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3 A Brief History of Computer Technology

3 A Brief History of Computer Technology

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A complete history of computing would include a multitude
of diverse devices such as the ancient Chinese abacus, the
Jacquard loom (1805) and Charles Babbage’s “analytical
engine” (1834). It would also include discussion of
analog and digital computing architectures. As late as the
1960s, mechanical devices, such as the Marchant calculator,
still found widespread application in science and
engineering. During the early days of electronic computing
there was much discussion about the relative merits of
analog vs. digital computers. In fact, as late as the 1960s,
analog computers were routinely used to solve systems of
finite difference equations arising in oil reservoir modeling.
In the end, digital computing devices proved to have the
power, economics and scalability necessary to deal with
large scale computations. Digital computers now dominate

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History of Computers – Long, Long Ago

History of Computers – Long, Long Ago

Definition of a Computer
Simplest definition of a computer: A device that processes input and generates

Key words:

  • Input
  • Output
  • Processes
  • Information

Modern Computers are electronic, complex, and interactive, but can be reduced
to simple input-output processing devices


History of Computers: 3000 BC to Present

History of Computers – Long, Long Ago
The Abacus

  • beads on rods to count and calculate
  • still widely used in Asia!


History of Computers – Way Back When
The Slide Rule 1630

  • based on Napier’s rules for logarithms
  • used until 1970s



History of Computers – 19th Century
Jacquard Loom

  • used metal cards with punched holes to guide weaving process
  • first stored program – metal cards
  • first computer manufacturing
  • still in use today!



Charles Babbage – 1792-1871
Difference Engine c.1822

  • huge calculator, never finished

Analytical Engine 1833

  • could store numbers
  • calculating “mill” used punched metal cards for instructions
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History of Computers

This chapter is a brief summary of the history of Computers. It is supplemented by the two PBS documentaries video tapes “Inventing the Future”
And “The Paperback Computer”. The
chapter highlights some of the advances to look for in the documentaries.

In particular, when viewing the movies you should look for two things:

  • The progression in hardware representation of a bit of data:
    1. Vacuum Tubes (1950s) – one bit on the size of a thumb;
    2. Transistors (1950s and 1960s) – one bit on the size of a fingernail;
    3. Integrated Circuits (1960s and 70s) – thousands of bits on the size of a hand
    4. Silicon computer chips (1970s and on) – millions of bits on the size of a finger nail.

  • The progression of the ease of use of computers:
    1. Almost impossible to use except by very patient geniuses (1950s);
    2. Programmable by highly
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A Look at the History of Computers

Before the age of electronics, the closest thing to a computer was the abacus, although, strictly speaking, the abacus is actually a calculator since it requires a human operator. Computers, on the other hand, perform calculations automatically by following a series of built-in commands called software.

In the 20th century, breakthroughs in technology allowed for the ever-evolving computing machines that we now depend upon so totally, we practically never give them a second thought. But even prior to the advent of microprocessors and supercomputers, there were certain notable scientists and inventors who helped lay the groundwork for the technology that’s since drastically reshaped every facet of modern life.

The Language Before the Hardware

The universal language in which computers carry out processor instructions originated in the 17th century in the form of the binary numerical system. Developed by German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the system came about

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Who Invented the Internet? – HISTORY

As you might expect for a technology so expansive and ever-changing, it is impossible to credit the invention of the internet to a single person. The internet was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers who each developed new features and technologies that eventually merged to become the “information superhighway” we know today.

Long before the technology existed to actually build the internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks of information. Nikola Tesla toyed with the idea of a “world wireless system” in the early 1900s, and visionary thinkers like Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush conceived of mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Still, the first practical schematics for the internet would not arrive until the early 1960s, when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider popularized the idea of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers. Shortly thereafter, computer scientists developed

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History of Technology Timeline | Britannica

History of Technology Timeline | Britannica

  • 3.3 million years ago: The first tools
    The history of technology begins even before the beginning of our own species. Sharp flakes of stone used as knives and larger unshaped stones used as hammers and anvils have been uncovered at Lake Turkana in Kenya. The tools were made 3.3 million years ago and thus were likely used by an ancestor such as Australopithecus.
  • 1 million years ago: Fire
    When humanity first used fire is still not definitively known, but, like the first tools, it was probably invented by an ancestor of Homo sapiens. Evidence of burnt material can be found in caves used by Homo erectus beginning about 1 million (and maybe even 1.5 million) years ago.
  • 20,000 to 15,000 years ago: Neolithic Revolution
    During the Neolithic Period several key technologies arose together. Humans moved from getting their food
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Computer History

Computer History

An Illustrated History of Computers

Part 4


John Kopplin © 2002

The title of forefather of today’s all-electronic digital computers is
usually awarded to ENIAC, which stood for Electronic Numerical Integrator
and Calculator. ENIAC was built at the University of Pennsylvania between
1943 and 1945 by two professors, John Mauchly and the 24 year old
J. Presper Eckert,
who got funding from the war department after promising they could
build a machine that would replace all the “computers”, meaning the
women who were employed calculating the firing tables for the army’s artillery
guns. The day that Mauchly and Eckert saw the first small piece of ENIAC work,
the persons they ran to bring to their lab to show off their progress were some
of these female computers (one of whom remarked,

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History of Computers – A Brief Timeline of Their Evolution

The computer was born not for entertainment or email but out of a need to solve a serious number-crunching crisis. By 1880, the U.S. population had grown so large that it took more than seven years to tabulate the U.S. Census results. The government sought a faster way to get the job done, giving rise to punch-card based computers that took up entire rooms.

Today, we carry more computing power on our smartphones than was available in these early models. The following brief history of computing is a timeline of how computers evolved from their humble beginnings to the machines of today that surf the Internet, play games and stream multimedia in addition to crunching numbers.

1801: In France, Joseph Marie Jacquard invents a loom that uses punched wooden cards to automatically weave fabric designs. Early computers would use similar punch cards.

1822: English mathematician Charles Babbage conceives

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Internet History Timeline: ARPANET to the World Wide Web

Credit for the initial concept that developed into the World Wide Web is typically given to Leonard Kleinrock. In 1961, he wrote about ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet, in a paper entitled “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets.” Kleinrock, along with other innnovators such as J.C.R. Licklider, the first director of the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO), provided the backbone for the ubiquitous stream of emails, media, Facebook postings and tweets that are now shared online every day. Here, then, is a brief history of the Internet:

The precursor to the Internet was jumpstarted in the early days of computing history, in 1969 with the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). ARPA-funded researchers developed many of the protocols used for Internet communication today. This timeline offers a brief history of the Internet’s evolution:

1965: Two computers at MIT Lincoln Lab communicate with one another using packet-switching

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