Computers these days are advanced and powerful compared to their ancient counterparts, but do people know the origin of the device that they’re using today? Come and let us discuss this significant matter in our modern generation – History is very important since it helps us identify the flaws that happened in the past; hence, it can help us prevent such disasters in the near future.
From Historical times to Modern times.
Let’s start with the definition of a computer, what is a computer?
According to the internet, a computer is a device capable of processing information, has the ability to compute or calculate and also the ability to understand instructions through input and output methods given by its user. Latter definitions include the ability to program or create algorithms to be stored in the memory of the device for later use and other supplementary functions. Additionally, there are two types of computers in the past, one that is classified in automated calculation and the other in programmability, on the other hand, modern computers are expected to be categorized as both.
Now as the word implies, computer – a device that computes, as you can see we can easily identify the purpose of this device, the ability to make computations.
Mechanical and Electronic Calculators
an old electronic calculator
That is the reason why this little device was once considered as one of the earliest types of computer ever made – an electronic calculator. A calculator is a mechanical or electronic device with numerical and symbolic buttons on it; the numerals represent the decimal number system or the numbers from 0 to 9, while the symbols indicate the arithmetic operations like the multiplication and division sign.
It was considered as a computer because it satisfied two of the conditions; the ability to perform basic calculations and understand basic instructions (inputs) – the first ever mechanical calculator was invented in 1642 by Blaise Pascal; unfortunately, it was only able to do addition and subtraction.
Different types of mechanical calculators.
However, these types of calculators are no longer considered as computers, since there are more advanced calculators that are able to perform complex calculations and are also programmable, which fits the criteria of the modern definition for computers.
An example would be the following, a graphing calculator and a programmable calculator:
The first image is theTI-84 graphing calculator; the second one is the HP 50g in equation editor mode.
A graphing calculator is an electronic calculator with a large screen to display its calculations; it also has numerous buttons that are dedicated to the arithmetic operations, trigonometric functions, decimal numerical system, and other algebraic functions like the logarithmic function and the square root function. It can also perform complex calculations and can plot graphs of various algebraic expressions as well as the ability to solve and manipulate simultaneous equations involving variables. All of these functions are exclusively found on graphing calculators and programmable calculators; the only difference between the two is that in programmable calculators, you’re able to write your own program (or alternatively, an algorithm) in order to be executed to solve an extremely complicated problem.
The interior parts of these calculators, their processors to be exact, are made out of silicon (which can conduct electricity for its power source), and plastic as their exterior covering. It also requires having batteries for it to be fully functional, but there also exists solar powered-type of calculators which only require sunlight to work. They also practically weigh less when compared to the mechanical-type of calculators which obviously enables them being held by hand.
Mechanical and Electronic Computers
The first ever mechanical computer concept was the Difference Engine, by Charles Babbage in 1822, the creation of this machine wasn’t completed because of funding problems, but the purpose of the machine was clear; to be able to calculate multiple sets of numbers and to make hard copies of the result. Because of his concept he was one of the pioneers of computers and was also labelled as “the father of computers.”
The next concept is about the Turing machine, by Alan Turing in 1936, this is where all of the modern computers today are based; this idea is actually more of a theory than a concept since it speaks of the relationship between mathematics and a machine. Alan Turing was also labelled as the “father of modern computers.”
It didn’t take that long; after a short span of time, there have been advancements in both hardware and software which completely lead to the creation of modern computers today.
Apple II is one of the modern computers made in the 20th century; it’s an 8-bit personal computer with a speed of 1 megahertz and has 4 kilobytes of physical memory with a CRT monitor as a screen to see the progress of your work, it also has a keyboard which is used for input, the keyboard is composed of the alphabet, the decimal numerical system and other buttons that perform a unique function for the computer. Additionally, it has some sort of cassette drive to insert your floppy disks and compact disks to save your work.
The computers in the 21st century
Modern computers these days can deliver millions of calculations per second not only that, you can also exhibit entertainment by watching movies and playing games, you also get to do your work much faster compared to the previous era of computers, they’re also equipped with peripherals like the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, and speakers; each having its own purpose. The computer case contains the core parts of the computer – that is, these interior parts are essential for the computer to perform the instructed tasks properly, these are the: processor, memory, storage, power supply, motherboard, and video card.
Let me enumerate each of the peripheral’s function:
Mouse – is a peripheral connected to one of the ports of the motherboard, it can be wired or wireless. Its purpose is to guide an object in the virtual space on your computer which is called a cursor to the destination you prefer, it is also used to point at files and open them using the left click button, the right click button shows more options of what you can do with that file.
Keyboard – is a peripheral which is also connected to one of the ports of the motherboard, again it can be wired or wireless. Its purpose is to enable its user to input an amount of text which is composed of letter, numbers or symbols. The keyboard also contains special keys; each key having a unique function for the computer.
Monitor – is a peripheral, again which is connected to one of the ports of the motherboard and is either wired or wireless. Its purpose is to show you your virtual space in which you can do pretty much anything.
Speakers – are just peripherals that enable you to hear the sound coming from the various processes that you instruct your computer to do, like playing music and more.
A laptop is a personal computer that is portable; there are no significant changes aside from the slight reduction to the computing speed. The major benefit here is portability, since it would be a pain to carry your personal computer around. It is also the reason why this machine was invented, to enable you to do your work anywhere as long as there’s a socket to plug in when your battery runs out.
A certain type of a cellular phone can now be considered as a computer – these are the smartphones.
A smartphone is a cellular phone with a higher degree of computing capability than a regular phone; it has an operating system and is usually accompanied by a touchscreen display. These certain phones can also perform numerous calculations per second and can accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously. These phones can send important text messages and e-mails. They can also play music and video files and can do a lot more. In short, the functions are similar to a regular computer but are just downgraded at some point. The best part is that it’s a phone, you can keep it in your pocket or you can hold it in your hands without having to worry about the weight.
Computers were made to make life easier and as time progresses by so does the amount of improvement on the computer’s capability to do tasks more efficiently and more quickly. We should never forget the sole reason why these computers were invented in the first place, it is to help and accompany us in our goals where computing is required and where speed is necessary.