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When we think of computers as they are in the 21st Century, it seems like the science fiction predictions were more prophetic than fiction and fantasy. It’s amazing how huge, noisy, and cumbersome devices now can be folded and fiddled with and can fit into the smallest spaces to give you unimagined comfort of usage.
What began as automation has slowly taken over our lives and we are now incomplete without a computer. In fact, the automation from computers to mobile phones is mind boggling and the transition of the social media through these mediums is equally so.
The Earliest Computers
As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of all invention. As human beings began getting involved in the sciences and the interest in mathematics grew, it was only obvious that human beings would invent ways and means in which to make their calculations faster and allow them more time for discovery.
The earliest known calculators were abacus machines that helped people do manual calculations easily. The industrial revolution triggered the craze for automation especially machines that made patterns for looms. In the 2oth century, technological advancement was unprecedented.
Digital calculating machines and their practical usage was discovered post World War II.
What Does A Computer Have?
In order for a computer to function, at the very least it needs a processor which will help it handle the volumes of data, as well as memory to help store data. And this is at the most basic level. We all know that at this point in time, computers are far more complex and interlinked and one damaged part means a full-scale meltdown of your equipment.
As our needs have evolved so have computers. In the early days, computers were mostly for office use. They helped companies, especially government entities automate a lot of their processes which made them more efficient. The best part about digitizing offices has been that there is no such thing as a lost file or lost information. Everything can be easily located.
Computers have been in use since Babbage’s iconic machine from the early 19th century. Since then, a computer has evolved from a machine that performs complex calculations to a machine that enables a human being to create programs or applications that change the way in which we live our every day lives.
The Beginning of Electronic Circuits
The 1930s saw a major shift from electro-mechanical to electronic. And this shift in the basic functioning of computers is what truly changed the course of the way in which these machines are used in our daily life.
One of the first industries to enjoy the benefits of electronics was with the telephone exchange. From there, the Army then used this new found technology to decrypt German missives. If it wasn’t for this change, the World War II would have had a very different trajectory.
As early as 1944, the Colossus was hacking messages and delivering stealthy blows to enemy camps. This has gone on the record as the world’s first electronic, digital, programmable computer. The main hardware behind these early electronic devices were vacuum tubes. A vast network of them was needed to run a single machine.
However, the United States went one up on the British with the development of the ENAC. This computer was able to handle more complex calculations and that came at a big cost – more usage of electricity. However, these machines really paved the way for what came next.
Modern Computers as we know them
Legendary Mathematician Alan Turing published a paper in 1936 about a machine that used pre-programmed instructions – akin to today’s software. This machine could carry out any kind of computation because the instructions for it were already pre-loaded and they didn’t have to be keyed in every single time. This meant that calculations would be quicker and more efficient with no room for human error.
If this theory had not been posited, we would be looking at machines that functioned very differently. Turing’s theory also meant that all computers had a uniform way of functioning. If one set of programs worked for one machine, it worked for them all!
It is obvious, that humans have adapted to life on earth in multifarious ways, and one of the most revolutionary inventions of the modern age has been automation and right now, automation has moved so far beyond its early avatar, that the fathers themselves wouldn’t have imagined that this is the leap their machines would have taken!