Every day, people use computers. Whether they are used to communicate, through social media, email, or texting, used in a business to handle finances, records, or if the company actually produces software or hardware for computers, or in many other places in our day-to-day lives. Yet, despite our constant interaction with them, many people know very little about the history of these machines. How were the first computers created and improved on? Who was involved with their development? What do computer hackers and viruses really do? Many of us have no idea what the answers to any of these questions are, and yet we use computers every day. Hopefully, someday everyone will know the evolution of these wonderful machines.
The early history of computers is very interesting. Things we would now consider small changes were hailed as large improvements, because, with the technology in such a primitive form, they were. A large step forwards came in 1941, when Konrad Zuse, a German scientist working on his own, developed the Z3, his third computer, which was one of the earliest computers capable of doing floating-point arithmetic (mathematical operations using decimals) using 2 300 electrical switches called relays. Then, in 1945, Zuse started work on one of the first programming languages, which he called Plankalkul (Plan Calculus). In 1946, one of the best known early computers, a room sized machine called the ENIAC, was finished by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, and, “[it] improved by 1,000 times on the speed of its contemporaries” (“Computer History Museum | Timeline of Computer History: Year 1946 Entries”, 2006). There was a step forwards with programming languages in 1952, when Grace Hopper created the A-0 compiler, one of the first programming compilers ever. (A compiler is a program that converts normal words to computer machine code, allowing programmers to create their code in English, instead of the 1s and 0s of the binary system). Another large step in the evolution of computer programming came in 1957, with the invention of the programming language FORTRAN, which was the first language to allow programmers to complete repetitive tasks using loops, instead of writing the same code multiple times.
As the 1960s began, computers were no longer room-sized, but they were still fairly simple, compared to their modern equivalents. One of these was the invention of the BASIC programming language, which is still occasionally used for tasks today, and the design of UNIX, one of the first operating systems for computers. At this point, computers had begun to make their way into people’s houses, becoming smaller and more versatile, and started looking a lot like their descendents today. Although computers are definitely more advanced today, their early development is very interesting.
In the 1970s and 80s, two of the most well known modern computer companies, Apple and Microsoft, were created. Apple’s first computer, the Apple-I,...