History of Computers

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA, November 1996

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Only once in a lifetime will a new invention come about to touch every aspect of our lives. Such a device that changes the way we work, live, and play is a special one, indeed. A machine that has done all

this and more now exists in nearly every business in the US and one out of every two households (Hall, 156). This incredible invention is the computer. The electronic computer has been around for over a

half-century, but its ancestors have been around for 2000 years. However, only in the last 40 years has it changed the American society. From the first wooden abacus to the latest high-speed microprocessor,

the computer has changed nearly every aspect of people's lives for the


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).

In the early 1800's, a mathematics professor named Charles Babbage designed an automatic calculation machine. It was steam powered and could store up to 1000 50-digit numbers. Built in to his machine were operations that included everything a modern general-purpose computer would need. It was programmed by--and stored data on--cards with holes punched in them, appropriately called "punchcards". His inventions were failures for the most part because of the lack...