2517 words - 10 pages

The History of Computers 2When you see a new invention, that touches every aspect of our daily lives, you have witnessed a once in a lifetime event. The grandest of these phenomena in the 21st Century has been the evolution of the computer. This evolution has changed the way we work, live and play. This machine now exists in nearly every business in the United States and in one out of every two households. (Hall, 156). This incredible invention is called the computer. The electronic computer has been around for over a half-century. However, its ancestors have been around for nearly 2000 years and in the last 40 years has it dramatically changed American society.When we look back in history, it is difficult to imagine counting without numbers. However, there was a time when written numbers did not exist. One of the very first inventions to count sums greater than ten was the abacus. Abacus is a Latin word meaning, table or tablet. The evolution of the abacus can be divided into three ages: Ancient Times, Middle Ages, and Modern Times. During ancient Greek and Roman times, counting boards, like the Roman hand-abacus were constructed from stone and metal. During the Middle Ages, wood became the primary material from which counting boards were manufactured and the orientation of the beads switched from vertical to horizontal. The abacus as we know it today was chronicled in 1200 A.D. China. The simple wooden rack held parallel wires which contained beads and 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) As arithmetic (counting using written numbers) gained popularity in the latter part of the Middle Ages, the use of the abacus began to diminish in Europe. 1n 1958, the most modern abacus was introduced by Lee Kai-Chen. Mr. Chen claimed that his four deck abacus made mutiplication and division easier.The next innovation in computers took place in 1694. Blaise Pascal invented the first digitalThe History of Computers 3calculating machine. It could only add numbers 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, Charles Babbage, designed an automatic calculation machine. It was powered by steam and could store up to 1000 50-digit numbers. The mathematical operations included everything in a modern general-purpose computer. It was programmed by and stored data on cards with holes punched in them called punch cards. His inventions were largely failures due to the lack of precision hole punching machining techniques and the lack of demand for the device. (Soma, 46) After Babbage failures, people began to lose interest in computers. However, between 1850 and 1900, great advances in mathematics and physics began to rekindle the interest. (Osborne, 45) Many of these new advances involved calculations and formulas that were very time consuming...

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