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Picture Of Computer - From Abacus to iPad: A Picture History of the Computer

computers devices computing programmable

A computer is a machine that is programmable to receive, store, and manipulate data or information, and output that information in a useful form. From the 1600s until the middle of the 20th century, however, the word computer referred to a job title; a description of people who calculated or computed information.

While we tend to think of computers currently as electronic devices, in fact, a computer is anything that transforms information. Following is a picture history of the computer through the ages.

Mechanical devices for manipulating or calculating have existed for many years. The first electronic computing devices were not invented until the 1940s. One of the earliest mechanical computers was the abacus, which is a calculating tool used even today mainly in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. While today’s abaci are made of a bamboo frame with sliding beads, they were originally beans or stones moved in grooves in sand or tablets.

In 1206, Al-Jazan invented an astronomical clock, to display the zodiac, solar and lunar orbits. The so called “castle clock” is considered the earliest programmable analog computer.

Another analog computing device that was widely used before the advent of electronic computers is the slide rule. This device, developed in the 1600s, was to compute logarithms before the invention of the pocket calculator.

The picture of the computer changed with the development of automated calculation and programmability. The Jacquard loom, was one of the first programmable computing devices. In the 1830s, Charles Babbage developed a fully programmable mechanical computer. Analog computers were the main computing devices through the early 20th century, with devices such as the Norden Bombsight which was used for precision delivery of bombs during WWII. The father of modern computer science is Alan Turing, though, who in 1936 developed the Turing Machine, which served as the blueprint for the development of digital computers.

The first fully automatic computer programmable computer, developed in 1941, was the Zuse 23, and the first general purpose electronic computer was Eniac. The Eniac computer, in contrast to modern devices, occupied an entire room.

The 1970s and 1980s saw the introduction of home computers and personal computers such as the Apple-II and the Commodore. Developments in integrated circuits have made computers smaller and more accessible. Thought at first to have only business or military applications, for instance, the portable laptop computer is widely used by students and others who want to compute on the go. The picture of computers is constantly changing, with devices, such as the Tablet and computer/mobile phone combinations in widespread use. Devices are becoming smaller, with increased computing power, and the end is not yet in sight.

Apple recently introduced the iPad, a tablet style computer that weighs in at a mere 700 grams and offers full computing capability for handling audio and visual media and surfing the web. It weighs less than a laptop and just a few grams more than modern wireless smartphones, which are themselves a form of wireless computer.

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