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October 14, 2001
Computers have been around for thousands of years. When you think of computers you probably only think of the one at your house or at the library. You usually don’t think about the computers that were used long ago. They were simple, but they were the beginning to what we have today. Through the years computers progressed and we were able to accomplish more and more. Our lives have been impacted greatly because of what we can do with computers today. There is so much more that the future holds in the advancement in computers. We probably can’t even imagine some of the stuff that we will be able to do. I think that computers are one of the greatest inventions because they have enhanced our lives so much and they have helped us accomplish things that we would have never thought could have been accomplished.
Let’s start of by talking about the history of computers and how they came about. About two thousand years ago, originating in Egypt, the abacus was invented. This is considered to be the first computer ever made. This device was made up of a wooden rack that held two wires. Beads were placed on the wires where they could slide up and down. This machine could only do simple math
problems, but it was a start and the beginning of one of the greatest inventions. Nothing else regarding the advancement of these type devices was invented until almost twelve centuries later. In 1642, Blaise Pascal invented a machine that would help his father, a tax collector, to keep track of his work. This machine consisted of eight dials which would do addition and count numbers. This is how it worked: Once you turned the first dial all the way around once it would then turn the second dial one place. Once the second dial made it around one time the third dial would then move one place. This sequence repeated for each of the eight dials (Computers: History and Development 2).
Gottfried Wilhem von Leibniz improved what Pascal had done by making a machine that could not only add, but also multiply. This machine basically ran the same way that Pascal’s did. An arithometer was developed by Charles Xavier Thomas in 1820. This was the first machine that could finally do the four basic math problems. Up until the First World War, many people used this arithometer.
Soon after the invention of the arithometer, Charles Babbage Invented what was called the Difference Engine. This machine was powered by huge amounts of steam. The Difference Engine would have a program that would be stored and it could calculate and print the results. Babbage worked on his Difference engine for several years. While he was working on it he had the idea to start working on the
first general-purpose computer. This he called the Analytical Engine and it became the basis for computers, as we know them today.
The design of modern day computers started when the government thought they would be very helpful with the beginning of the Second World War. The first one of the computers built was the Z3, developed by Konrad Zuse in 1941, which was used to design missiles and airplanes. Another computer that was developed because of the war was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). This was a huge computer that used 18,000 vacuum tubes, had some 70,000 resistors, and about five million soldered joints. It took 160 kilowatts of electricity to power this computer. That’s enough electricity to dim the lights in an entire section of a large city. The ENIAC was about 1000 times faster than previous computers.
The next major step for developing computers was the transistor. This replaced the huge vacuum tubes that were previously used. By having these smaller transistors, the size of computers was reduced greatly. These also made the computer much faster and more reliable also. The only negative quality of transistors was that they produce a great amount of heat which would damage the other parts on the inside of the computer. The integrated circuit would replace the transistor in 1958. Created by Jack Kilby, the integrated circuit was made up of a silicon disc made of quartz which contained three electronic components. The development of the integrated circuit reduced the size of computers even more.
The more components that were put on a chip, the smaller the computer became.
The next project for computers was to keep decreasing the size. This brought about the development large-scale integration (LSI). This is when hundreds of components were put on one chip. Very large scale integration (VLSI) was developed by the 1980’s. This is when thousands of components were put on one chip. Next was ultra-large scale integration (ULSI). This fit millions of components on one chip. Not only did these types of integration make the computer smaller, they also improved efficiency, reliability, and power.
The 1980’s brought about the personal computer for the home. Anyone could purchase these affordable computers. After the development of these personal computers, laptops were developed which were even smaller than the personal computers. Shortly after, in 1992, the Internet was available to anyone who owns a personal computer (A Brief History of Computers). The Internet links computers all over the world to one network, which allows people to communicate over the computer. This brings us to where we are in the computer world today (Computers: History and Development).
The development of computers has enhanced the quality of our lives greatly. You probably don’t even think about many of the things computers are used for accept for having fun and playing on the Internet. Since we have invented computers the reliability and production of many products has been
increased. Some examples of this are car production, the heating and cooling in our homes, and also the production of our food and how it is stored until we buy it. These have all been improved by computers. The quality of life we live now is so much greater than people years ago ever could have imagined. We even have the technology through computers to help people livelonger.
There has also been a social impact that computers have had on our society. Communication has advanced greatly since the development of the Internet. There was a survey given to people of news groups and others that were on electronic mailing lists to see what people thought about face-to-face communication compared to on-line communication. Most people thought that communicating on-line was much different than communicating in person. This survey showed that women were treated much better when communicating on-line. Men said that sexist thoughts were diminished when talking to women on the Internet and women said that the were able to speak their minds. So there is somewhat of an advantage to communicating on-line (Meadahl 22). These examples have shown how the computer has had an enormous impact on world. They have made our lives hundreds of times easier than they would have been without computers.
What does the future hold for computers? Some of the things that people say are unreal. We have almost made it to the point to where computers are good enough to understand what we say. So far people have been working on ways to
use computers just by talking using a vocabulary of maybe one hundred to two hundred words. It would be nice just to be able to say “back” and you would get a backspace. Also there has been ideas of physical communication over the Internet. This would consist of someone having a device for their hands that they would squeeze in certain places. The person at the other end would have this same type of device that would be able to received the motions of the other person. At some point people will probably get computers to think for themselves. They will be able to understand words and what they mean and what ideas they represent. Connecting to the Internet with an implant in our bodies is not too far off either. We can already implant a telephone right behind the ear and the facial bones are used as conduction. It would be nice to have a calculator implanted or even a memory enhancer. Many people would love to have a computer that monitors their health implanted into their body (The Startling Future of Computers 4 – 32). These are just some of the examples of what has been planned for the future. As these goals are being accomplished, new ones will be set and take us farther along in computer technology.
Computer’s have been an important part of our lives. We have come a long way with computers. The first one being developed around two thousand years ago and we progressed from there to what we have today: personal computers, laptops, and the Internet. Our lives have been affected greatly by the development of computers. They do many jobs more accurately and reliably than any human
could ever do. They help with just about any job we have to accomplish. We have come so far in our technology, yet so much is still in store for us that it is hard to believe. We will be able to operate a computer just by using our voice, we may be able to communicate physically by using the Internet, and also connect to the Internet by tiny implants in our body. This shows how important technology is to us and we should continue to pursue bigger and better things with our computers.
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