History Of Computers Essay Research Paper There

History Of Computers Essay, Research Paper

There have been few inventions that has grown an attached itself to as many

lives as the invention of the computer. Computers can be found in almost every

aspect of our lives, if not direct, indirectly. When I think of the different

ways I come in contact with computers in one day its astounding. When I wake in

the morning its usually by the assistance of an alarm clock that I program to

alarm at a specific time. When I use my Metro Card to gain entrance to the

train, a computer reads the funds available and allows the transaction. These

are just a few ways that I personally come in contact with computers, there are

many more. Computers are revolutionary by nature since their advancements have

led to many scientific breakthroughs and are currently assisting in the

discoveries of the future. The electronic computer has been around for over half

a century but only in the last 40 years have we seen its influences and


The very earliest existence of the modern day computer’s ancestor is the

abacus. These date back to almost 2000 years ago. It is simply a wooden rack

holding parallel wires on which beads are strung. When these beads are moved

along the wire according to "programming" rules that the user must

memorize, all ordinary arithmetic operations can be performed (Soma, 14). The

next innovation in computers took place in 1694 when Blaise Pascal invented the

first "digital calculating machine". It could only add numbers and

they had to be entered by turning dials. It was designed to help Pascal’s father

who was a tax collector (Soma, 32). As you can see computers were used when

complex calculations were involved and speed was essential. Computer technology

not only has solved problems but also has created some, including a certain

amount of culture shock as individuals attempt to deal with the new technology.

A major role of computer science has been to alleviate such problems, mainly by

making computer systems cheaper, faster, more reliable, easier to use. Computers

are forever present in the workplace.

The outbreak of World War II produced a desperate need for computing

capability, especially for the military. New weapons systems were produced which

needed trajectory tables and other essential data. In 1942, John P. Eckert, John

W. Mauchley, and their associates at the University of Pennsylvania decided to

build a high-speed electronic computer to do the job. This machine became known

as ENIAC, for "Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator". It

could multiply two numbers at the rate of 300 products per second, by finding

the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory.

ENIAC was thus about 1,000 times faster than the previous generation of

computers (Dolotta, 47).ENIAC used 18,000 standard vacuum tubes, occupied 1800

square feet of floor space, and used about 180,000 watts of electricity. It used

punched-card input and output. The ENIAC was very difficult to program because

one had to essentially re-wire it to perform whatever task he wanted the

computer to do. It was, however, efficient in handling the particular programs

for which it had been designed.

ENIAC is generally accepted as the first successful high-speed electronic

digital computer and was used in many applications from 1946 to 1955 (Dolotta,

50). Mathematician John von Neumann was very interested in the ENIAC. In 1945 he

undertook a theoretical study of computation that demonstrated that a computer

could have a very simple and yet be able to execute any kind of computation

effectively means of proper programmed control without the need for any changes

in hardware. Von Neumann came up with incredible ideas for methods of building

and organizing practical, fast computers. These ideas, which came to be referred

to as the stored-program technique, became fundamental for future generations of

high-speed digital computers and were universally adopted (Hall, 73).

Today, the chip?based computer easily packs the power of more than 10,000

ENIACs into a silicon chip the size of an infant?s fingertip. (Reid 64) The

chip itself was invented by (Jack Kilby) and (Robert Noyce) in 1958, but their

crude devices looked nothing like the sleek, paper?thin devices common now.

(Reid 66) The first integrated circuit had but four transistors and was half an

inch long and narrower than a toothpick. Chips found in today?s PCs, such as

the Motorola 68040, which allows more than 1.2 million transistors onto a chip

half an inch square. (Poole 136) ). The first wave of modern programmed

electronic computers to take advantage of these improvements appeared in 1947.

This group included computers using random access memory (RAM), which is a

memory designed to give almost constant access to any particular piece of

information (Hall, 75). These machines had punched-card or punched-tape input

and output devices and RAMs of 1000-word capacity. Physically, they were much

more compact than ENIAC: some were about the size of a grand piano and required

2500 small electron tubes. This was quite an improvement over the earlier

machines. The first-generation stored-program computers required considerable

maintenance, usually attained 70% to 80% reliable operation, and were used for 8

to 12 years. Typically, they were programmed directly in machine language,

although by the mid-1950s progress had been made in several aspects of advanced

programming. This group of machines included EDVAC and UNIVAC, the first

commercially available computers (Hazewindus, 102).

The UNIVAC was developed by John W. Mauchley and John Eckert, Jr. in the

1950?s. Together they had formed the Mauchley-Eckert Computer Corporation,

America’s first computer company in the 1940?s. During the development of the

UNIVAC, they began to run short on funds and sold their company to the larger

Remington-Rand Corporation. Eventually they built a working UNIVAC computer. It

was delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951 where it was used to help

tabulate the U.S. population (Hazewindus, 124).


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