History of computer
The history of computer science began long before the modern discipline of computer science that emerged in the 20th century. The development of the first counting device has been dated to ancient times.
The progression, from mechanical inventions and mathematical theories towards the modern computer concepts and machines, formed a major academic field and the basis of a massive worldwide industry.
Abacus, developed in the period between 2700–2300 BC, was the earliest known tool used for Computation, Its original style of usage was by lines drawn in sand with pebbles. Abacuses of a more modern design are still used as calculation tools today
Charles Babbage is described as the ‘Father of Computer’. Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer.
Abacus is the earliest form of computing system and was produced by the Chinese in the early age. Abacus is made up of a frame, iron and beads in between them. They are used for counting and calculating.
- Slide rule
This is used for performing operations which involve multiplication and division.
- Pascal’s calculating machine: Blaise Pascal invented a hand operated calculator. This was operated by turning dials.
- Charles Babbage: He was credited for the invention of modern computer and he was also called the Father of Computer. The machines he invented are called the “Difference machine” and the ‘Analyte machine’. In 1930, he used these machines to solve mathematical equations.
FIRST GENERATION COMPUTERS (1946-1954)
In 1946 there was no ‘best’ way of storing instructions and data in a computer memory. There were four competing technologies for providing computer memory: electrostatic storage tubes, acoustic delay lines (mercury or nickel), magnetic drums and magnetic core storage.
The digital computes using electronic valves (Vacuum tubes) are known as first generation computers. The high cost of vacuum tubes prevented their use for main memory. They stored information in the form of propagating sound waves.
The Vacuum tube was developed by Lee DeForest in 1908. Vacuum tube consumes a lot of power. These computers were large in size and writing programmes on them was difficult. Some of the computers of this generation were: Mark I (electro-mechanical computer) built in 1944, ENIAC (First general purpose electronic computer) built in 1946, EDVAC (binary serial computer) built in 1950, EDSAC (first stored-programme computer) built in 1949, UNIVAC (First Commercial Computer) built in 1951.
OTHER IMPORTANT COMPUTERS OF FIRST GENERATION
Some other computers of this time worth mentioning are the Whirlwind, developed at Massachussets Institute of Technology, and JOHNNIAC, by the Rand Corporation. The Whirlwind was the first computer to display real time video and use core memory. The JOHNNIAC was named in honor of Jon Von Neumann. Computers at this time were usually kept in special locations like government and university research labs or military compounds.
Limitations of First Generation Computers
- They used valves or vacuum tubes as their main electronic component.
- They were large in size, slow in processing and had less storage capacity.
- They consumed lots of electricity and produced lots of heat.
- Their computing capabilities were limited.
- They were not so accurate and reliable.
- They used machine level language for programming.
- They were very expensive.
Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator/Computer: This was developed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the school of engineering of the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. ENIAC was the prototype from which most other modern computers evolved. ENIAC contained 17,648 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 7,000 resistors, 1,500 relay, 10,000 capacitors and 60,000 manual switches and consumed 150watts of power. It has thirty separate unit power supply and forced air cooling. ENIAC also had a functioning unit which was equipped with local programme control circuits and stored a minimum of twenty 10digit decimal numbers. ENIAC uses card reader for input, card punch for output and the 1500 associated relays. ENIAC is used for arithmetic operations and to calculate the trajectory of artillery shells.
UNIVAC – Universal Automatic Computer
This was the world’s first commercially available computer developed by the same designers of ENIAC. It was used for general purpose computing with large amounts of input, output and storage capacity compared to earlier machines. UNIVAC was the first computer to come equipped with a magnetic tape unit and it was also the first computer to use buffer memory. UNIVAC contains 5600 tubes, 18000 crystal diodes and 300 relays, internal storage capacity of 100 words or 1200 characters.
SECOND GENERATION COMPUTERS (1955-1964)
The second-generation computers used transistors for CPU components, ferrite cores for main memory and magnetic disks for secondary memory. They used high-level languages such as FORTRAN (1956), ALGOL (1960) & COBOL (1960 – 1961). I/O processor was included to control I/O operations.
Around 1955 a device called Transistor replaced the bulky Vacuum tubes in the first generation computer. Transistors are smaller than Vacuum tubes and have higher operating speed. They have no filament and require no heating. Manufacturing cost was also very low. Thus the size of the computer got reduced considerably.
It was in the second generation that the concept of Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, programming language and input and output units were developed. The programming languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN were developed during this period. Some of the computers of the Second Generation were
- IBM 1620: Its size was smaller as compared to First Generation computers and mostly used for scientific purpose.
- IBM 1401: Its size was small to medium and used for business applications.
- CDC 3600: Its size was large and is used for scientific purposes.
FEATURES OF SECOND GENERATION COMPUTERS
- Transistors were used instead of Vacuum Tube.
- Processing speed was faster than First Generation Computers (Micro Second)
- Smaller Sizes (51 square feet)
- The input and output devices were faster.