This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Page 1 of 8
History of the Computer
(b.c. - 1993a.d.)
by Jeremy Meyers I DO NOT HAVE ANY OTHER INFORMATION ON THIS TOPIC OTHER THAN WHAT IS ON THIS PAGE! PLEASE DO NOT E-MAIL ME REQUESTING MORE INFORMATION! Instead, check Yahoo
Download this paper in PDF format
Note: Yes, a lot of this is from Groliers Encyclopaedia. Hey, I was young. I didn't know any better. Credit where credit is due. Also, this information is only current as of the early 1990's (1993, to be exact), and no I'm not planning to add more information anytime soon.
Citing This Work
You are welcome to use this document as a reference in creating your own paper or research work on the subject. Please don't just copy this paper verbatim and submit it as your own work, as I put a lot of time and effort into it. Plus, it's bad karma. If you would like to use this work, please use this citation in your bibliography: Meyers, Jeremy, "A Short History of the Computer" [Online] Available <http://www.softlord.com/comp/> <Date you accessed this page>
Table of Contents:
1) 2) 3) 4) In The Beginning... Babbage Use of Punched Cards by Hollerith Electronic Digital Computers 5) The Modern "Stored Program" 6) Advances in the 1950’s 7) Advances in the 1960’s 8) Recent Advances
In The Beginning... The history of computers starts out about 2000 years ago, at the birth of the abacus, a wooden rack holding two horizontal wires with beads strung on them. When these beads are moved around, according to programming rules memorized by the user, all regular arithmetic problems can be done. Another important invention around the same time was the Astrolabe, used for navigation. Blaise Pascal is usually credited for building the first digital computer in 1642. It added numbers entered with dials and was made to help his father, a tax collector. In 1671, Gottfried Wilhelm von
and commanded by a fixed instruction program.purpose computer would need. The built-in operations were supposed to include everything that a modern general . especially those needed to make mathematical tables.htm 6/18/01 . It could add. when Thomas of Colmar (A. multiply. was really a great advance. and divide. which he called a difference engine. The prototypes made by Pascal and Leibniz were not used in many places. subtract. although this couldn’t be appreciated until a full century later. and. Babbage realized that many long calculations. A lot of improved desktop calculators by many inventors followed. The analytical engine was soon to use punched cards (similar to those used in a Jacquard loom). by steam power. Charles Xavier Thomas) created the first successful mechanical calculator that could add. and considered weird until a little more than a century later. It was intended to be steam powered and fully automatic. By 1822. including the printing of the resulting tables. Babbage started fabrication of a difference engine in 1823. even the all important Conditional Control Transfer Capability that would allow commands to be executed in any order. fully program-controlled. The ideas of this design showed a lot of foresight. although having limited adaptability and applicability. the range of improvements included: l l l Accumulation of partial results Storage and automatic reentry of past results (A memory function) Printing of the results Each of these required manual installation.K. From this he suspected that it should be possible to do these automatically. and not for the needs of science. With financial help from the British government.the construction of what would now be called a general purpose. and require only one person there. by Charles Babbage (left. The difference engine. In 1812. Babbage continued to work on it for the next 10 years. after changing some things around. file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord.com%202. England. he had a working model to demonstrate with. He began to design an automatic mechanical calculating machine. a series of very interesting developments in computers was started in Cambridge. were really a series of predictable actions that were constantly repeated. Babbage While Thomas of Colmar was developing the desktop calculator.A. which would be read into the machine from several different Reading Stations.sdc: computer history Page 2 of 8 Leibniz invented a computer that was built in 1694. These improvements were mainly made for commercial users. Babbage called this idea an Analytical Engine.000 such digits. The machine was supposed to operate automatically. of which the computer store "Babbages" is named). automatic mechanical digital computer. a mathematics professor. Leibniz invented a special stepped gear mechanism for introducing the addend digits. so that by about 1890. and this is still being used.1\comp\TMP992869671. but in 1833 he lost interest because he thought he had a better idea -. multiply. not just the order in which they were programmed. The plans for this engine required an identical decimal computer operating on numbers of 50 decimal digits (or words) and having a storage capacity (memory) of 1.
Various reasons are used for his failure.like turning the wheels of an adding machine. who worked for the US. and it came to be known that most observable dynamic phenomena can be identified by differential equations (which meant that most events occurring in nature can be measured or described in one equation or another). Because of this. and sort feed out cards with punched results As compared to today’s machines. there was a temporary loss of interest in automatic digital computers. After Babbage. multiply. stacks of punched cards could be used as easily accessible memory of almost unlimited size. They provided a means of I/O. reading errors were reduced dramatically. Furthermore. Such systems included features to: l l l feed in a specified number of cards automatically add.com%202. and bridges required differential calculus to determine such things as: l l l l center of gravity center of buoyancy moment of inertia stress distributions Even the assessment of the power output of a steam engine needed mathematical integration. The designing of railroads. These advantages were seen by commercial companies and soon led to the development of improved punch-card using computers created by International Business Machines (IBM). Use of Punched Cards by Hollerith A step towards automated computing was the development of punched cards. most importantly. and. Census Bureau. Another speculation is that Babbage was working on a solution of a problem that few people in 1840 really needed to solve. At the time. file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord. and a considerable amount of the computing work in science. punched cards were a huge step forward. and other corporations. For more than 50 years after their first use. textile mills. Remington (yes. without human help. and commerce to prosper and led to a period of a lot of engineering achievements. transportation (steam engines and boats).1\comp\TMP992869671. Burroughs. punched card machines did most of the world’s first business computing. usually processing 50 .220 cards per minute. these computers were slow. however. Most used is the lack of precision machining techniques at the time. the availability of steam power caused manufacturing (boilers). They developed devices that could read the information that had been punched into the cards automatically. and memory storage on a huge scale. different problems could be stored on different stacks of cards and accessed when needed. Between 1850 and 1900 great advances were made in mathematical physics. A strong need thus developed for a machine that could rapidly perform many repetitive calculations. These computers used electromechanical devices in which electrical power provided mechanical motion -.sdc: computer history Page 3 of 8 Babbage's computers were never finished.htm 6/18/01 . which were first successfully used with computers in 1890 by Herman Hollerith (left) and James Powers. Moreover. work flow increased. from a practical view. so that easy means for their calculation would be helpful. and the making of steamships. the same people that make shavers). each card holding about 80 decimal numbers (characters).
It was. efficient in handling the particular programs for which it had been designed. New weapons were made for which trajectory tables and other essential data were needed. 1 multiplier. A controversy developed in 1971. and yet be able to execute any file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord. Eckert.000 vacuum tubes. Mauchly (left). ENIAC used 18. In 1942. It had punched card I/O.htm 6/18/01 . fixed physical structure .0002 seconds) read-write register storage. which were plugged together to form a "route" for the flow of information.com%202. John P. John V.800 square feet of floor space. and with only some latitude could ENIAC be considered programmable. together with presetting function tables and switches. however. These connections had to be redone after each computation. which served as adders and also as quick-access (.000 watts of electrical power. and 20 adders using decimal ring counters .000 times faster then the previous generation of relay computers. by finding the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory.speed electronic computer to do the job. 1 divider/square rooter. The executable instructions making up a program were embodied in the separate "units" of ENIAC. about 1. an abstract study of computation that showed that a computer should have a very simple. Atanasoff (left ) had already used basically the same ideas in a simpler vacuum tube device he had built in the 1930’s while at Iowa State College. This "wire your own" technique was inconvenient (for obvious reasons). The Modern Stored Program EDC Fascinated by the success of ENIAC. and it could multiply two of these numbers at a rate of 300 per second. however.sdc: computer history Page 4 of 8 Electronic Digital Computers The start of World War II produced a large need for computer capacity. the mathematician John Von Neumann (left) undertook. and their associates at the Moore school of Electrical Engineering of University of Pennsylvania decided to build a high . In 1973 the courts found in favor of the company using the Atanasoff claim.1\comp\TMP992869671. John W.speed electronic digital computer (EDC) and was used from 1946 to 1955. over the patentability of ENIAC's basic digital concepts. the claim being made that another physicist. and consumed about 180. ENIAC is commonly accepted as the first successful high . ENIAC was therefore about 1. especially for the military. in 1945. This machine became known as ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator) The size of ENIAC’s numerical "word" was 10 decimal digits.
called a Conditional control transfer .and by storing all instruction programs together with data in the same memory unit. these features make very .Memory (RAM). Von Neumann met these two needs by making a special type of machine instruction.sdc: computer history Page 5 of 8 kind of computation by means of a proper programmed control without the need for any change in the unit itself.speed operation attainable.program technique. usually referred to as the stored .purpose computer memory became the assembly place in which all parts of a long computation were kept. If each instruction in a job program were used once in consecutive order.speed digital computers and were universally adopted. yet fast computers should be organized and built. In combination. therefore. Arrangements must be made.Program technique involves many features of computer design and function besides the one that it is named after. Von Neumann contributed a new awareness of how practical. they became a standard practice.htm 6/18/01 . Also. The computer control survived only as an "errand runner" for the overall process. Regularly used subroutines did not have to be reprogrammed for each new program.which allowed the program sequence to be stopped and started again at any point . much of a given program could be assembled from the subroutine library. but could be kept in "libraries" and read into memory only when needed. As a result of these techniques. This group included computers using Random . it would clearly be helpful if instructions could be changed if needed during a computation to make them behave differently. more flexible. became essential for future generations of high . worked on piece by piece. A glimpse may be provided by considering what 1.000 operations per second means. The first generation of modern programmed electronic computers to take advantage of these improvements were built in 1947. for parts of the job program (called subroutines) to be used repeatedly in a manner that depends on the way the computation goes.Access . when needed. The Stored . which is a memory designed to give almost constant access to any particular piece of file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord. and put together to form the final results. Thus. As soon as the advantage of these techniques became clear. instructions could be arithmetically changed in the same way as data. and more efficient with work. These ideas.com%202.high .1\comp\TMP992869671. computing and programming became much faster. no human programmer could generate enough instruction to keep the computer busy. The all . so that.
sdc: computer history Page 6 of 8 information. a lot less then required by the earlier ENIAC.000 words and multiplied in 10 Greek MU seconds. Such operating modes need elaborate executable programs to attend to the administration of the various tasks. in which problems are prepared and then held ready for computation on a relatively cheap storage medium. One such mode is batch processing. In time-sharing. although by the mid 1950’s progress had been made in several aspects of advanced programming. from one of fast but unreliable hardware to an image of relatively high reliability and even more capability.000 words.000 words in commercially available machines by the 1960’s.com%202.1\comp\TMP992869671.ray .000. Some of them could perform multiplications in 2 to 4 MU seconds. and private laboratories . built for the Livermore Radiation Laboratories of the University of California by the Sperry . reached probably about 70 to 80% reliability of operation (ROO) and were used for 8 to 12 years. and the Stretch computer by IBM. Such computers were mostly found in large computer centers operated by industry. Some were about the size of a grand piano and used only 2.program computers needed a lot of maintenance. When the computer finishes with a problem. the major computer manufacturers began to offer a range of capabilities and prices. These machines had punched . or magnetic tapes were usually used. they were much smaller than ENIAC. the computer processes many jobs in such rapid succession that each job runs as if the other jobs did not exist. the fastest access time being less then 1 Greek MU Second and the total capacity in the vicinity of 100. with access times of 2 to 3 MS (Milliseconds).htm 6/18/01 . Advances in the 1960’s In the 1960’s.disk packs. This situation led to modes of operation enabling the sharing of the high potential available. Advances in the 1950’s Early in the 50’s two important engineering discoveries changed the image of the electronic computer field. During this period.Circuit Element. They were usually programmed in ML.5 Greek MU seconds (.tube displays file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord.Rand Corporation. magnetic . . it "dumps" the whole problem (program and results) on one of these peripheral storage units and starts on a new problem. as well as accessories such as: l l l l Consoles Card Feeders Page Printers Cathode .staffed with many programmers and support personnel.500 electron tubes. thus keeping each "customer" satisfied.generation stored . The LARC had a base memory of 98. powerful machines is called time-sharing. Physically.000 word capacity and access times of . Magnetic drums. The first . RAM capacities increased from 8.5*10-6 seconds). efforts to design and develop the fastest possible computer with the greatest capacity reached a turning point with the LARC machine. These technical discoveries quickly found their way into new models of digital computers. These machines were very expensive to purchase or even to rent and were particularly expensive to operate because of the cost of expanding programming. government. These discoveries were the magnetic core memory and the Transistor .card or punched tape I/O devices and RAM’s of 1. Stretch was made with several degrees of memory having slower access for the ranks of greater capacity.000 to 64. This group of computers included EDVAC (above) and UNIVAC (right) the first commercially available computers. Another mode for fast.
medications. such as hospitals (keeping track of patient records. with Apple and IBM keeping strong. for using machine tools with computers. introduced in the 1970s programmable minicomputers supplied with software packages. some personal computers were run by microprocessors that. where computer records on file now cover nearly all known chemical compounds. a new revolution in computer hardware was under way. In the 1970’s.1\comp\TMP992869671. Then it became possible to build resistors and capacitors into the circuitry by the same process. The "shrinking" trend continued with the introduction of personal computers (PC’s). to some extent. now used computers of smaller capability for controlling and regulating their jobs. could process about 4.htm 6/18/01 . the Intel and Motorola Corporations were very competitive into the 1980s. and counters.purpose computers and toward a larger range of applications for cheaper computer systems. By the late 1980s." In the 1980’s.sdc: computer history l Page 7 of 8 Graphing devices These were widely used in businesses for such things as: l l l l l Accounting Payroll Inventory control Ordering Supplies Billing CPU’s for these uses did not have to be very fast arithmetically and were usually used to access large amounts of records on file. file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord. vacuum deposition of transistors became the norm. but gains in applications programming language technologies removed these obstacles.com%202. More Recent Advances The trend during the 1970's was. with adders. handling 32 bits of data at a time.000. They were also used in libraries. especially in the area of memory chips. and entire assemblies. Applications languages were now available for controlling a great range of manufacturing processes. some new to the computer field. the most number of computer systems were sold for the more simple uses. About 1960 photo printing of conductive circuit boards to eliminate wiring became more developed. involving shrinking of computerlogic circuitry and of components by what are called large-scale integration (LSI) techniques. improve performance. Moreover. keeping these up to date. although Japanese firms were making strong economic advances. Most continuousprocess manufacturing . became more and more common. By far. moving away from very powerful. shifting registers. Many companies. became available on tiny "chips.000 instructions per second. such as Apple Computer and Radio Shack. Many companies. In the manufacturing of semiconductor chips. the problems in programming applications were an obstacle to the independence of medium sized on-site computers. and treatments given). encouraged in part by a fad in computer (video) games. In the 1950s it was realized that "scaling down" the size of electronic digital computer circuits and parts would increase speed and efficiency and by that. in which hundreds of thousands of transistors were placed on a single chip. if they could only find a way to do this. In the 1980s some friction occurred in the crowded PC field. and for many other things. single . very large scale integration (VLSI). In the 1960’s. such as petroleum refining and electrical-power distribution systems. such as the National Medical Library retrieval system. and in the Chemical Abstracts System. introduced very successful PC’s in the 1970s. which are programmable machines small enough and inexpensive enough to be purchased and used by individuals.
htm 6/18/01 .sdc: computer history Page 8 of 8 Microprocessors equipped with read-only memory (ROM). which stores constantly used. is using new technologies in very large integration. and their convenience and efficiency are expected to increase in the early future. testing. and will be capable of amazing feats in the area of artificial intelligence. computer mail. however. In the early 1980s. the so-called "fifth" generation.com%202. This new generation. Advances in technologies continue to produce cheaper and more powerful computers offering the promise that in the near future. monitoring. like automobile ignition systems. now performed an increased number of process-control. unchanging programs. The computer field continues to experience huge growth. the cost per calculation of computers is rapidly lessening. automobile-engine diagnosis. such as voice recognition. if not all homes. Cray Research and Control Data Inc. or the most powerful computer systems. computers or terminals will reside in most. and electronic publishing are just a few of the applications that have grown in recent years. New programming techniques. and schools. and diagnosing functions. have been developed to help relieve this problem. dominated the field of supercomputers. file://D:\Jeremy\html\softlord.1\comp\TMP992869671. such as object-oriented programming. Progress in the area of software has not matched the great advances in hardware. however. Computer networking. Despite difficulties with software. the Japanese government announced a gigantic plan to design and build a new generation of supercomputers. offices. Software has become the major cost of many systems because programming productivity has not increased very quickly. through the 1970s and 1980s. and production-line inspection duties. along with new programming languages.