally the size of refrigerators, and one controlled them from a VDT with green or amber phosphors. If you walk into the server room today and see something the size of a PDP-11, or MV/7800, it is probably a disk array. Even personal computers and their peripherals have changed considerably in appearance over the years, and the hefty 17-inch monitor that was the envy of a department in 1995 is obsolescent now.
The software changes more slowly. My old "camel book" omits a good deal that has happened in Perl since it was published, but is still a handy reference for standard functions and older modules. The older edition of C.J. Date's Introduction to Database Systems still does a good job of setting out the fundamentals of relational databases. Publishers are better off, then, sticking with species that will be recognizable a few years down the road.