History of Computers: The First Computer Invented

Author : Aimee Piranha | Published On : 18 Oct 2021

Nowadays, computers are high-performance and high-resolution, you can play the latest games, watch films, design software and many people’s careers are solely to do with computers.

We use PCs and laptops every day, I’m currently writing this from a computer in an office surrounded by… computers! PCs are extremely important in today’s society, especially with the recent pandemic, children could still watch their lessons and learn from home because of computers.

Not surprisingly, computers didn’t used to be as high-tech as they are now, let’s look at the roots and the history of computing.

The First Computer Invented

Back in the 1880s, the population had grown so large that it took the US government 7 years to formulate the results of the census. Something needed to change, a faster way to crunch numbers needed to be discovered. The first computers back then didn’t look at all similar to PCs now and their sole purpose was mathematics. Let’s run through a brief history of the computer.

  • 1822 – Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, designed and planned to build the ‘Automatic Difference Engine’, a steam driven calculating machine, unfortunately, the limitations of the time meant he was unsuccessful in building the computer.
  • 1890 – The Census Bureau hired Herman Hollerith to try and solve the slowness of the census results. Hollerith created a punched card tabulating system, this took him just three years and it was successful in calculating the census!
  • 1936 – The Turing machine was created by Alan Turing, the device printed symbols on paper tape, the concept of modern computers was based on this invention.
  • 1941 – John Vincent Atanasoff and his assistant Clifford Berry built the first electronic computer; it used a circuit with vacuum tubes to complete the calculations and used capacitors for storage. It’s the first computer that can do binary math and it could solve 29 equations at once.
  • 1943 – John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert built the ENIAC, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator, it’s hailed as the grandfather of all digital computers, it features 18,000 vacuum tubes and fills a 20 by 40-foot room.
  • 1946 – Mauchly and Eckert receive funding to build the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC was first used by the Bureau of Census and then mass produced.
  • 1964 – The modern computer was beginning to take shape when Douglas Engelbart showed a prototype with a mouse and GUI.
  • 1969 – A group of developers produce an operating system named UNIX that became the choice for large companies.
  • 1970 – The Intel 1103 was unveiled, the first DRAM chip (Dynamic Access Memory)
  • 1971 – IBM engineers invent the floppy disk
  • 1973 – Ethernet is invented by Robert Metcalfe
  • 1974-77 – Personal computers are introduced to the market which include Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair, IBM 5100 and Radio Shack's TRS-80
  • 1975 – Two childhood friends offer to write software for the first Altair, they were extremely successful and decided to form Microsoft, their names were Paul Allen and Bill Gates.
  • 1976 – Apple Computers rolled out on April Fool’s Day, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak introduced the Apple I, the first ever computer with a single circuit board.
  • 1981 – The term PC became popular after the public distribution of the first IBM PC named “Acorn”, it used Microsoft’s operating system, an intel chip, two floppy disks and an optional colour monitor.
  • 1985 – Microsoft introduces Windows, trying to combat Apple’s GUI that was introduced two years earlier.
  • 1990 – Tim Berners-Lee develops HTML, which introduces the World Wide Web.
  • 1994 – PCs are able to run games, a range of computer games are introduced to the public.

 

Uses of Computers Nowadays

We’ve come a long way from the struggling time of the 1880s when the government needed a simple fix for a census problem. The uses of computers nowadays include:

  • Business – IT professionals aren’t the only ones who use computers in their day-to-day life, even hydraulic engineers use computers for CAD design – seriously, computers are used in almost every profession.
  • Education – I can’t remember a time when I was in school and a computer wasn’t being used, this might be because I’m young but whether you’re completing IT and computing lessons or the teacher is using a lesson slideshow on their projector, computers were being used constantly throughout primary school, secondary school, college and university.
  • Entertainment – Whether you’re playing a game yourself or you’re watching your favourite content creator on Twitch, YouTube or Facebook Gaming, computers are crucial for entertainment. The biggest content creators earn millions each year and they do it all from a computer.
  • Social / communication – Whether you’re browsing Facebook or sending an email, you can do it from a computer, keeping in contact with your friends and family or emailing your clients or co-workers.
  • Security – computers are used in surveillance, helping public spaces stay crime-free.

 

I can’t outline every single use of PCs – it’s physically impossible and we’d be here all day, we don’t thank computers enough for the careers and entertainment they’ve given us!

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