The Computer Firsts through history

Today we take computers for granted. They are seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives and provide the basis for just about every transaction and job that we carry out.  We all sit from day to day on out Operator Chairs which can be bought from links incluidng taking calls and making calls or typing away without really thinking about the computer we use.   It wasn’t always like this though and here we look at some firsts in the world of computing:

While there are many classifications of what constitutes a computer, it is generally accepted that the first mechanical computer was invented by Charles Babbage in 1822. Of course, it looked nothing like what we understand as a computer in this digital age.

The first use of the term ‘computer’ was actually as early as 1613 and described a person who was adept at performing calculations or computations. The word has stuck with us and now refers to a machine that does the calculating for us. The ‘Difference Engine’ that Babbage created could compute several sets of numbers and provide copies of the results. By 1837, Babbage had the concept of an Analytical Engine which would be the first general mechanical computer. It contained an Arithmetic Logic Unit, punch cards and an integrated memory.

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The world’s first programmable computer was designed by Konrad Zuse in his living room between 1936 and 1938. It is considered to be the first properly functional computer in the modern sense and was called the Z1.

Many of the foundations of computer programming today were formed by Alan Turing who proposed the idea for the Turing Machine in 1936. It was a mechanical device able to print symbols that copied the actions of a person following instructions. Without the work of Turing, we would not have the use of computers today. Now we can access information on multiple devices such as laptops, PCs, tablets and mobile phones. The first electronic programmable machine was the Colossus which was created by Tommy Flowers in 1943. It was this mammoth machine that helped code breakers during the Second World War to decipher encrypted German messages.

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To discover the roots of the first digital computer, we need to look at the ABC which began development in 1937 through to 1943 in Iowa. A professor and a graduate of the Iowa State College worked on an electrical computer that contained 300 vacuum tubes, allowing it to complete digital computation. It contained no CPU so was not programmable.

Around the same time, the ENIAC was being designed at the University of Pennsylvania and was completed in 1946. It was huge and covered 1,800 square feet, contained 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighed nearly 50 tonnes. In 1973, a judge ruled that the ABC was the first digital computer although many still credit the ENIAC with this title as it was fully functional.

The first computer to run a game was the EDSAC, the first British stored program electronic computer. The game was called ‘Baby’. Another computer that ran stored programs was invented around the same in Manchester and was named the Manchester Mark 1.

We’re used to hearing names like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard but the world’s first computer company was the Electronic Controls Company. Founded in 1949 by the designers of the ENIAC system.

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