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History of Computers

Jul 22, 2016



history of computers

  • A Brief History of ComputersByBernard John Poole, MSISAssociate Professor of Education and Instructional TechnologyUniversity of Pittsburgh at JohnstownJohnstown, PA 15904

  • Pre-Mechanical Computing:

    From Counting on fingersto pebblesto hash marks on wallsto hash marks on boneto hash marks in sandInteresting thought:Do any species, other than homo sapiens, count?

  • Mechanical computersFromThe Abacusc. 4000 BCEto Charles Babbageand his Difference Engine (1812)

  • Mechanical computers:The Abacus (c. 3000 BCE)

  • Napiers Bones andLogarithms (1617)Picture courtesy IBM

  • Oughtreds (1621) and Schickards (1623]slide rule

  • Blaise PascalsPascaline (1645)

  • Gottfried Wilhelm von LeibnitzsStepped Reckoner (1674)

  • Joseph-Marie Jacquard and his punched card controlled looms (1804)

  • Preparing the cards with the pattern for the cloth to be woven

  • Charles Babbage (1791-1871)The Father of Computers

  • Charles Babbages Difference Engine

  • Charles Babbages Analytical Engine

  • Lady Augusta AdaCountess of LovelaceRead Lady Augusta Adas translation of MenabreasSketch of the Analytical Engine

  • Electro-mechanical computersFromHerman Holleriths1890Census Counting Machineto Howard Aikenand the Harvard Mark I (1944)

  • Herman Hollerith and hisCensus Tabulating Machine (1884)

  • A closer look at the Census Tabulating Machine

  • The Harvard Mark I (1944)aka IBMs Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC)

  • The first computer bugRear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

  • Electronic digital computersFromJohn Vincent Atanasoffs1939Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC)to the present day

  • Alan Turing1912-1954The Turing MachineAkaThe Universal Machine1936

  • John Vincent Atanasoff (1903-1995)Physics ProfAtIowa StateUniversity,Ames, IA

  • Clifford Berry (1918-1963)PhD studentofDr. Atanasoffs

  • 1939The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC)The ABC was the first electronic digital computer, invented by John Vincent Atanasoff

  • 1943 Bletchley Parks ColossusThe EnigmaMachine

  • 1946The ENIACJohn Presper Eckert(1919-1995)andJohn Mauchly(1907-1980)of theUniversity of Pennsylvania Moore School of Engineering

  • The ENIAC:Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer

  • Programming the ENIAC

  • ENIACs Wiring!John Von Neumann came up with the bright idea of using part of the computers internal memory (called Primary Memory) to store the program inside the computer and have the computer go get the instructions from its own memory, just as we do with our human brain. John Von Neumann

  • 1951UnivacTypical 1968 pricesEX-cluding maintenance & support!

  • What hath God wrought!

    (first telegraph message sent by Samuel Morse, 1844)

    Electronic and computing technology quickly progressedat an ever-accelerating pace

    from vacuum tubes (Lee de Forrest, the audion, 1907)to transistors (William Shockley et al. 1947)to semiconductors (Jack Kilby & Robert Noyce, 1958)to microprocessors (M.E. Ted Hoff, 1971)to networking and the Internet (Vinton Cerf & Robert Kahn, 1982]to the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee, 1991)and beyond

    Whatever next?

  • Acknowledgements (continued on next slide)For one of the best written books on the history of computers, check out Engines of the Mind : The Evolution of the Computer from Mainframes to Microprocessors -- by Joel N. Shurkin (Paperback)

    A movingly beautiful book on Alan Turing is Alan Turing: the Enigma, by Andrew Hodges

    An excellent, readable book on Cryptography is Simon Singhs THE CODE BOOK. The Secret History of Codes and Code-Breaking

    Tutorials on the encryption software PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) can be found at

    All pictures and some of the information were obtained from various sites on the World Wide Web. Complete list follows:

    Abacus: Rules: Pascaline: Stepped Reckoner: looms:

  • Acknowledgements (continued)Charles Babbage: Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace: (beautifully written pocket history ofelectricity & magnetism)Herman Hollerith: Aiken & The Harvard Mark I: Turing: Vincent Atanasoff: of Atanasoff and Clifford Berry: Presper Eckert: Mauchly: patent controversy:

    Thanks to the following EDTECH listserv colleagues and friends who have reviewed the presentation and provided amendments and additional material for inclusion on the slides and in the notes.

    Nancy Head, online instructor, Michigan Virtual High School (MVHS), U.S.A., on the web at

    Mandi Axmann, Instructional Designer, Open Universities Australia

    *Before humans invented machines to help them count or do math, they used whatever was at hand (pardon the pun!).

    Its possible the human facility in math is the most significant difference between us and other species. The capability is a two-edged sword. Were able to dream up and implement advances in technology which have led to all kinds of wonderful improvements in our lives. But were also the one species which, because of this capability, has the power to destroy our world.

    Now thats a scary thought that should give us all pause..*BCE (Before Common Era) is the now correct term in place of the more traditional BC (Before Christ). CE (Common Era) replaces AD (Anno Domini). After all, not everyone has a Christo-centric view of the world.*The abacus is still a mainstay of basic computation in some societies. Slide the beads up and down on the rods to add and subtract.*John Napier, a Scotsman, invented logarithms which use lookup tables to find the solution to otherwise tedious and error-prone mathematical calculations. To quote Napier himself:

    Seeing there is nothing (right well-beloved Students of the Mathematics) that is so troublesome to mathematical practice, nor that doth more molest and hinder calculators, than the multiplications, divisions, square and cubical extractions of great numbers, which besides the tedious expense of time are for the most part subject to many slippery errors, I began therefore to consider in my mind by what certain and ready art I might remove those hindrances. And having thought upon many things to this purpose, I found at length some excellent brief rules to be treated of (perhaps) hereafter. But amongst all, none more profitable than this which together with the hard and tedious multiplications, divisions, and extractions of roots, doth also cast away from the work itself even the very numbers themselves that are to be multiplied, divided and resolved into roots, and putteth other numbers in their place which perform as much as they can do, only by addition and subtraction, division by two or division by three.*This is a slide rule from the collection of Phil Scholl whose homepage can be visited at The slide rule works on the basis of logarithms.*This famous French philosopher and mathematician invented the first digital calculator to help his father with his work collecting taxes. He worked on it for three years between 1642 and 1645. The device, called the Pascaline, resembled a mechanical calculator of the 1940's. It could add and subtract by the simple rotation of dials on the machines face.

    *Leibnitzs Stepped Reckoner could not only add and subtract, but multiply and divide as well. Interesting thing about the Stepped Reckoner is that Leibnitzs design was way ahead of his time. A working model of the machine didnt appear till 1791, long after the inventor was dead and gone.*Joseph-Marie Jacquard was a weaver. He was very familiar with the mechanical music boxes and pianolas, pianos played by punched paper tape, which had been around for some time. One day he got the bright idea of adapting the use of punched cards to control his looms. If you look carefully at the picture on the right, and those on the following slide, you can see a continuous roll of these cards, each linked to the other, the holes in them punched strategically to control the pattern of the weave in the cloth produced by the loom. All the weaver had to do was work the loom without needing to think about the design of the cloth. Brilliant! Jacquard revolutionized patterned textile weaving. His invention also provided a model for the input