If you are slightly older than forty or so; the chances are that your school did not include computer studies as part of your syllabus. There may have been a huge machine in the science lab or on the headmaster's desk, but they were not for the likes of humble students. Did you ever perceive that these strange, space-like, creations would ever be such a large part of our lives? Most of you will have at least one computer in your family home; perhaps you have a laptop or two as well. Here is a brief guide as to how these amazing contraptions have taken over or lives and our world – whether we like it or not!
The Original Computer
Over two millennia ago; there was a device that was used for counting large numbers, this was known as the abacus. You can picture the scene; a merchant and a customer deep in conversation. On the table is a square wooden frame with lines of beads connected by thin wires. This enabled the mathematically challenged of us to calculate accurately and also provided a way for the other party to see that he was not being cheated. The method that the user adopted for this calculation device was similar to modern computer programming practices.
About seventeen hundred years later; the digital calculator was designed by Blaise Pascal, originally made to assist his father with tax calculations. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz improved this product a few years later. This model had the ability to add and even multiply much faster and more accurately.
Calculators continued to improve, but a math's teacher named Charles Babbage decided to use these calculations to create a programming code. He created a machine called the 'difference engine' in eighteen twenty two. This was able to repeat predictable calculations without the need for repeated manual inputs. He then improved these inventions and superseded it with the 'Analytical Engine' about ten years later. This had the added capability of being able to automatically calculate a limited amount of pre-determined sums with variable options.
About one hundred years later; this design was used for working with punched hole cards as an input medium. It had such a fast way of calculating and acting on the input information that it was soon used in conjunction with the U.S census bureau.
The Digital Age
With the second world war came the need to boost the intelligence technology available to the government and military alike. John P Eckert and his colleagues developed a military computer that enabled the army to shoot long range missiles, accurately, for hundreds of miles.
The First PC
Again; fast forward to the mid nineteen seventies and you will see that companies such as Apple and IBM harnessed this technology and produced a seemingly tiny machine that has supposedly limitless capabilities. Of course these days; a simple mobile phone holds far more processing power than a room sized processor from that era. But who would have thought that the humble abacus could one day evolve into such a modern day monster machine?
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