Computers 101: A History

The history of computing dates back to almost 2500 BCE when the abacus was invented around Sumeria. Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d call such a device a computer when it’s not even electronic? Oh, but quite a way we’ve come since analog computers had to be used for arithmetic calculations!

Anyways, I’m assuming you’re more interested in electronic computers,  so let’s skip ahead about 4400 years into the future. In 1937, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer was invented by John Atanasoff, and its primary use was to solve linear equations in algebra. Neat stuff!

However; electronic computers were dreadfully slow in their origination, and one couldn’t expect to experience the same computational power that exists in today’s electronics, which are called semi-conductors. But computers moved along, from scientific purposes to mainstream entertainment.

The original size of a computer was a desk (ABC), but with the use of vacuum tubing integration and large scale operands, computers grew to the size of a large room (ENIAC) and consumed large amounts of electricity.

Computers would continue to be used as calculators for military and scientific use until around the 1950’s, when the first personal computer was born: The IBM 610. The IBM 610 was, in the general sense, a PC because you had a keyboard and could operate the machine. It wasn’t exactly the smallest thing, as it was only small enough to barely fit inside a standard office.

Around the 1970’s, you really started to see the evolution to what we know today as modern computers, the desktop and laptop. In 1977, a trio of machines were released by companies that wanted to secure a foothold in the PC era, these are the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS-80. These machines would be known as the Trinity, and would vault PC use through the roof by selling millions of machines. Oddly enough, only one year earlier in ’76, the Xerox NoteTaker was unveiled as the first “laptop”. However, the first true laptop was the Osborne 1, introduced in 1981.

A slew of companies rose to fame and died off within those few decades of inception of the electronic computer, perhaps too many to list here, but the important thing to note is that each of these companies contributed significantly into shaping computer technology into what it is today. When people think of a powerhouse today, they usually think of Apple Inc. yet back then, the powerhouse was IBM, which has since retired from consumer computer retail (However; one can still pick up a famous Thinkpad from Lenovo, who purchased IBM’s PC line in 2005).

With hopefully a bunch of the nitty-gritty stuff out of the way, let’s move on to a major partner in making computers as fast as they are: Hardware.

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