Satisfactory Essays

A common misconception about computers is that they are smarter than humans. Actually, the degree of a computer¹s intelligence depends on the speed of its ignorance. Today¹s complex computers are not really intelligent at all. The intelligence is in the people who design them.

Therefore, in order to understand the intelligence of computers, one must first look at the history of computers, the way computers handle information, and, finally, the methods of programming the machines.

The predecessor to today¹s computers was nothing like the machines we use today. The first known computer was Charles Babbage¹s Analytical Engine; designed in 1834.

(Constable 9) It was a remarkable device for its time. In fact, the Analytical Engine required so much power and would have been so much more complex than the manufacturing methods of the time, it could never be built.

No more than twenty years after Babbage¹s death, Herman Hollerith designed an electromechanical machine that used punched cards to tabulate the 1890 U.S. Census. His tabulation machine was so successful, he formed IBM to supply them. (Constable 11) The computers of those times worked with gears and mechanical computation.

Unlike today¹s chip computers, the first computers were non-programmable, electromechnical machines. No one would ever confuse the limited power of those early machines with the wonder of the human brain.

An example was the ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.

It was a huge, room-sized machine, designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the military. (Constable 9) ENIAC was built with more than 19,000 vacuum tubes, nine times the amount ever used prior to this. The internal memory of ENIAC was a paltry twenty decimal numbers of ten digits each. (Constable 12) (Today¹s average home computer can hold roughly 20,480 times this amount.)

Today, the chip-based computer easily packs the power of more than 10,000 ENIACs into a silicon chip the size of an infant¹s fingertip. (Reid 64) The chip itself was invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce in 1958, but their crude devices looked nothing like the sleek, paper-thin devices common now. (Reid 66) The first integrated circuit had but four transistors and was half an inch long and narrower than a toothpick. Chips found in today¹s PCs, such as the Motorola 68040, cram more than 1.2 million transistors onto a chip half an inch square. (Poole 136)

The ENIAC was an extremely expensive, huge and complex machine, while PCs now are shoebox-sized gadgets costing but a few thousand dollars.
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