Evolution of Computers

Over the past few decades, major developments took place in the field of computers. Computing technology has advanced tremendously in terms of both hard ware and software. This did not happen over night. The technologies gradually evolved in successive stages.

At present, we have very powerful computing environments that use extremely fast and reliable computers. A few decades ago, this was unimaginable. Today computers of all sizes and capabilities are available ranging from small home computers (or micro computers) to large mainframes and supercomputers. In order to understand and appreciate the impact of computers on our lives, it is essential for us to gain some knowledge regarding their evolution.

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History of Computer Machine:

People lived on earth for many years without keeping records. But as tribes grew into nations, trade and commerce developed. Ancient people used very primitive forms of devices and methods for keeping records. By 3500 B.C, Babylonians used clay tablets for keeping records. Man had been on the search for faster computing devices.

The abacus invented in 3000 B.C (about 5000 years ago) is considered to be the earliest manual calculating machine. The abacus used a system of beads moving over rods. It could perform arithmetic by using place values of digits of numbers and position of beeds.

In 1642, the first mechanical calculating machine was developed by Blaise Pascal, a young Frenchman. This machine, called Pascal's Adding machine used a system of wheels having numbers on their teeth. Calculations were performed by rotating the wheels.

About 30 years later, in 1671 Gottfried Von Leibnitz, a German Mathematician improved on Pascal's invention by producing a machine which could add, subtract, multiply, divide and extract roots.

The history of punched cards dates back to 1801, when a French weaver named Joseph Marie Jacquard invented them to control his mechanical looms. In 1887, Herman Hollerith, a statistician developed machine readable punched card and designed a machine called "Census Machine". These cards were first used for tabulating census data.

Punched card processing was based on a simple idea. Input data were first recorded in a coded form by pinching holes cards. These cards were then fed to the electro-mechanical machines that performed the processing steps. But it still needed human operators to handle trays of cards.

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In 1833, Charles Babbage, a professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University in England developed a machine, which he named "analytical engine". Babbage spent much of his life working to develop this complex machine. Babbage realized that machine's were best at performing tasks repeatedly without mistakes. The analytical engine had a input unit, output unit, memory and a arithmetic unit. Thus in fact what was invented by Babbage was a prototype of the modern computer. Assisting Babbage in his efforts was Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, the poet. A brilliant mathematician, Ada corrected some errors in Babbage's work and invented new approaches to program design using punched cards. She is often referred to as the first computer programmer. In the 1980's the U.S Department of Defense named a programming language, ADA in her honour.

In the later years several engineers made sonic significant advances. Of these developments was the Mark I digital computer in 1944 by Howard Aiken which was the first electro- mechanical computer. In 1937, Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff, professor of physics built the "ABC computer" that used vaccum tubes for storage.