History of Computer

Until the development of the first generation computers based on vacuum tubes, there had been several developments in the computing technology related to the mechanical computing devices. The key developments that took place till the first computer was developed are as follows—

Calculating Machines ABACUS was the first mechanical calculating device for counting of large numbers. The word ABACUS means calculating board. It consists of bars in horizontal positions on which sets of beads are inserted. The horizontal bars have 10 beads each, representing units, tens, hundreds, etc. An abacus is shown in Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1. Abacus

Napier’s Bones was a mechanical device built for the purpose of multiplication in 1617 AD. by an English mathematician John Napier.

Slide Rule was developed by an English mathematician Edmund Gunter in the 16th century. Using the slide rule, one could perform operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It was used extensively till late 1970s. Figure 1.2 shows a slide rule.

Figure 1.2. Slide rule

Pascal’s Adding and Subtraction Machine was developed by Blaise Pascal. It could add and subtract. The machine consisted of wheels, gears and cylinders.

Leibniz’s Multiplication and Dividing Machine was a mechanical device that could both multiply and divide. The German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz built it around 1673.

Punch Card System was developed by Jacquard to control the power loom in 1801. He invented the punched card reader that could recognize the presence of hole in the punched card as binary one and the absence of the hole as binary zero. The 0s and 1s are the basis of the modern digital computer. A punched card is shown in Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3. Punched card

Babbage’s Analytical Engine An English man Charles Babbage built a mechanical machine to do complex mathematical calculations, in the year 1823. The machine was called as difference engine. Later, Charles Babbage and Lady Ada Lovelace developed a general-purpose calculating machine, the analytical engine. Charles Babbage is also called the father of computer.

Hollerith’s Punched Card Tabulating Machine was invented by Herman Hollerith. The machine could read the information from a punched card and process it electronically.

The developments discussed above and several others not discussed here, resulted in the development of the first computer in the 1940s.

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