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It all began on a brisk, damp October evening in the year nineteen hundred and ninety-nine. All was silent in the household except for the incessant whistling of the tea kettle on the kitchen stove. Oh, and how can I forget the humming of the lawnmower in the backyard. I had just arrived home from band practice when the doorbell rang. Anxious to see if it was for me, I raced down the stairs in hopes that I had received a package, or perhaps flowers, from a boy. My mother answered the door and before my eyes, the largest box ever known to man was placed on the living room floor; it was our very first computer. Somehow I had forgotten that my mother had ordered one for the family only weeks before, and suddenly, caught up in the heat of the moment, my hopes of flowers from that boy in school vanished. Excitement and enthusiasm to put on my scuba gear and surf the web overwhelmed me within no time at all. I couldnπt wait any longer to open the box and assemble this new piece of machinery or to type my first paper using Microsoft Word or talk to my best friends via America Online. I felt on top of the worldäno, waitäon top of the World Wide Web. (Cha-ching!) My parents amassed (emphasis on massähaha) the computer in a half hour, and immediately after supper, I clicked on the icon displaying America Online. Without any hassles, I set up a screen name for myself and began talking to my friends. Naturally, I had no idea what I was doing, not even how to speak to more than one person at a time. Everything was going as smooth as possible; the computer was up and running and the family was content with the dayπs accomplishments. Just when I thought I had it made-in-the-shade J, the computer started going haywire on me. It kicked me offline, the screen went blank, and the entire intricate system crapped out on me. The first thought that entered my head was, Oh snap! The world is crashing down on me I rushed to find my parents to fix the problem, but it was too lateäthe computer was gone, or at least I thought it was.
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To begin with the basics, a computer is any programmable, electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data (Macmillan Dictionary). To me, this makes absolutely no sensea computer is just this big, square looking object with a bunch of buttons and wires running through it. However, as it turns out, it is actually more than just that. Now that Iπve gotten the technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way, a computer isähow should I say thisäa computer.
I figured Iπd try and enlighten you slightly more with some facts that I have had the opportunity to dig up. The basic idea of computing developed in the 1200s when a Moslem cleric proposed solving problems with a series of written procedures (Encyclopedia of Computer Science 24). From there, other inventions sprang up from little nobodies, and before we knew it, the first mechanical calculator was up for sale sometime in the 1640πs. Shortly thereafter, the first multiplying calculator was introduced in Germany (A Brief History of Computers and Networks). This model, of course, must have been extremely complicated and hard to decipher. In order to ease up a bit, a scientist who identified with the name of Aiken, developed the Mark I to aid others with their calculation troubles (The Development of the Computer). Then, before World War II, John V. Atansoff and Clifford E. Berry began building an electronic computer. Unfortunately, they were never able to complete it because of the war, but Atansoff did build a small prototype computer to test his ideas. His used this model to initiate his work on the Atansoff-Berry Computer, a.k.a. the ABC. Again, this could not be finished because of the war. Despite its incompletion, it possessed the ability to add and subtract using logical operators (The Development of the Computer). (I have no idea what logical operators are, so please donπt askJ)
Obviously, thereπs more to the history of computers than I have left you with. All that essentially occurred was the combination of several ideas of the worldπs brightest scientists and a little bit of pixie dust, compliments of Tinker Bell, to produce the most technologically advanced machine ever composed by man.
A Brief History of Computers and Networks. 14 September 2003. http://goldenink.com/computersandnetworks.shtml.
The Development of the Computer. 14 September 2003. <http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~kguinee/Thesis/Computer.html>.
Hemmendinger, David, Anthony Ralston, and Edwin Reilly. Encyclopedia of Computer Science. United Kingdom: Nature Publishing Group, 2000.
Halsey, William D. Macmillin Dictionary for Students. New York: Macmillin Publishing Company,1981.