While computers are now an important part of the lives of human beings, there was a time where computers did not exist. Knowing the history of computers and how much progression has been made can help you understand just how complicated and innovative the creation of computers really is.
Unlike most devices, the computer is one of the few inventions that does not have one specific inventor. Throughout the development of the computer, many people have added their creations to the list required to make a computer work. Some of the inventions have been different types of computers, and some of them were parts required to allow computers to be developed further.
Perhaps the most significant date in the history of computers is the year 1936. It was in this year that the first “computer” was developed. It was created by Konrad Zuse and dubbed the Z1 Computer. This computer stands as the first as it was the first system to be fully programmable. There were devices prior to this, but none had the computing power that sets it apart from other electronics.
It wasn’t until 1942 that any business saw profit and opportunity in computers. This first company was called ABC computers, owned and operated by John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. Two years later, the Harvard Mark I computer was developed, furthering the science of computing.
Over the course of the next few years, inventors all over the world began to search more into the study of computers, and how to improve upon them. Those next ten years say the introduction of the transistor, which would become a vital part of the inner workings of the computer, the ENIAC 1 computer, as well as many other types of systems. The ENIAC 1 is perhaps one of the most interesting, as it required 20,000 vacuum tubes to operate. It was a massive machine, and started the revolution to build smaller and faster computers.
The age of computers was forever altered by the introduction of International Business Machines, or IBM, into the computing industry in 1953. This company, over the course of computer history, has been a major player in the development of new systems and servers for public and private use. This introduction brought about the first real signs of competition within computing history, which helped to spur faster and better development of computers.
Their first contribution was the IBM 701 EDPM Computer.
A Programming Language Evolves
A year later, the first successful high level programming language was created. This was a programming language not written in ‘assembly’ or binary, which are considered very low level languages. FORTRAN was written so that more people could begin to program computers easily.
The year 1955, the Bank of America, coupled with Stanford Research Institute and General Electric, saw the creation of the first computers for use in banks. The MICR, or Magnetic Ink Character Recognition, coupled with the actual computer, the ERMA, was a breakthrough for the banking industry. It wasn’t until 1959 that the pair of systems were put into use in actual banks.
During 1958, one of the most important breakthroughs in computer history occurred, the creation of the integrated circuit. This device, also known as the chip, is one of the base requirements for modern computer systems. On every motherboard and card within a computer system, are many chips that contain information on what the boards and cards do. Without these chips, the systems as we know them today cannot function.
Gaming, Mice, & the Internet
For many computer users now, games are a vital part of the computing experience. 1962 saw the creation of the first computer game, which was created by Steve Russel and MIT, which was dubbed Spacewar.
The mouse, one of the most basic components of modern computers, was created in 1964 by Douglass Engelbart. It obtained its name from the “tail” leading out of the device.
One of the most important aspects of computers today was invented in 1969. ARPA net was the original Internet, which provided the foundation for the Internet that we know today. This development would result in the evolution of knowledge and business across the entire planet.
It wasn’t until 1970 that Intel entered the scene with the first dynamic RAM chip, which resulted in an explosion of computer science innovation.
On the heels of the RAM chip was the first microprocessor, which was also designed by Intel. These two components, in addition to the chip developed in 1958, would number among the core components of modern computers.
A year later, the floppy disk was created, gaining its name from the flexibility of the storage unit. This was the first step in allowing most people to transfer bits of data between unconnected computers.
The first networking card was created in 1973, allowing data transfer between connected computers. This is similar to the Internet, but allows for the computers to connect without use of the Internet.
Household PC’s Emerge
The next three years were very important for computers. This is when companies began to develop systems for the average consumer. The Scelbi, Mark-8 Altair, IBM 5100, Apple I and II, TRS-80, and the Commodore Pet computers were the forerunners in this area. While expensive, these machines started the trend for computers within common households.
One of the most major breathroughs in computer software occurred in 1978 with the release of the VisiCalc Spreadsheet program. All development costs were paid for within a two week period of time, which makes this one of the most successful programs in computer history.
1979 was perhaps one of the most important years for the home computer user. This is the year that WordStar, the first word processing program, was released to the public for sale. This drastically altered the usefulness of computers for the everyday user.
The IBM Home computer quickly helped revolutionize the consumer market in 1981, as it was affordable for home owners and standard consumers. 1981 also saw the the mega-giant Microsoft enter the scene with the MS-DOS operating system. This operating system utterly changed computing forever, as it was easy enough for everyone to learn.
The Competition Begins : Apple vs. Microsoft
Computers saw yet another vital change during the year of 1983. The Apple Lisa computer was the first with a graphical user interface, or a GUI. Most modern programs contain a GUI, which allows them to be easy to use and pleasing for the eyes. This marked the beginning of the out dating of most text based only programs.
Beyond this point in computer history, many changes and alterations have occurred, from the Apple-Microsoft wars, to the developing of microcomputers and a variety of computer breakthroughs that have become an accepted part of our daily lives. Without the initial first steps of computer history, none of this would have been possible.
The first substantial computer was the giant ENIAC machine by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania. ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator) used a word of 10 decimal digits instead of binary ones like previous automated calculators/computers. ENIAC was also the first machine to use more than 2,000 vacuum tubes, using nearly 18,000 vacuum tubes. Storage of all those vacuum tubes and the machinery required to keep the cool took up over 167 square meters (1800 square feet) of floor space. Nonetheless, it had punched-card input and output and arithmetically had 1 multiplier, 1 divider-square rooter, and 20 adders employing decimal “ring counters,” which served as adders and also as quick-access (0.0002 seconds) read-write register storage.
The executable instructions composing a program were embodied in the separate units of ENIAC, which were plugged together to form a route through the machine for the flow of computations. These connections had to be redone for each different problem, together with presetting function tables and switches. This “wire-your-own” instruction technique was inconvenient, and only with some license could ENIAC be considered programmable; it was, however, efficient in handling the particular programs for which it had been designed. ENIAC is generally acknowledged to be the first successful high-speed electronic digital computer (EDC) and was productively used from 1946 to 1955. A controversy developed in 1971, however, over the patentability of ENIAC’s basic digital concepts, the claim being made that another U.S. physicist, John V. Atanasoff, had already used the same ideas in a simpler vacuum-tube device he built in the 1930s while at Iowa State College. In 1973, the court found in favor of the company using Atanasoff claim and Atanasoff received the acclaim he rightly deserved.
The 1960s saw large mainframe computers become much more common in large industries and with the US military and space program. IBM became the unquestioned market leader in selling these large, expensive, error-prone, and very hard to use machines.
A veritable explosion of personal computers occurred in the early 1970s, starting with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak exhibiting the first Apple II at the First West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. The Apple II boasted built-in BASIC programming language, color graphics, and a 4100 character memory for only $1298. Programs and data could be stored on an everyday audio-cassette recorder. Before the end of the fair, Wozniak and Jobs had secured 300 orders for the Apple II and from there Apple just took off.
Also introduced in 1977 was the TRS-80. This was a home computer manufactured by Tandy Radio Shack. In its second incarnation, the TRS-80 Model II, came complete with a 64,000 character memory and a disk drive to store programs and data on. At this time, only Apple and TRS had machines with disk drives. With the introduction of the disk drive, personal computer applications took off as a floppy disk was a most convenient publishing medium for distribution of software.
IBM, which up to this time had been producing mainframes and minicomputers for medium to large-sized businesses, decided that it had to get into the act and started working on the Acorn, which would later be called the IBM PC. The PC was the first computer designed for the home market which would feature modular design so that pieces could easily be added to the architecture. Most of the components, surprisingly, came from outside of IBM, since building it with IBM parts would have cost too much for the home computer market. When it was introduced, the PC came with a 16,000 character memory, keyboard from an IBM electric typewriter, and a connection for tape cassette player for $1265.
By 1984, Apple and IBM had come out with new models. Apple released the first generation Macintosh, which was the first computer to come with a graphical user interface(GUI) and a mouse. The GUI made the machine much more attractive to home computer users because it was easy to use. Sales of the Macintosh soared like nothing ever seen before. IBM was hot on Apple’s tail and released the 286-AT, which with applications like Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet, and Microsoft Word, quickly became the favourite of business concerns.
That brings us up to about ten years ago. Now people have their own personal graphics workstations and powerful home computers. The average computer a person might have in their home is more powerful by several orders of magnitude than a machine like ENIAC. The computer revolution has been the fastest growing technology in man’s history.