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Colossus was the world's first electronic digital computer that was programmable. The Colossus computers were developed for British codebreakers during World War II to help in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. Back then Colossus computers were massive machines.

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The sole purpose of Colossus was for breaking the cryptographic codes used by Germany.  Britain led the world in designing and building these electronic machines that were dedicated to the code breaking of the war, and was routinely able to read the coded Germany radio transmissions.

But Colossus was definitely not a general purpose, reprogrammable machine like we see today. Back then Colossus computers were massive machines.

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What we know as a computer today more or less started with the Apple (1) which was sold as a do-it-yourself kit. No computer body, so you had to make your own type body out of whatever you had to hand to make the machine. Some were even made of wood.

(Yes, wood)

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This one was made from wood but things changed fast. By the 1990's a university student would typically own his own computer and have exclusive use of it in his dorm room. Or if he could afford it at home.

Do you recognise the wooden box in the picture left?

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Original IBM Personal Computer motherboard, IBM 5150. It has five 8-bit Industry Standard Architecture slots, and two DIN connectors for keyboard and cassette interface.

The main circuit board in an PC is called the motherboard (IBM terminology calls it a planar). This mainly carries the CPU and RAM, and it has a bus with slots for expansion cards. On the motherboard are also the ROM subsystem, DMA and IRQ controllers, coprocessor socket, sound (PC speaker, tone generation) circuitry, and keyboard interface. The original PC also has a cassette interface to be able to load in the software.

 

History of the Computer Industry from 1936 until today.

1936

 Konrad Zuse - Z1 Computer

First freely programmable computer

1942

 John Atanasoff & Clifford Berry

 ABC Computer

1944

 Howard Aiken & Grace Hopper

 Harvard Mark I Computer

1946

 J Presper Eckert & John W. Mauchly

 ENIAC 1 Comp 20,000

1948

 Frederic Williams & Tom Kilburn

 Mcr Baby Comp & Williams Tube

1947/48

 Bardeen Brattain & Shockley

 The Transistor not a computer

1951

 Eckert & Mauchly

 UNIVAC Comp 1st commercial computer

1953

 International Business Machines

 IBM 701 EDPM Computer

1954

 John Backus & IBM

 FORTRAN Comp Prog Language

1955

 (In Use 1959) SRI

 Bank of America

and General Electric

 ERMA and MICR

 1st first bank computer

also MICR

 (magnetic ink character recognition)

 for reading checks

1958

 Jack Kilby & Robert Noyce

 The Integrated Circuit

1962

 Steve Russell & MIT

 Spacewar Computer Game

The first

 computer

 game invented

1964

 Douglas Engelbart

 Computer Mouse & Windows

1969

  ARPAnet

 The original Internet

1970

 Intel 1103 Computer Memory

 1st available dynamic RAM chip

1971

 Faggin Hoff & Mazor

 Intel 4004 Computer Microprocessor

The

 first

 microprocessor

1971

 Alan Shugart & IBM

 The "Floppy" Disk

1973

 Robert Metcalfe & Xerox

 The Ethernet Computer Networking

1974/75

 Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair

 IBM 5100 Computers

The

  first consumer

 computers

1976/77

 Apple I

 II & TRS-80

& Commodore

 Pet Computers

 More first consumer computers

1978

 Dan Bricklin & Bob Frankston

 VisiCalc Spreadsheet Software

1979

 Seymour Rubenstein & Rob Barnaby

 WordStar Software

1981

 IBM

 The IBM PC - Home Computer

From an

 "Acorn" grows a

 personal computer revolution

1981

 Microsoft

 MS-DOS Computer Operating System

From

 "Quick And Dirty"

 Now the operating system of the century

1983

 Apple Lisa Computer

 The first home computer

with a

 GUI

 graphical user interface

1984

 Apple Macintosh Computer

 An affordable home computer

1985

 Microsoft Windows

 Microsoft begins friendly war with Apple

 

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The computer was born not for entertainment or email but out of a need to solve a serious numbercrunching crisis. By 1880 the U.S. population had grown so large that it took more than seven years to tabulate the U.S. Census results. The government sought a faster way to get the job done, giving rise to punch-card based computers that took up entire rooms. Today, we carry more computing power on our smartphones than was available in these early models. The following brief history of computing is a timeline of how computers evolved from their humble beginnings to the machines of today that surf the Internet, play games and stream multimedia in addition to crunching numbers.

1822: English mathematician Charles Babbage conceives of a steam-driven calculating machine that would be able to compute tables of numbers. The project, funded by the English government, isa failure. More than a century later, however, The world’s first computer was actually built. charles babbage difference machinePin It Charles Babbage created the Difference Machine in the 1820s. Credit: Richard Hart/The Next StepView full size image

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The very first programmable computer was invented by the famous British mathematician and scientist Charles Babbage in the 1820s. He began working on a mechanical computer which he called the Difference Engine.  He worked on this in 1822 for more than 10 years and was funded by the British government more or less exactly the same way the funding that is in place today. But the project eventually had its funding pulled because the government became very restless and disappointed with  the constant delays. The difference engine was not assembled into full working order until 1989. Babbage also invented the Analytic Engine which was programmed by using punched cards, ( I can still remember using punched cards when I was doing a B-Tech National Diploma course in Computer Studies a long time ago. ) this was the first step in modern computing as we know it today.

The first programmable computer

1890: Herman Hollerith on the right designs a punch card system to calculate the 1880 census, then accomplishing the task in just three years and saving the government in the region of five million dollars. He establishes a company in 1911  that would ultimately become ‘BIG BLUE’ (IBM was then founded in 1911).

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Hollerith’s Punched Cardwith 45 columns

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Herman Hollerith’s tabulating system sped up the 1890 census, but there was still a lot of manual work involved.

Pantograph Card Punch

Most holes in each of the 60 million cards were individually punched, and the cards were moved and stacked by hand. A very similar process was later used by the Department of Agriculture for a farm censuses.

The reason that Hollerith’s cards were roughly the same size of the United States paper money in circulation in 1890. Was it  let him use the existing currency drawers, bins, and boxes to organize and process the 60 million census cards.

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