In this article I will be talking about the development of computers, from when there wasn’t the use of computer generated calculation. I will also be analysing the many scientists, mathematicians and other founders of computer based technology.

Computers have been around for a long period of time and were developed over many years with contributions from philosophers, inventors, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, technicians, visionaries, and scholars. The first computing devices were calculating machines and over time evolved into the digital computers as we know them today.

It has taken over 180 years for the computer to develop from an idea in Charles Babbage head into an actual computer developed today by many different companies. Therefore, it was a long and tedious path in order to make the computer into what we now use today (123HelpMe, 2010).

“The earliest device that was used for counting was the human hand. Later around 500 B.C, the first solid calculator was the abacus. The abacus consisted of a wooden frame that holds rods with freely-sliding beads mounted on. The abacus was used as a physical aid, to keep track of certain calculations that were being performed (Ifrah, 2009).”

“Abacus structure design”

In my opinion the abacus is still going strong today as it was then, because it is a powerful educational tool that can be used on both adults and children. What I like about the abacus is how it has many useful traits to it, based on the user that holds it. For mathematicians, it is used to calculate heavy sums of numbers. With children it is used to give them a basic understanding of mathematical theory, which up to this day is used in public schools. Also I like how they have converted into a form of alphabetical learning and visual number blocks, which I think further extends the concept of the abacus even more.

“Modern children’s abacus”

“Alphabet Abacus”

“During the year 1623, Wilhelm Schickard, a German mathematician and clergyman, designed and built a mechanism which could add, subtract, multiply and divide. Schickard’s machine was similar in operation to the slide rule but also incorporated a set of metal wheels that performed the arithmetical operations. Schickard called his device a “calculator-clock” (Computer Museum, 2000).”

“Computer clock, 1623”

With this sophisticated mechanism produced by mathematician Wilhelm Schickard, the method of calculating numbers was more sufficient and capable. Through this machine, they were able to add, subtract, multiply and divide. What I find most interesting about Schickard’s methods is that he developed his vision through conceptual ideas, and took them further into making a fully assembled prototype. This relates to the same methods that all designers use up to today.

“Z1 Mechanical Computer, 1935”

“The Z1 was a mechanical computer designed by Konrad Zuse from 1935 to 1936 and built by him from 1936 to 1938. It was a binary electrically driven mechanical calculator with limited programmability, reading instructions from punched tape.

The Z1 was the first freely programmable computer of the world which used Boolean logic and binary floating point numbers. It was completed in 1938 and financed completely from private funds. Konrad Zuse’s first computer, built between 1936 and 1938, was destroyed in the bombardment of Berlin in December 1943, during World War II, together with all construction plans (Wikipedia, 2010).”

This engineered computer is one of the first to run on electricity. With it’s complex interior, it was able to be used as the very first programmable computer. Making it more technical and enabled people to work more securely. What I find interesting about the overall design of the Z1 computer is the size of it’s exterior. Also how so much constructing was needed to contain such programming that compared to now could do a very limited amount of processing.

“Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC), 1937″

“The Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC) was the first electronic digital computing device. Conceived in 1937, the machine was not programmable, being designed only to solve systems of linear equations. It was successfully tested in 1942. However, its intermediate result storage mechanism, a paper card writer/reader, was unreliable, and when Atanasoff left Iowa State University for World War II assignments, work on the machine was discontinued (Ralston, 2010).”

I find this particular design interesting, because it shows that even when computer engineering was developing, it was still and issue to produce a computer that had both programming and linear equation systems. The times were more simple back then, for separate operations had to be processed using individual computers.

“The Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC) was the first electronic digital computing device.[1] Conceived in 1937, the machine was not programmable, being designed only to solve systems of linear equations. It was successfully tested in 1942. However, its intermediate result storage mechanism, a paper card writer/reader, was unreliable, and when Atanasoff left Iowa State University for World War II assignments, work on the machine was discontinued (Ralston, 2010).”

I find this particular design interesting, because it shows that even when computer engineering was developing, it was still and issue to produce a computer that had both programming and linear equation systems. The times were more simple back then, for separate operations had to be processed using individual computers.

“Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, (EDSAC)”

The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, short for EDSAC is an early British computer that is considered to be the first stored program electronic computer that was created at the University of Cambridge in England. The computer performed its first calculation on May 6, 1949 and was the computer that ran the first graphical computer game (Campbell, 2010).”

I like the fact that the EDSAC was the first computer to run a graphical computer game, because it shows that the uses of it’s programming was opening out to a wider range of people. By processing more subjective capabilities. I also have always had an interest in the game noughts and crosses, because it enables the players to think strategically, that resorts to sort of tactical manoeuvres. Which is a similar pattern that real life battles are fought, by using intellectual know how, and how to gain one over your opponent.

“First graphical game, programmed”

“The first graphical game that was programmed was actually called OXO, and was a version of Noughts and Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe) created in 1952, by A.S. Douglas, who was studying for his PhD at the University of Cambridge. The simulation was perfect, and you played using a dial-in telephone controller. It was designed for the worlds first stored-program computer, of which there is a simulator. It was displayed on a 35 x 16 pixel screen, in black and green.”

“Apple computer, 1977”

“In 1977 the Apple II, became one of the most popular computers ever. Although it is a vast improvement over the Apple I, it contains the same processor and runs at the same speed.
New features include a colour display, eight internal expansion slots, and a case with a keyboard. That may sound funny, but the Apple I and many other early computers didn’t necessarily have a case or even a keyboard. On some systems you had to added your own keyboard, if possible, and on others you toggled switches to enter programs and issue commands (Old Computers, 2010).”
The Apple II was one of the first computer with a colour display, and it has the BASIC programming language built-in, so it is ready-to-run right out of the box. The Apple II was probably the first user-friendly system.

From then on computer evolution has expanded on an unprecedented scale, that continues to grow into a more and more complex component. I expect that in the near future computer engineering will adapt into something highly capable that will allow mankind to push further the boundaries that limits us from achieving greater objectives.

Bibliography

123HelpMe. 2010. http://www.123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=37163

Georges Ifrah. 2009. EE. http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~elf/abacus/history.html

Computer Museum. 2000. http://www.computermuseum.li/Testpage/Schickard-Machine-1623.htm

Image2 – http://www.squidoo.com/GoodKids

Image3 – mudpuddlestoys.com/toys/alphabet-abacus/

Image1 – gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/numbers/machine/abacus.htm

Images3&4 – history-computer.com/…/Pioneers/Schickard.html

Image5. Z1. (2010). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z1_(computer)

Image6. Anthony Ralston. (2010). Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atanasoff%E2%80%93Berry_Computer

Image7. Martin Campbell-Kelly. EDSAC. (2010) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Delay_Storage_Automatic_Calculator

Image9. Old Computers. 2009. http://oldcomputers.net/appleii.html

Image8 – www.isotx.com/wordpress/?p=92

snsvo4.seekandsource.com/moderncomputertrading/

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