• André Wagener

The History of Computers

When we think about computers, they seem like an invention of the modern era. However, not many are aware of the fact that computing started in the early 1800s. In computing history, there is not a solo inventor or an original machine that can be called the first computer. The creation of the computer took many steps, with numbers of mathematicians and scientists involved in developing the predecessors.

The first computer was not invented for entertainment, but it was formulated to solve the calculation problem prevailing in the United States. In 1880, the population of the country was growing drastically and it took seven years to sort the census. This was the time when computers based on punch-cards were created to calculate the census, although the system was big enough to take an entire room.

The person behind the punch card system was Herman Hollerith, his design helped the government save $5 million and the task was accomplished in three years. He later founded the world’s largest computing company, known as IBM. However, the conception of the modern computer can be studied from the 1930s based on the idea of Alan Turing.

In the 1940s and 1950s, computers were only used to perform scientific research and engineering tasks. It was the 1960s when the first desktop computer, Programma 101, came into the market and was sold to the general public. The machine was similar to a typewriter in size, weighed approximately 30 kilos, and had 37 keys and a built-in printer. This Italian invention is considered to be an evolution in computing history, which introduced the idea of personal computers.

Personal computers got its popularity in the 1970s when Xerox Alto was created. The system had attributes of printing documents and emails. This was the most modern computer design, and it included a keyboard, screen, and mouse. Xerox Alto later inspired Apple to design Macintosh in the 80s. In 1984, Steve Jobs launched the first Macintosh computer and it was the game-changer for the computing world.

Apple’s iMac G3 launched in 1998 and sold 800,000 units in the first five months after the release. It was the most innovative, portable, and distinctive computer, had Bondi blue casing, and weighed about 18 kilos. Computers were transformed from desktop to laptops in the early 2000s. It was again Apple who launched the first MacBook Air and its thin size was surprising for the audiences. It was less than 2 centimeters thick and the laptop changed the dynamics of the computing industry.

It was not just the shape and size that transformed the computing world, it was the technological advancements that were used to build compact, faster, and affordable computers. Nowadays internet access is easily possible through smartphones that we carry in our hands. It was in 2007 when the computing functions were included in phones, becoming smartphones, and since then the technology keeps booming.

The introduction of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc, has further evolved computing. Now computers are not just used to do the critical tasks for which they were invented, supporting many purposes such as education, connectivity, social interactions, entertainment, and much more. From occupying the whole room to now fitting on our wrists as smartwatches, computers have changed our lives and the way we function. We now live in a digital era where information is available at our fingertips and people are accessible through the screen.

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