Computers: the Greatest Invention of the Century?

Topics: Computer, Computer software, Computer program Pages: 7 (2502 words) Published: May 21, 2007
Many people consider the computer to be a once in a lifetime invention. Almost everywhere one goes and looks, there is always a computer. They are found in basically every household in America. It is such a powerful device that it changes the way people run their lives. The question is, are computers all good or are there some downfalls to this incredible gadget? In order to answer this question, it is best for one to know the history, components, careers, and the dark side of computers.

There is no simple answer to the question, "Who invented the computer?" Many inventors, through the course of time have contributed to the invention of the computer. It is quite hard to pinpoint the first computer, but most scholars say the abacus was the first "computer." The abacus was the first portable counting mechanism, invented by the Babylonians (Houghton 1). However, this was not quite a computer because it could not be programmed. In the early 1800s, a man named Charles Babbage created a device called the Difference Engine. It was a programmable steam powered calculator. This was a huge step toward the modern-day computer (Swedin and Ferro 19). In 1890, Dr. Herman Hollerith created the first automatic data-processing machine that was used to put information together for the U.S. census. Hollerith's machine became so successful that he created his own business, which eventually became IBM (Houghton 2). Some 50 years later, the U.S. military was in need of an easier way to determine how far their missiles would fire. From this the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC) was born. This was the first successful electronic computer. It was an absolutely enormous machine, taking up a whole room (2).

For the next 50 years, the computer continued to be improved on and evolved into what is now thought of as the computer. The computers of today are simply amazing compared to what they were in the past. They are sleeker, faster, and more powerful, while being smaller at the same time. People years ago would never have thought gadgets like the iPod, PDA, or cell phone could ever be possible.

The technology that is used today will become obsolete in a short amount of time at the rate humans are developing technology. Computers are going be in every imaginable place. The computers of the future will assist humans in doing whatever is needed to be done. The possibilities are endless. Computers will also be much faster and more compact. There are two emerging technologies, DNA computers and quantum computers (Tyson 2). They have the potential to be the next big improvements in computers. DNA might one day be built into a computer chip to create a so-called biochip that will make computers incredibly smaller and faster. Quantum computers will harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks. They have the potential to perform certain calculations billions of times faster than any silicon-based computer (2). In Stanley Kubrick's film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," he predicts what the world is going to be like 30 years into the future. Kubrick was correct about a few of his predictions, but mostly he was wrong. Computers are going in a very interesting direction that nobody can really predict.

The physical parts of a computer that can be touched is hardware. Not all parts are vital for a computer to run, but most hardware components do serve an important purpose. "The motherboard is probably the most important part of the computer" ("Motherboard" 1). It is the main circuit board and heart of a computer. It connects all the hardware together and makes everything work. The CPU is another important hardware part. It stands for Central Processing Unit. This processor is essentially the brain of the computer. It interprets computer program instructions and handles data. CPUs allow computers to be programmed, which is a crucial trait ("Processor" 1). Storage devices are another...

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