Mechanical To Modern

Many discoveries and inventions have directly and indirectly contributed to the development of the PC and other personal computers as we know them today. Examining a few important developmental landmarks can help bring the entire picture into focus.

The Timeline Of Computer Advancements:

The following is a timeline of significant events in computer history. It is not meant to be complete, just a representation of some of the major landmarks in computer development:

Pre-1900s: Mechanical Computers

1617:       John Napier creates “Napier’s Bones,” wooden or ivory rods used for ­calculating.

1642:       Blaise Pascal introduces the Pascaline digital adding machine.

1822:       Charles Babbage introduces the Difference Engine and later the Analytical Engine, a true general-purpose computing machine.

The Early 1900s: The Vacuum Tube Era

1906:       Lee De Forest patents the vacuum tube triode, used as an electronic switch in the first electronic computers.

1936:       Alan Turing publishes “On Computable Numbers,” a paper in which he conceives an imaginary computer called the Turing Machine, considered one of the foundations of modern computing. Turing later worked on breaking the German Enigma code.

1936:       Konrad Zuse begins work on a series of computers that will culminate in 1941 when he finishes work on the Z3. These are considered the first working electric binary computers, using electromechanical switches and relays.

1937:       John V. Atanasoff begins work on the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC), which would later be officially credited as the first electronic computer. Note that an electronic computer uses tubes, transistors, or other solid-state switching devices, whereas an electric computer uses electric motors, solenoids, or relays (electromechanical switches).

1943:       Thomas (Tommy) Flowers develops the Colossus, a secret British code-breaking computer designed to decode teleprinter messages encrypted by the German army.

1945:       John von Neumann writes “First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC,” in which he outlines the architecture of the modern stored-program computer.

1946:       ENIAC is introduced, an electronic computing machine built by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert.

1947:       On December 23, William Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardeen successfully test the point-contact transistor, setting off the semiconductor revolution.

1949:       Maurice Wilkes assembles the EDSAC, the first practical stored-program computer, at Cambridge University.

1950:       Engineering Research Associates of Minneapolis builds the ERA 1101, one of the first commercially produced ­computers.

1952:       The UNIVAC I delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau is the first commercial computer to attract widespread public attention.

1953:       IBM ships its first electronic computer, the 701.

1954:       A silicon-based junction transistor, perfected by Gordon Teal of Texas Instruments, Inc., brings a tremendous reduction in costs.

1954:       The IBM 650 magnetic drum calculator establishes itself as the first mass-produced computer, with the company selling 450 in one year…


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