Computers have a long history, starting with the invention of the abacus, which allowed for simple mathematics calculations. Blaise Pascal builtthe first digital computer in 1692, which could perform addition. Other inventors and scientists became interested in the idea of computers, and more calculators were invented that could perform more sophisticated functions, had a memory function, and could even print. There was a temporary loss of interest in computers, which was rekindled when people began needing calculations to be done easily and quickly.
Such calculations were needed for many feats of engineering, such as railroads and bridges. This renewed interest resulted in the invention of the punched card, where information was stored and coded in the form of holes in cards. Many commercial companies used the punched card to store information. There is some controversy over who really built the first high-speed electronic digital computer. Some claim that John V. Atanasoff built the very first in the 1930’s. However, others say the first was ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator).
This high-speed computer, built at the University of Pensilvania in the early 1940’s, had 18,000 vacuum tubes and took up approximately 1,800 square feet of floor. The general attitude towards computers in the early 40’s was that they were too expensive and not user-friendly enough to have any commercial potential. They were generally thought to be only good for high speed calculations. In the 1950’s, computers became smaller and cheaper, as large electronic tubes were replaced by smaller better replacements.
Large amounts of information were able to be stored on small taped, disks, and drums. The invention of the transistor also reduced size and price and made computers more reliable. In the 1960’s, computers advanced all the time, becoming faster and having more functions. They were used in many companies to help with many basic functions such as accounting and billing. They were also used in public institutions such as hospitals and libraries. However, they had not yet found their way into regular homes.
Computers continued to shrink, becoming smaller and more reliable as the years passed. In the 1970’s, the first personal computers were introduced (PC’s). Apple and IBM were the leaders in PC’s in the 1980’s. Advances in computers are occuring every day. They continue to become cheaper and more powerful. Already parts of our world have become highly dependant on computers. Whether this will prove to be truly beneficial to mankind, we have no way of knowing. All we can do is wait and see what new developments occur, and proceed with caution.