History of Computers

The computer as we know it today had its beginning with a 19th century English mathematics professor name Charles Babbage.
He designed the Analytical Engine and it was this design that the basic framework of the computers of today are based on.

Generally speaking, computers can be classified into three generations. Each generation lasted for a certain period of
time,and each gave us either a new and improved computer or an improvement to the existing computer.

Computer Generation

First generation: 1937 – 1946 – In 1937 the first electronic digital computer was built by Dr. John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. It was called the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC). In 1943 an electronic computer name the Colossus was built for the military. Other developments continued until in 1946 the first general– purpose digital computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was built. It is said that this computer weighed 30 tons, and had 18,000 vacuum tubes which was used for processing. When this computer was turned on for the first time lights dim in sections of Philadelphia. Computers of this generation could only perform single task, and they had no operating system.

Second generation: 1947 – 1962 – This generation of computers used transistors instead of vacuum tubes which were more reliable. In 1951 the first computer for commercial use was introduced to the public; the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC 1). In 1953 the International Business Machine (IBM) 650 and 700 series computers made their mark in the computer world. During this generation of computers over 100 computer programming languages were developed, computers had memory and operating systems. Storage media such as tape and disk were in use also were printers for output.

Third generation: 1963 – present – The invention of integrated circuit brought us the third generation of computers. With this invention computers became smaller, more powerful more reliable and they are able to run many different programs at the same time. In 1980 Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-Dos) was born and in 1981 IBM introduced the personal computer (PC) for home and office use. Three years later Apple gave us the Macintosh computer with its icon driven interface and the 90s gave us Windows operating system.​

Analog computers

In the first half of the 20th century, analog computers were considered by many to be the future of computing. These devices used the continuously changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved. The first modern analog computer was a tide-predicting machine, invented by Sir William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, in 1872. It used a system of pulleys and wires to automatically calculate predicted tide levels for a set period at a particular location and was of great utility to navigation in shallow waters.

In 1912, British engineer Arthur Pollen developed the first electrically powered mechanical analogue computer (called at the time the Argo Clock).It was used by the Imperial Russian Navy in World War I.

Mathematical Principles Applied For The Data Processing In Analog Computers : 

  • Logarithm
  • Summation
  • Exponentiation
  • Calculus
  • Multiplication and Division
  • Inversion

The analog computer which is a complex machine is an integration of various mechanical parts which has pipes, valves, levers, gears and several key parts which can be named as follows :

  • Fixed function generators
  • Operational amplifiers
  • Potentiometers
  • Integrators

The Digital computers

This work on the principle of binary digit system of “0” and “1” can give very precise results. But the problem is that they are too slow and incapable of large scale mathematical operation. In the hybrid types of computers the Digital counterparts convert the analog signals to perform Robotics and Process control.

Hybrid computers 

These types of computers are, as the name suggests, a combination of both Analog and Digital computers.

Computer generation

Categories of computers

Apart from this, computers are also categorized on the basis of physical structures and the purpose of their use. Based on Capacity, speed and reliability they can be divided into three categories of computers :

  • The Mainframe Computer, are computers used by large organizations like meteorological surveys and statistical institutes for performing bulk mathematical computations. They are core computers which are used for desktop functions of over one hundred people simultaneously. This is used for the purpose of research, engineering works, meteorological calculations, graphics and the likes, mainframes today constitutes Unix, Linux, and IBM’s z/OS, OS/390. Mainframe systems were manufactured extensively throughout the 1950s and were marketed by IBM, General Electric, NCR, UNIVAC, Honeywell etc.
  • The Microcomputer, are the most frequently used computers better known by the name of “Personal computers”. This is the type of computer meant for public use. Other than Desktop Computer the choice ranges as follows :
    • Personal Computer (PC)
    • Tablet PC
    • Towers/Desktop
    • Work Stations/Thin Clients
    • Laptops/PDA
  • The Mini computer, Mini computers like the mainframe computers are used by business organisation. The difference being that it can support the simultaneous working of up to 100 users and is usually maintained in business organisations for the maintenance of accounts and finances.
    • A few models of minicomputers which have been a marked success over the years are :
      • DEC VAX series and PDP series
      • Hewlett Packard HP3000 series
      • Prime Computers, Prime 50 Series
      • Norsk Data, Nord-1, Nord-10, Nord-100
      • IBM Midrange Computers
      • Honeywell-Bull Level 6/DPS Level6/DPS 6000 series


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