Module 1

Section 2

2.2 Prehistory

There are a number of people to whom the title 'Grandfather', 'Father', or even 'Godfather' of computing have been applied. One of these is

1. Charles Babbage: a Victorian engineer, mathematician and philosopher.

Babbage designed:

The Difference Engine: This was a device to calculate navigational tables, which were so important at the time but which were often ridden with errors introduced through manual calculations.

Analytical Engine: it is a general-purpose device, capable of performing arithmetic or logical functions.

Interest in machines for automating processes was not renewed until two factors made it urgent:

1. The Second World War.

2. The growth in office-based work.

2. Alan Turing: He studied mathematics. he published a paper to refute the mathematician David Hilbert, who claimed that any mathematical problem could be solved.

Turing designed:

Turning Machine: general-purpose mechanical device which would receive basic instructions from a tape stream telling it what to do.

By using this hypothetical device Turing proved Hilbert wrong - not all mathematical problems can be solved. It was the basis for the computers which were to follow, in that it could imitate the function of another machine, such as a typewriter, given the appropriate instructions.

He is the founder of what is now called Artificial Intelligence

During the Second World War Turing worked at the secret British code-breaking centre. He worked on an electronic computer called Colossus, which had many similarities to the American pioneering computer ENIAC.

3. John von Neumann: When talking about digital computers many people refer to the von Neumann architecture. Neumann made his name as a brilliant mathematician and extraordinary intellect.

ENIAC: (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first large-scale computer, and was conceived by John Mauchly and Presper Eckert. It used vacuum tubes instead of...