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Ancient Computational Devices Essay

1324 words - 6 pages

The computer exemplifies modern day life. They have infiltrated every aspect of our society. There is very little that does not rely on this modern day monster. Computers are no longer machines performing simple basic functions. Most businesses the world over would not be able to function without one or other form of computing. From the supermarkets to automatic teller machines, computers have impacted on our lives and will continue to do so as the world moves forward with new and better technology than before. It will continue to evolve.
The abacus which emerged in Asia about 5,000 years ago may be thought of as the first computer all be it a manual one. "I wish to God these ...view middle of the document...

The consequences of these errors could prove fatal when being used in life or death situations, for example logarithms for navigation.
Babbage put together a team, got government funding and started on this project that would see a machine with approximately 25000 parts. He called this engine the Difference Engine. The size of this machine compared to what we have today would have been something to see. An enormous task but a very determined man continued with this project until his funding dried up and at that point this huge calculating machine was only one seventh of the way completed. Even at this point it was at the cutting edge of technology.
Babbage was determined and in a world where calculations were only done at six figure level he wanted to go up to twenty or more figures. This was far beyond the scope and capability of the human mind.
His determination was unprecedented and even though he had no funding he became more determined. He forged ahead with his plans, now reviewed, and the idea of the Difference Engine 2 was about to become a reality.
The result of this rethink was a machine that would only have eight thousand parts. This new improved Difference Engine used decimal figures (0-9) which were set out on cogs and interlinked with each other to build up calculations. This engine was created to do more than copy the good old abacus, which in some parts of the world is still being used today.
It was able to use a series of calculations, work on really complex problems and it had the ability to store the results which could be recalled for later use (Hyman, 1982). As clever as what this machine was it was only able to run one operation at a time, even so it was a machine way beyond its time and was far out shining any other device competing in the market. By the time all the funding dried up Babbage, who was not about to give up, had come up with a new and better concept. After 10 years of hard work on the Difference Engine he became inspired to develop a general purpose computer.
Babbage’s idea of the Analytical Engine was a leap beyond the Difference Engine. It was to be a general purpose machine and it would be able to compute a variety of different problems (Babbage, 1910). Basically it would be able to solve any calculation you wanted it to. This machine would be digital, automatic, mechanical controlled by different programs and it was going to be the first computer.
The Analytical Engine (Halacy, 1970) in comparison to the Difference engine with eight thousand parts, had four parts. A mill (which could have been considered the CPU), was the part that was responsible for the calculations; the store (the memory or modern day hard drive), where the information was recorded for future recall; the reader (the...

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