The History of Computers

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The History of Computers

In order to fully understand the history of computers and computers in general, it is important to understand what it is exactly that lead up to the invention of the computer. After all, there was a time when the use of laptops, P.C.s, and other machines was unthinkable. Way back in the fourth century B.C., the abucus was an instrument used for counting in Babylonia. Many scholars believe that it likely started out as pebbles being moved over lines drawn in the dirt and then evolved into a more complex counting tool (Aspray 7). About 1200 years later, Roman numerals were finally introduced, along with the idea of the zero and other mathematical basics. This helped lay the foundation for several different men who had findings that would eventually lead us to the beginnings of computers and computing. Though they are often referred to as scholars, many of these intellectuals were most likely just merely the nerds of their time. Take Wilhelm Schickard and Blaise Pascal of the 17th century, for example. Both of these men had enough time on their hands to individually build two of the first mechanical calculators in history. Unfortunately, Schickard calculator never even made it past the model stage and Pascal machine had several snags of its own; nevertheless, both of their discoveries helped lead to more advanced computing. The next so-called geek to make his way into the computing spotlight was Charles Babbage. In 1842, he developed ideas for a computer that could find the solution to a math problem. His system was rudimentary, using punch-cards in the computation; however, his ideas were far from basic. In fact, the analysis of his Analytical Engine includes fundamentals of computer programming, including data analysis, looping, and memory addressing (History).

So things started rolling and in no time, we arrived in the 20th century and many new
advances in computing came with time. The discoveries became more and more significant and computers became more and more advanced. In 1943, a computer used in Britain for code-breaking was created, followed by the 1945 completion of the Electronic Numerical Integrator Analyzor and Computer, which was used in the United States to assist in the preparation of firing tables for artillery. Computers really began to prove useful even in situations that we never thought possible, like in war and protection.

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Between the years of 1945 and 1960 there were even more innovations in computers and technology. In 1962, another intellectual, Ivan Sutherland introduced his program called Sketchpad on a TX-2 mainframe. Just two years later, the standard IBM mainframe computer, the IBM 360, was introduced to the public. In 1968, Doug Engelbart made a name for himself with a triple whammy by demonstrating a word processor, an early hypertext system, and a collaborative application. Capping off a technologically succesful decade, in 1969, the Palo Alto Research Center was created by Xerox to explore the architecture of information. In 1970, many experiments were done which resulted in the introduction of the 256-bit and 1k RAM chips. In 1971, two dorky Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) began building and selling telephone hacking devices that were known as blue boxes. The pair of Steves also launched Apple. And of course, it is impossible to discuss the history of computers without mentioning good old Bill Gates. In 1975, Microsoft was born when he and Paul Allen developed BASIC for the the Altair 8800. Apple continued to grow into the eighties. In fact, in 1980, Apple had captured half of the P.C. market. One year later, the IBM P.C. was released. In the eighties, there was further development in the computer industry, which eventually led to the creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berner-Lee in 1991. Anyone who has lived through Y2K and into the 21st century knows that both computers and the internet have thrived in a world where new technology has become more and more extensive (History).

Today, everywhere we look, computers are at work around us. We often take them for granted; it important to reflect on just how many people have played a role in the progression of the computer industry. So next time you see a nerd walking down the hall, think twice before you choose to stuff him in a locker. After all, he could truly be the next Bill Gates.


Works Cited

Aspray, William. Computing Before Computers. Iowa State University Press. 1990.

A History of the Computer. 1996. 13 Sep. 2003 <http://www.pbs.org/nerds/timeline/ >).


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