The first computers were people! That is, electronic computers (and the earlier mechanical computers) were given this name because they performed the work that had previously been assigned to people. “Computer” was originally a job title; it was used to describe those human beings whose job was to perform the repetitive calculations. Imagine you had a job where hour after hour, day after day, you were to do nothing but compute multiplications. In these situations boredom would quickly set in, leading to carelessness and mistakes. Even on your best days you wouldn’t be producing answers very fast. Therefore, inventors have been searching for hundreds of years for a way to mechanize this task.
The abacus was an early aid for mathematical computations. Its only value is that it aids the memory of human for performing calculations.
A skilled abacus operator can work on addition and subtraction problems at the speed of a person equipped with a hand calculator. The abacus was used in Asia Minor (China) about 5000 years ago. The abacus is still in use today. An abacus consists of rings that slide over rods.
John Napier (1550-1617)
In 1617 an eccentric (some say mad) Scotsman named John Napier invented logarithms, which are a technology that allows multiplication to be performed via addition. The magic ingredient is the logarithm of each operand, which was originally obtained from a printed table. But Napier also invented an alternative to tables, where the logarithm values were carved on ivory sticks which are now called Napier’s Bones.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
In 1642 Blaise Pascal, at age of 19, invented the Pascaline as an aid for his father who was a tax collector. Pascal built gear-driven one-functions calculator (it could only add) but couldn’t well many because of their exorbitant cost and because they really weren’t that accurate (at that time it was not possible to fabricate gears with the required precision). Up until the present age when car dashboards went digital, the odometer portion of a car’s speedometer used the very same mechanism as the Pascaline to increment the next wheel after each full revolution of the prior wheel. Pascal was a child prodigy.
Barron Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz (1646-1716)
Just a few years after Pascal, the German Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz managed to improve the Pascaline as four functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) calculator. Leibniz was the first to advocate use of the binary system which is fundamental to the operation of modern computers. Leibniz is considered one of the greatest of the philosopher’s but he died poor and alone.
Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)
In 1801a French silk weaver and inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the jacquard loom. The Jacquard Loom is a mechanical loom that has holes punched in pasteboard, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order.
Charles Xavier Thomas De Colmar (1785-1870)
Charles Xavier Thomas De Colmar, a Frenchman, invented a machine in 1820 that could perform the four basic arithmetic functions. This machine was called as Arithmometer. An Arithmometer was a mechanical calculator that could add and subtract directly. It could also perform long multiplications and divisions effectively by using a movable accumulator for the result. It became the first commercially successful mechanical calculator. ITs sturdy design gave it a strong reputation of reliability and accuracy and made it a key player in the move from human computers to calculating machines that took place during the second half of the 19th century.
Charles Babbage (1791-1871)
Charles Babbage, was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer. He mage a “Difference Engine” in 1833, which was powered by steam to solve mathematical equations. After ten years, in 1842, he made a general-purpose computer named “Analytical Engine”.
This analytical engine could add, subtract, multiply, and divide in automatic sequence at a rate of 60 additions per second.
George Boole (1815-1864)
As the inventor of Boolean logic which is the basis of modern digital computer logic Boole is regarded as a founder of the field of computer science. George Boole clarified the binary system of algebra, which stated that any mathematical equation could be stated simply as either true or false.
Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace (1816-1852)
Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, as such she is often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.
Herman Hollerith (1860-1929)
Herman Hollerith was German-American statistician who developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards to rapidly tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data. He was the founder of the company that became IBM.
Dr. John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry (1903-1995)
In 1939, Dr. John V. Atanasoff a professor at lowa State University and this graduate student Clifford E. Berry assembled a prototype of ABC (Atanasoff and Berry Computer) to save time for calculation. A working model of ABC was finished in 1942. The key ideas employed in the ABC included binary math and Boolean logic to solve up to 29 simultaneous linear equations. The ABC had no central processing unit (CPU), but was designed as an electronic device using vacuum tubes for digital computation. It also used separate regenerative capacitor memory that operated by a process still used today in DRAM memory.
Generation of Computer
The term generation indicated the type of technology used in the computer construction. As new technology was emerging, it was being used in the making of computer. The new technology improved the speed, accuracy and storage capacity of the computers. Different technologies have been used for computers in different times. The steps of technological differences and called generations.
Well Known Early Computers
In 1941 German engineers had developed a computer named Z3 to design airplanes and missiles. The Z3 was used by the German Aircraft Research Institute to perform statistical analyses of wing flutter in aircraft design. Dr. Joseph Jennissen, member of the Reich Air Ministry acted as the federal supervisor.
The Colossus machines were electronic computing devices used by British code-breakers to read encrypted German messages during World War II. These were the world’s first programmable, digital, electronic, computing devices. They used vacuum tubes (thermionic valves) to perform the calculations. The Colossus computers were used to help decipher encrypted teleprinter messages.
Mark-I was devised by Howard H. Aiken, built at IBM and shipped to Harvard in February 1944. It was used for the computations of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships. The main advantage of the Mark-I was that it was fully automatic. It did not need any human intervention once it started. It was the first fully automatic computer to be completed. It was also very reliable. It is considered to be “the beginning of the era of the modern computer” and “the real dawn of the computer age”. Mark-I was about 51 feet long and 8 feet high. It was slow machine. Over 3000 electrical actuated switched were used to control its operations.
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) 1946
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first general purpose electronic computer. It was made by Dr. John W. Mauchly collaborated with J. Presper Eckert, Jr. at the university of Pennsylvania. It was a digital computer capable of being re-programmed to solve a full range of computing problems. ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United State Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, but its first use was in calculations for the hydrogen bomb. It was 1000 times faster than Mark-I. It occupied 15000 square feet of floor spacing and weights 30 tons. The ENIAC could do 5000 additions per minute.
EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer)
John Von Neumann designed the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). The key element of the Von Neumann was the central processing unit, which allowed all computer functions to be coordinated in binary form (0 & 1). In EDVAC memory was to be provided through the use of mercury delay lines. This on/off switchability for the memory was required because EDVAC was to use binary rather than decimal numbers, thus simplifying the construction of the arithmetic units.
UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer)
The UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) was the first commercial computer produced in the United States. It was designed principally by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly. Design work was begun by their company, Eckert-Mauchly computer corporation, and was completed after the company had been acquired by Remington Rand. The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau in 1951. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population and it correctly predicted that Dwight Eisenhower would win.