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HISTORY OF COMPUTERS Computers are a part of so many aspects of our society today that it is hard to imagine life without them. To understand and appreciate fully the impact that computers have had on our lives, it is important to understand their evolution. What follows is a brief history of the development of computer technology. There are five generations of modern computer history, the first of which was considered to have occurred between 1944 and 1956. Long before the first generation of c
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  HISTORY OF COMPUTERS Computers are a part of so many aspects of our society today that it is hard to imaginelife without them. To understand and appreciate fully the impact that computers havehad on our lives, it is important to understand their evolution. What follows is a brief history of the development of computer technology. There are five generations of modern computer history, the first of which was considered to have occurred between1944 and 1956. Long before the first generation of computers evolved (which wasconsidered to have occurred between 1944 and 1956), computer development was wellon its way.Joseph Jacquard developed a loom for weaving cloth whose operation was controlled bymeans of cards with holes punched in them. This card laid the foundation for computer development. “In 1886, Herman Hollerith improved on Jacquard’s punched card bydeveloping a card that could be used with electrical rather than mechanical equipment.The Hollerith (or IBM) card is still very much in use. First generation The first generation of computers was developed in the mid-1940s during the SecondWorld War. They were needed to create ballistic charts for the U.S. Navy.“In 1944, engineers from IBM and Howard Aiken of Harvard University developed amachine called the Mark I. This 50-foot long and 8-foot high machine was able to add,subtract, multiply, divide, and refer to data tables using punched cards.”Another computer whose advancements were spurred by the war was the ENIACcomputer, developed by a partnership between the U.S. government and the Universityof Pennsylvania. “The first all-electronic computer, based on vacuum tubes, wasdeveloped in 1946 by J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchley of the University of Pennsylvania. This computer could make calculations a thousand times faster thanearlier devices.”In 1947, John von Neuman joined the University of Pennsylvania team and developed amethod for storing programs electronically. This invention of storing programs led theway for the development of today’s computers. Second generation The second generation of computers was developed between 1952 and 1963. Theinvention of the transistor changed the way computers were being developed. “Thetransistor replaced the large, cumbersome tube in televisions, radios, and computers. As  a result, the size of electronic machinery has been shrinking ever since. The transistor was at work in the computer by 1956.” By the mid 1960s, business, universities, and thegovernment used computers. The second generation of computers began to containmany of the things we find in computers today: printers, tape storage, disk storage, andmemory. Third generation The third generation of computers was developed between 1964 and 1971. Thesecomputers were characterized by the semiconductor chip which was developed in theearly 1960s. Another third-generation development included the use of an operatingsystem that allowed machines to run many different programs at once with a central program that monitored and coordinated the computer’s memory. Fourth generation The fourth generation of computers was characterized by the ongoing improvement of the silicon chip. “The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, included all the componentsof a computer (central processing unit, memory, and input and output controls) on aminuscule chip. Not only was the silicon chip used for computers, but everydayhousehold items such as microwave ovens, television sets, and automobiles withelectronic fuel injection incorporated these microprocessors.” Computers were becoming cheaper, smaller, and faster. In 1981, IBM introduced its personal computer (PC) and began marketing it to the general public for use in the home, office, andschool. “The number of personal computers in use more than doubled from 2 million in1981 to 5.5 million in 1982. Then years later, 65 million PCs were being used.”Many advances in the science of computer design and technology are taking place toform the fifth generation of computers. Computers that can interpret the spoken wordand imitate human reasoning are evolving. It is difficult to imagine now how thecomputer will affect your life in the next twenty years. If only those inventors who ledthe way to modern computing could witness the speed of today’s computers and our society’s total dependence on them. How do you think they would react to theautomatic teller machines (ATM) which let us conduct banking transactions fromvirtually anywhere in the world; or to computerized telephone switching centers thatkeep lines of communication untangled; or to supermarket scanners that calculate our grocery bills while keeping store inventory? It is difficult to imagine. 2
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