Few people know that the history of computers began long before the first electronic machines were constructed. In the 17th century, mathematical theories were developed that allowed for the creation of the first advanced calculating device in the 1940s. Read the history of computers in a nutshell!
When and how was the computer invented?
Theoretical assumptions about analytical machines appeared as early as the 17th century, the works of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz allowed other scientists to consider constructions that would be able to conduct advanced calculations. The low level of technology as well as the lack of financial resources was the main obstacle in creating more advanced machines. This changed only in the 20th century, during World War II, when technological superiority over the enemy could tip the tide of victory to one side.
For the first computers, the so-called Generation zero is considered to be devices created in Germany by Konrad Zuse, named in sequence Z1, Z2 and Z3. However, Z1 and Z2 are not considered complete Turing machines (capable of executing any algorithm) as they did not execute conditional instructions. In the case of the Z3 from 1941, the feasibility of executing these instructions by arithmetic simulation with the use of indirect addressing was proved in 1998, and can therefore be considered the first fully functioning computer. The machine was used in the production of aircraft wings, as it significantly accelerated complex calculations.
Only later, in 1943, the British Colossus (launched on April 14, 1943) was created, it was used to break German war codes, its existence was kept secret until the mid-1970s. Then the American ENIAC machines were created in 1945, EVAC in 1949, later EDSAC, which were also used for military purposes.
What did the first computers look like?
The appearance of the first computers significantly differs from what you see today on desks at home or at work. The pioneering devices were huge structures, occupying entire rooms. The Z3 weighed about a ton, consisted of about 2,600 relays, arranged in several boxes the size of a cabinet, a keyboard was used to enter data, and the result of the calculations was displayed on a decimal display. A special perforated tape was used to program the machine. The processor speed was 5 Hz and the memory was 64 22 bit words, which was a huge achievement at the time.
Also, the British Colossus was huge, weighed about 5 tons, was built from parts of old telephone exchanges, its operation was provided by 150 electron tubes, 10 thousand resistors, as well as 7 thousand meters of cables. The device occupied a large area, it was over 5 meters long, 3 meters high and 2 meters wide. The punch tape reader in this equipment could read 5,000 characters per second, thanks to which the work on developing German ciphers could be carried out very quickly.
The largest computer from the presented above was the American ENIAC, which occupied a room with an area of 167 square meters and weighed about 27 tons. The equipment had a speed of 0.1 MHz, which was achieved thanks to the use of 18.8 thousand electron tubes, 50 thousand resistors, 10 thousand capacitors and 1.5 thousand relays. The device also needed many people to operate, working 6 thousand switches. The computer was 25 meters long. The first designs had a very narrow range of tasks assigned to them, only ENIAC was used to a much greater extent in military, than scientific and civilian work.
The first computer in the world – what was it for?
As mentioned, the first computers had very clearly defined tasks that they performed. The Z3 was used in the production of aircraft, and more precisely, the necessary calculations for the design of the wings. It was especially important to use the program to calculate a complex matrix, the result of which allowed to eliminate the flutter phenomenon. Its successor, the Z4, was used to a greater extent, and it contributed to the development of ballistic missiles, as well as to many scientific research after the war.
The task of the British Colossus was to break German codes, which largely contributed to the victory of World War II by the Allies. The computing power of the device made it possible to decode the messages in a few hours. After the war, however, the units were not used and were dismantled very quickly.
The most applications were found for ENIAC after the war, which operated effectively until October 2, 1955. The device was initially used to calculate ballistic tables, which allowed for precise target determination for missiles, later the computer was used in the US nuclear program, where it contributed to its development. With the calculations of the machine, the weather was forecasted, wind tunnels were designed, and various works related to the theory of mathematics were carried out.
The history of computers in a nutshell
The history of analytical machines began much earlier than the construction of computers. Already in ancient times, people tried to speed up their calculations, which pushed them to create all kinds of tools. At the beginning, they were simple abacuses, which over time were replaced with more and more advanced devices that could perform many different operations at the same time.
The first fathers of computer science
One of the most important people associated with the broadly understood computer science is the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, born in 1646 – he entered the history of mathematics as the creator of differential and integral calculus, as well as binary arithmetic, which is the basis for the calculations of today’s computers. The scientist was also gifted mechanically, which allowed him to create the first calculating machine that used the zero-one notation.
On the basis of the work of Leibniz in 1833 Charles Babbage, he developed a device whose operating principles were similar to modern designs. Due to the lack of financial resources and the low level of technical knowledge, it was never done. His theoretical assumptions were repeatedly checked, which turned out to be completely correct.
The next breakthrough work that influenced the history and development of computer science appeared in the 20th century. The works of Alan Turing, who also worked on the creation of Colossus, resulted in a completely different view of the possibilities of analytical mechanisms, and the hypothetical Turing machine gave the shape it would take. the subsequent construction of the computer. A similar contribution to the development of this field was made by John von Neumann, who created the design of the first hardware architecture.
A long way to the present day
From the huge machines of the 1940s to today’s laptops, computer hardware has had to go a long way. It was not until the end of the 1970s that the first designs that could be used universally were created. The first generally available computer was the Apple I, created by Steve Jobs and Steve Woźniak. It had a 1 MHz processor, 4 KB of RAM, expandable up to 48 KB, and 1 KB graphics memory (it allowed displaying text in 40 columns and 24 lines on the screen). The device was well received, which allowed the founders of Apple to start working on new models.
In the 1980s, computers such as the IBM PC were very successful. It was compatible with most of the equipment and accessories available on the market, thus competing with the Macintosh 128k, which was equally popular at that time, produced since 1984. The 1980s was also a flood of other devices that were more or less popular.
One of the best-selling devices in the world was the Commodore64 computer, which was touted as the best gaming platform, it was not a lie, as it was possible to play hundreds of titles on this hardware. In addition to games, the machine was fully functional, it allowed to work in a spreadsheet, edit text, and also had simple compilers of the programming languages of that time installed.
How has computer technology changed?
Modern technology is changing our world at an amazing pace, it is best seen in the development of advanced machines. The devices that we carry in our pockets today have hundreds of times more computing power than the best units of the 1950s, and it should be remembered that they took up huge amounts of space. It is not known where the further development of technology will lead us, but it will certainly affect our lives, just as the first computers influenced the present day.