An in-Depth Look at the History of Computers and Their Evolution

While we take a lot of our computer power for granted these days, there’s no shortage of time and effort that went into developing computer technology to the point it’s currently at.

In fact, the long history of computer evolution might surprise you. We’re going to take a look at the history of computers today, giving you a little insight into the process that technology underwent in order to get where we are today.

Let’s get started.

The History of Computers: Where It All Began

The first whisperings of a computer can be found in the early 19th century when a man named Charles Babbage had the idea for a mechanical calculator. His idea was for a steam-powered machine that could work with various tables of numbers and come to conclusions that the human mind would have to take a lot longer with.

Unfortunately, his idea was never realized in his lifetime, but the idea was planted. Fast forward about 70 years and we find Herman Hollerith. Hollerith was tasked with finding a way to help the United States count its census information.

The process would typically take around a decade to complete, but Herman created the Hollerith machine, which managed to account for all of the information in just three years.

His idea utilized a punch card operation that would set the stage for early computers. Computers and various ideas of what they could be flourished for the next 50 years, but it wasn’t until the early 40s that a computer was able to complete equations and store information.

Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator

The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC) was invented in 1944 and was a massive computer that was able to smoothly complete numerical equations. The device was around 800 square feet and contained almost 20,000 tubes that allowed it to do its work.

While it was a clunky ancestor of the devices we have today, the ENIAC is widely considered the forefather of modern computers. The creators of ENIAC, John Mauchly, and J. Eckert were then commissioned by the Census Bureau to work on UNIVAC.

UNIVAC was the first computer to be bought and sold for business purposes as well as various government purposes. The UNIVAC was initially run through a system of vacuums, but that function was changed in 1947 when Bell Telephone Laboratories created an electric switch that eliminated the need for a vacuum switch.

Computer Languages

Shortly after the electric switch was introduced, Grace Hopper worked to develop the first computer language to be used on computers that helped The United States with the Apollo missions.

Computer languages developed for another 16 years until 1969 when Bell Telephone Laboratories developed UNIX, which could communicate across various computer platforms.

One year later, we saw the advent of the first powerful memory chips known as DRAM chips. The following year, the floppy disk was invented to allow users to transfer information from one computer to another.

The very next year, the ethernet was invented and allowed computers to connect to one another. One year later in 1974, very primitive personal computers started to hit the market.

It’s important to point out the rate at which technology advanced in this span of a few decades. Humans went from having access to a large, building-sized machine that could do equations to having the option of purchasing home computers in about 30 years.

1975: Microsoft Hits The Market

Bill Gates is a household name to individuals across the entire globe now, but it all began in 1975 when he and Paul Allen formed Microsoft.

The next year, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computers. The next year, home computers are able to offer the ability for non-experts to write programs and experience the information in color with various graphics.

Products like the Timex Sinclair 1000 were extremely desirable, even though they are hardly functional compared to what we’re used to today.

The spreadsheets became available, then word processing features that revolutionized the world of writing and printing textual information. Fast forward about a decade, and we see the first “dot-com” domain name to be taken.

A few years later in 1990, HTML language was invented and the World Wide Web came along with it. Five years later, as more and more websites acquired domain names, Google created its search engine which is still the most-visited site on the internet.

In 1999, the first individuals were able to connect to the internet through WiFi, which is the first time that the internet was accessed without chords. One year later, we see the first Mac OS X system and Windows XP.

2005 and Beyond

In 2005 we start to see the advent of a lot of the user-based revolutionary ideas that formed the way that we use the internet today. For example, YouTube is formed, and Android is acquired by Google.

The next year, we see the Macbook Pro, one of the first professional laptops available on the market. This is also the same time that we see the Nintendo Wii, which advanced computer and video game technology significantly.

In only 2007, Apple releases the iPhone, which shifts the presence of the computer into our pockets. Three years later, Apple blended the computer and the phone in the form of the iPad.

To give an indication of how the user-engagement grew, this is right around the time that 1/7th of the human population was active on Facebook. Interestingly, photos of the first Obama inauguration don’t have many individuals holding up their phones and taking photographs.

Four years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find one individual in the inauguration crowd that wasn’t holding a smartphone.

The rest is history. We can clearly see how smooth and advanced the various computer processes at our disposal are. The advancements made to computers in the last few years are just as significant as those made over the previous decades.

We can now use computers to address social issues, make and receive payments, benefit humanity in numerous ways, and much more.

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