The History of Computers

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The History of Computers




To those of us that have grown up during the computer age, computers seem like a normal part of our everyday lives. The idea that only a few decades ago computers were virtually unheard of is inconceivable. Computers are now so essential that they basically run our society and the whole of the modern world. They track hurricanes, forecast the weather, predict natural disasters, control satellites and missiles and keep countries around the world in constant contact. The technology that revolves around the computer industry is forever changing and growing, becoming more advanced and doing things that seem beyond anyone¦Ðs wildest dreams. The development of computers during the last few decades is astronomical and could be one of the fastest developing inventions ever created.



The dawn of the computer age can be traced back to the period of 1936 ¡Ù 1945, when the first computers were being built in several countries (Tomaselli vii). Although they came about as a result of the war, it is certainly safe to say they would have developed on their own in the business industry. Regardless, computer technology has grown by incredible leaps and bounds since the very beginning and as Barnes says, ¡Ýwe have been living amidst the fastest technological revolution of all time¡Ü (vii). Every couple of years something completely new and more advanced comes out and takes over the previous style of production and pretty much exterminate it as well. The technology is forever changing and constantly growing. There are so many technologies associated with the computer industry that it¦Ðs almost hard to keep track of. The technology that is most directly related to the greater society in this country at least is the personal computer, or the PC.

A personal computer can be defined as a computer built around a microprocessor for use by an individual, as in an office or at home or school. The PC, also known as the microcomputer, was developed from the semiconductor industry (Barnes 622). In 1968, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore created Intel and started developing a photolithography method to put three components on a single chip (Barnes 622).

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Soon the number that they were able to put on a single chip kept increasing, and today the same area of silicon that once held a single transistor can be populated with more than a million components (Barnes 622). In November 1971, Intel released to the public the world¦Ðs first single-chip microprocessor, called the Intel 4004, invented by Intel engineers Federico Faggin, Marcian Hoff and Stan Mazor (Barnes 622).



It became apparent that the microprocessor would be an efficient way to create video games. The first electronic video game, Pong, was developed in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell (Barnes 622). Bushnell also found the Atari Company that would create personal computers and video games. The fad for video games during the 1970s encouraged other companies, such as Apple Computer and Radio Shack to introduce PC¦Ðs (Meyers ¡ÝA Short History of the Computer¡Ü). The Apple II computer in the 1970s came preassembled in a plastic case and was equipped with a video monitor, keyboard, a cassette interface to store data, and game paddles (Barnes 623). Dealers sold the computers to consumers and would give some instruction on the use and would fix them if broken. The company IBM saw the success in the Apple II, and in the 1980s decided to start building their own personal computers. The IBM PC was designed to enable third-party companies to develop software and hardware add-ons (Barnes 624). The field was growing so intensely at this point that in the 1980s there was some friction in the crowded PC field, with Apple and IBM remaining the strongest (Meyers ¡ÝA Short History of the Computer¡Ü).



In 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh computer that had a graphical user interface, and IBM and Microsoft were also developing their own graphical interfaces for the IBM PC and its other clones (Barnes 624). In the mean time, Microsoft released Windows in May 1990 and it was an immediate success, and within a few months sales exceeded a million copies a month (Barnes 624). In only a couple of years Microsoft Windows completely dominated the personal computer marketplace and has continued to remain dominant into the 21st century. The last recorded count of personal computers being used around the world was 370 million, and it was predicted that by 2002 there would be 670 million being used around the world (Barnes 625).



Computers get smaller and smaller and faster and faster every year, in a few years who can even imagine what they will be like. Computers will eventually become more available and affordable to more and more people. Soon they will be in all homes, offices and schools, as they become more essential to modern life. At present, they keep everyone connected with e-mail and instant messaging and have seriously taken over the need for making regular phone calls. All in all, the invention and creation of the personal computer is arguably one of the greatest ever. The personal computer is an essential part of modern society¦Ðs daily life. The history of it¦Ðs development and growth over the past few decades is a very interesting series of events and it will also be very interesting to see how much they will grow and develop in the future.



Works Cited


Barnes, Susan B. ¡ÝPersonal Computers.¡Ü Encyclopedia of Computers and Computer History

Volume 2. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. 2001.

Meyers, Jeremy, "A Short History of the Computer" [Online] Available

<http://www.softlord.com/comp/> <September 13, 2003>

Tomaselli, Valerie. ¡ÝPreface.¡Ü Encyclopedia of Computers and Computer History Volume 1.

London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. 2001.


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