|The Computer Emerges!
Computer Breakthrough has caught many by surprise. Many ask what is next?
by Roderick Hames
Computers have been around for quite a few years. Some of your parents were probably around in 1951 when the first computer was bought by a business firm. Computers have changed so rapidly many people cannot keep up with changes. These changes have occurred so rapidly that many people do not know how our modern computer got its start.
The earliest computer could be found in the mid-1600's, when Blaise Pascal and his father decided to build an adding and subtraction machine.
The next big step for computers arrived in the 1830's when Charles Babbage decided to build a machine to help him complete and print mathematical tables. He began planning his calculating machine calling it the Analytical Engine. Babbage died before he could complete the machine. However because of his remarkable ideas and work, Babbage is know as the Father of Computers.
What is considered to be the first computer was made in 1944 by Harvard's Professor Howard Aiken. The Mark I computer is what we now know as the PC or personal computer. The Mark I was the first computer financed by IBM and was about 50 feet long and 8 feet tall. It used mechanical switches to open and close its electric circuits. It contained over 500 miles of wire and 750,000 parts.
The first all-electronic computer was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). ENIAC was a general purpose digital computer built in 1946 by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly. The ENIAC contained over 18,000 vacuum tubes (used instead of the mechanical switches of the Mark I) and was 1000 times faster than the Mark I. In twenty seconds, ENIAC could do a math problem that would have taken 40 hours for one person to finish
A more modern type computer began with John von Neumann's development of software written in binary code. It was von Neumann who began the practice of storing data and instructions in binary code and initiated the use of memory to store data, as well as programs. A computer called the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Computer) was built using binary code in 1950. Before the EDVAC, computers like the ENIAC could do only one task then they had to be rewired to perform a different task or program. The EDVAC's concept of storing different programs on punched cards instead of rewiring computers led to the computers that we know today.
While the modern computer is far better and faster than the EDVAC of its time, computers of today would not have been possible with the knowledge and work of many great inventors and pioneers.