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A short history on computers

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A short history on computers

In 1671, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz invented a computer that was built in 1694. It could add, and, after changing some things around, multiply.

While Thomas of Colmar was developing the desktop calculator, a series of very interesting developments in computers was started in Cambridge, England, by Charles Babbage (left, of which the computer store "Babbages" is named), a mathematics professor. With financial help from the British government, Babbage started fabrication of a difference engine in 1823. It was intended to be steam powered and fully automatic, including the printing of the resulting tables, and commanded by a fixed instruction program.

Babbage continued to work on it for the next 10 years, but in 1833 he lost interest because he thought he had a better idea -- the construction of what would now be called a general purpose, fully program-controlled, automatic mechanical digital computer. Babbage called this idea an Analytical Engine.

The plans for this engine required an identical decimal computer operating on numbers of 50 decimal digits (or words) and having a storage capacity (memory) of 1,000 such digits. The machine was supposed to operate automatically, by steam power, and require only one person there.

Babbage's computers were never finished. After Babbage, there was a temporary loss of interest in automatic digital computers.

A strong need thus developed for a machine that could rapidly perform many repetitive calculations.


Use of Punched Cards by Hollerith

A step towards automated computing was the development of punched cards, which were first successfully used with computers in 1890 by Herman Hollerith (left) and James Powers, who worked for the US. Census Bureau. They developed devices that could read the information that had been punched into the cards automatically, without human help. Because of this, reading errors were reduced dramatically, work flow increased, and, most importantly, stacks of punched cards could be used as easily accessible memory of almost unlimited size. Furthermore, different problems could be stored on different stacks of cards and accessed when needed.

These advantages were seen by commercial companies and soon led to the development of improved punch-card using computers created by International Business Machines (IBM), Remington (yes, the same people that make shavers), Burroughs, and other corporations. These computers used electromechanical devices in which electrical power provided mechanical motion -- like turning the wheels of an adding machine. Such systems included features to:

ofeed in a specified number of cards automatically oadd, multiply, and sort ofeed out cards with punched results

As compared to today's machines, these computers were slow, usually processing 50 - 220 cards per minute, each card holding about 80 decimal numbers (characters). At the time, however, punched cards were a huge step forward.


Electronic Digital Computers

The start of World War II produced a large need for computer capacity, especially for the military. In 1942, John P. Eckert, John W. Mauchly (left), and their associates at the Moore school of Electrical Engineering of University of Pennsylvania decided to build a high - speed electronic computer to do the job. This machine became known as ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator)

The size of ENIAC's numerical "word" was 10 decimal digits, and it could multiply two of these numbers at a rate of 300 per second, by finding the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory. ENIAC was therefore about 1,000 times faster then the previous generation of relay computers.

ENIAC used 18,000 vacuum tubes, about 1,800 square feet of floor space, and consumed about 180,000 watts of electrical power. It had punched card I/O, 1 multiplier, 1 divider/square rooter, and 20 adders using decimal ring counters, which served as adders and also as quick-access (.0002 seconds) read-write register storage.


The Modern Stored Program EDC

Fascinated by the success of ENIAC, the mathematician John Von Neumann (left) undertook, in 1945, an abstract study of computation that showed that a computer should have a very simple, fixed physical structure, and yet be able to execute any kind of computation by means of a proper programmed control without the need for any change in the unit itself.

Von Neumann contributed a new awareness of how practical, yet fast computers should be organized and built. These ideas, usually referred to as the stored - program technique, became essential for future generations of high - speed digital computers and ...

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Keywords: a short history of computers, a short history of computer game consoles, write a short note on history of computer, write a short history of computer

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