We discuss the conceptual problem of identifying the natural notions of computability at higher types (over the natural numbers). We argue for an eclectic approach, in which one considers a wide range of possible approaches to defining higher type computability and then looks for regularities. As a first step in this programme, we give an extended survey of the di#erent strands of research on higher type computability to date, bringing together material from recursion theory, constructive logic and computer science. The paper thus serves as a reasonably complete overview of the literature on higher type computability. Two sequel papers will be devoted to developing a more systematic account of the material reviewed here.