History Of Computers (2530 words) Essay

History Of Computers
Only once in a lifetime will a new invention come about to touch every aspect of
our lives. Such devices changed the way we manage, work, and live. A machine
that has done all this and more now exists in nearly every business in the
United States. This incredible invention is the computer. The electronic
computer has been around for over a half-century, but its ancestors have been
around for 2000 years. However, only in the last 40 years has the computer
changed American management to it’s greatest extent. From the first wooden
abacus to the latest high-speed microprocessor, the computer has changed nearly
every aspect of management, and our lives for the better. The very earliest
existence of the modern day computer’s ancestor is the abacus. These date back
to almost 2000 years ago (Dolotta, 1985). It is simply a wooden rack holding
parallel wires on which beads are strung. When these beads are moved along the
wire according to programming rules that the user must memorize. All ordinary
arithmetic operations can be performed on the abacus. This was one of the first
management tools used. The next innovation in computers took place in 1694 when
Blaise Pascal invented the first digital calculating machine. It could only add
numbers and they had to be entered by turning dials. It was designed to help
Pascal’s father, who was a tax collector, manage the town’s taxes (Beer, 1966).

In the early 1800s, a mathematics professor named Charles Babbage designed an
automatic calculation machine (Dolotta, 1985). It was steam powered and could
store up to 1000 50-digit numbers. Built in to his machine were operations that
included everything a modern general-purpose computer would need. It was
programmed by and stored data on cards with holes punched in them, appropriately
called punch cards. This machine was extremely useful to managers that delt with
large volumes of good. With Babbage’s machine, managers could more easily
calculate the large numbers accumulated by inventories. The only problem was
that there was only one of these machines built, thus making it difficult for
all managers to use (Beer, 1966). After Babbage, people began to lose interest
in computers. However, between 1850 and 1900 there were great advances in
mathematics and physics that began to rekindle the interest. Many of these new
advances involved complex calculations and formulas that were very time
consuming for human calculation. The first major use for a computer in the U.S.

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was during the 1890 census. Two men, Herman Hollerith and James Powers,
developed a new punched-card system that could automatically read information on
cards without human (Dolotta, 1985). Since the population of the U.S. was
increasing so fast, the computer was an essential tool for managers in
tabulating the totals (Hazewindus,1988). These advantages were noted by
commercial industries and soon led to the development of improved punch-card
business-machine systems by International Business Machines, Remington-Rand,
Burroughs, and other corporations (Chposky, 1988). By modern standards the
punched-card machines were slow, typically processing from 50 to 250 cards per
minute, with each card holding up to 80 digits. At the time, however, punched
cards were an enormous step forward; they provided a means of input, output, and
memory storage on a massive scale. For more than 50 years following their first
use, punched-card machines did the bulk of the world’s business computing
(Jacobs, 1975). By the late 1930s punched-card machine techniques had become so
well established and reliable that Howard Hathaway Aiken, in collaboration with
engineers at IBM, undertook construction of a large automatic digital computer
based on standard IBM electromechanical parts (Chposky, 1988). Aiken’s machine,
called the Harvard Mark I, handled 23-digit numbers and could perform all four
arithmetic operations (Dolotta, 1985). Also, it had special built-in programs to
handled logarithms and trigonometric functions. The Mark I was controlled from
prepunched paper tape. Output was by card punch and electric typewriter. It was
slow, requiring 3 to 5 seconds for a multiplication, but it was fully automatic
and could complete long computations without human intervention. The outbreak of
World War II produced a desperate need for computing capability, especially for
the military (Dolotta, 1985). New weapons systems were produced which needed
trajectory tables and other essential data. In 1942, John P. Eckert, John W.

Mauchley, and their associates at the University of Pennsylvania decided to
build a high-speed electronic computer to do the job. This machine became known
as ENIAC, for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator (Chposky, 1988). It
could multiply two numbers at the rate of 300 products per second, by finding
the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory.

ENIAC was thus about 1,000 times faster than the previous generation of
computers. ENIAC used 18,000 standard vacuum tubes, occupied 1800 square feet of
floor space, and used about 180,000 watts of electricity. It used punched-card
input and output. The ENIAC was very difficult to program because one had to
essentially re-wire it to perform whatever task he wanted the computer to do. It
was efficient in handling the particular programs for which it had been
designed. ENIAC is generally accepted as the first successful high-speed
electronic digital computer and was used in many applications from 1946 to 1955.

However, the ENIAC was not accessible to managers of businesses (Beer, 1966).

Mathematician John Von Neumann was very interested in the ENIAC. In 1945 he
undertook a theoretical study of computation that demonstrated that a computer
could have a very simple and yet be able to execute any kind of computation
effectively by means of proper programmed control without the need for any
changes in hardware. Von Neumann came up with incredible ideas for methods of
building and organizing practical, fast computers. These ideas, which came to be
referred to as the stored-program technique, became fundamental for future
generations of high-speed digital computers and were universally adopted (Dolotta,
1985). The first wave of modern programmed electronic computers to take
advantage of these improvements appeared in 1947. This group included computers
using random access memory, RAM, which is a memory designed to give almost
constant access to any particular piece of information (Dolotta, 1985). These
machines had punched-card or punched-tape input and output devices and RAMs of
1000-word capacity. Physically, they were much more compact than ENIAC: some
were about the size of a grand piano and required 2500 small electron tubes.

This was quite an improvement over the earlier machines. The first-generation
stored-program computers required considerable maintenance, usually attained 70%
to 80% reliable operation, and were used for 8 to 12 years (Hazewindus,1988).

Typically, they were programmed directly in machine language, although by the
mid-1950s progress had been made in several aspects of advanced programming.

This group of machines included EDVAC and UNIVAC, the first commercially
available computers. With this invention, managers had even more power to
perform calculations for such things as statistical demographic data (Beer,
1966). Before this time, it was very rare for a manager of a larger business to
have the means to process large numbers in so little time. The UNIVAC was
developed by John W. Mauchley and John Eckert, Jr. in the 1950s. Together they
had formed the Mauchley-Eckert Computer Corporation, America’s first computer
company in the 1940s. During the development of the UNIVAC, they began to run
short on funds and sold their company to the larger Remington-Rand Corporation.

Eventually they built a working UNIVAC computer. It was delivered to the U.S.

Census Bureau in 1951 where it was used to help tabulate the U.S. population
(Hazewindus,1988). Early in the 1950s two important engineering discoveries
changed the electronic computer field. The first computers were made with vacuum
tubes, but by the late 1950s computers were being made out of transistors, which
were smaller, less expensive, more reliable, and more efficient (Dolotta, 1985).

In 1959, Robert Noyce, a physicist at the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation,
invented the integrated circuit, a tiny chip of silicon that contained an entire
electronic circuit. Gone was the bulky, unreliable, but fast machine; now
computers began to become more compact, more reliable and have more capacity.

These new technical discoveries rapidly found their way into new models of
digital computers. Memory storage capacities increased 800% in commercially
available machines by the early 1960s and speeds increased by an equally large
margin (Jacobs, 1975). These machines were very expensive to purchase or to rent
and were especially expensive to operate because of the cost of hiring
programmers to perform the complex operations the computers ran. Such computers
were typically found in large computer centers operated by industry, government,
and private laboratories staffed with many programmers and support personnel. By
1956, 76 of IBM’s large computer mainframes were in use, compared with only 46
UNIVAC’s (Chposky, 1988). In the 1960s efforts to design and develop the fastest
possible computers with the greatest capacity reached a turning point with the
completion of the LARC machine for Livermore Radiation Laboratories by the
Sperry-Rand Corporation, and the Stretch computer by IBM. The LARC had a core
memory of 98,000 words and multiplied in 10 microseconds. Stretch was provided
with several ranks of memory having slower access for the ranks of greater
capacity, the fastest access time being less than 1 microseconds and the total
capacity in the vicinity of 100 million words. During this time the major
computer manufacturers began to offer a range of computer capabilities, as well
as various computer-related equipment (Jacobs, 1975). These included input means
such as consoles and card feeders; output means such as page printers,
cathode-ray-tube displays, and graphing devices; and optional magnetic-tape and
magnetic-disk file storage. These found wide use in management for such
applications as accounting, payroll, inventory control, ordering supplies, and
billing. Central processing units for such purposes did not need to be very fast
arithmetically and were primarily used to access large amounts of records on
file. The greatest number of computer systems were delivered for the larger
applications, such as in hospitals for keeping track of patient records,
medications, and treatments given. They were also used in automated library
systems and in database systems such as the Chemical Abstracts system, where
computer records now on file cover nearly all known chemical compounds (Dolotta,
1985). The trend during the 1970s was, to some extent, away from extremely
powerful, centralized computational centers and toward a broader range of
applications for less-costly computer systems (Jacobs, 1975). Most
continuous-process manufacturing, such as petroleum refining and
electrical-power distribution systems, began using computers of relatively
modest capability for controlling and regulating their activities. In the 1960s
the programming of applications problems was an obstacle to the self-sufficiency
of moderate-sized on-site computer installations, but great advances in
applications programming languages removed these obstacles. Applications
languages became available for controlling a great range of manufacturing
processes, for computer operation of machine tools, and for many other tasks. In
1971 Marcian E. Hoff, Jr., an engineer at the Intel Corporation, invented the
microprocessor and another stage in the development of the computer began (Chposky,
1988). A new revolution in computer hardware was now well under way, involving
miniaturization of computer-logic circuitry and of component manufacture by what
are called large-scale integration techniques. In the 1950s it was realized that
scaling down the size of electronic digital computer circuits and parts would
increase speed and efficiency and improve performance (Jacobs, 1975). However,
at that time the manufacturing methods were not good enough to accomplish such a
task. About 1960, photoprinting of conductive circuit boards to eliminate wiring
became highly developed. Then it became possible to build resistors and
capacitors into the circuitry by photographic means. In the 1970s entire
assemblies, such as adders, shifting registers, and counters, became available
on tiny chips of silicon. In the 1980s very large scale integration, VLSI, in
which hundreds of thousands of transistors are placed on a single chip, became
increasingly common (Dolotta, 1985). Many companies, some new to the computer
field, introduced in the 1970s programmable minicomputers supplied with software
packages (Jacobs, 1975). The size-reduction trend continued with the
introduction of personal computers, which are programmable machines small enough
and inexpensive enough to be purchased and used by individuals (Beer, 1966). One
of the first of such machines was introduced in January 1975. Popular
Electronics magazine provided plans that would allow any electronics wizard to
build his own small, programmable computer for about $380. The computer was
called the Altair 8800. Its programming involved pushing buttons and flipping
switches on the front of the box. It didn’t include a monitor or keyboard, and
its applications were very limited. Even though, many orders came in for it and
several famous owners of computer and software manufacturing companies got their
start in computing through the Altair (Jacobs, 1975). For example, Steve Jobs
and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple Computer, built a much cheaper, yet more
productive version of the Altair and turned their hobby into a business. After
the introduction of the Altair 8800, the personal computer industry became a
fierce battleground of competition. IBM had been the computer industry standard
for well over a half-century. They held their position as the standard when they
introduced their first personal computer, the IBM Model 60 in 1975 (Chposky,
1988). However, the newly formed Apple Computer company was releasing its own
personal computer, the Apple II. The Apple I was the first computer designed by
Jobs and Wozniak in Wozniak’s garage, which was not produced on a wide scale.

Software was needed to run the computers as well. Microsoft developed a Disk
Operating System, MS-DOS, for the IBM computer while Apple developed its own
software (Chposky, 1988). Because Microsoft had now set the software standard
for IBMs, every software manufacturer had to make their software compatible with
Microsoft’s. This would lead to huge profits for Microsoft. The main goal of the
computer manufacturers was to make the computer as affordable as possible while
increasing speed, reliability, and capacity. Nearly every computer manufacturer
accomplished this and computers popped up everywhere. Computers were in
businesses keeping track of even more inventories for managers. Computers were
in colleges aiding students in research. Computers were in laboratories making
complex calculations at high speeds for scientists and physicists. The computer
had made its mark everywhere in management and built up a huge industry (Beer,
1966). The future is promising for the computer industry and its technology. The
speed of processors is expected to double every year and a half in the coming
years (Jacobs, 1975). As manufacturing techniques are further perfected the
prices of computer systems are expected to steadily fall. However, since the
microprocessor technology will be increasing, it’s higher costs will offset the
drop in price of older processors. In other words, the price of a new computer
will stay about the same from year to year, but technology will steadily
increase. Since the end of World War II, the computer industry has grown from a
standing start into one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the
United States (Hazewindus,1988). It now comprises thousands of companies, making
everything from multi-million dollar high-speed supercomputers to printout paper
and floppy disks. It employs millions of people and generates tens of billions
of dollars in sales each year. Surely, the computer has impacted every aspect of
people’s lives (Jacobs, 1975). It has affected the way people work and play. It
has made everyone’s life easier by doing difficult work for people. The computer
truly is one of the most incredible inventions in history to ever influence
management, and life.

Beer, S. (1966). Decision and Control, The meaning of Operational Research
and Management Cybernetics Chposky, J. (1988) Blue Magic, New York: Facts on
File, San Jose, CA: Idthekkethan Publishing Company Dolotta, T. (1985). Data
Processing: 1940-1985, New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons Hazewindus, N.

(1988). The U.S. Microelectronics Industry, New York, NY: Pergaman Press Jacobs,
C. W. (1975, January). The Altair 8800, Popular Electronics, New York, NY:
Popular Electronics Publishing


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