HISTORY OF THE COMPUTER
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:
ELECTRICAL ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN NIGERIA
HISTORY OF THE COMPUTER
ABSTRACT This paper takes a keen look at the history of computer technology with a view to encouraging computer or electrical electronic engineering students to embrace and learn the history of their profession and its technologies. Reedy (1984) quoted Aldous Huxley thus: “that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” This paper therefore emphasizes the need to study history of the computer because a proper study and understanding of the evolution of computers will undoubtedly help to greatly improve on computer technologies.
INTRODUCTION The word ‘computer’ is an old word that has changed its meaning several times in the last few centuries. Originating from the Latin, by the mid-17th century it meant ‘someone who computes’. The American Heritage Dictionary (1980) gives its first computer definition as “a person who computes.” The computer remained associated with human activity until about the middle of the 20th century when it became applied to “a programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data” as Webster’s Dictionary (1980) defines it. Today, the word computer refers to computing devices, whether or not they are electronic, programmable, or capable of ‘storing and retrieving’ data.
The Techencyclopedia (2003) defines computer as “a general purpose machine that processes data according to a set of instructions that are stored internally either temporarily or permanently.” The computer and all equipment attached to it are called hardware. The instructions that tell it what to do are called "software" or “program”. A program is a detailed set of humanly prepared instructions that directs the computer to function in specific ways. Furthermore, the Encyclopedia Britannica (2003) defines computers as “the contribution of major individuals, machines, and ideas to the development of computing.” This implies that
the computer is a system. A system is a group of computer components that work together as a unit to perform a common objective.
The term ‘history’ means past events. The encyclopedia Britannica (2003) defines it as “the discipline that studies the chronological record of events (as affecting a nation or people), based on a critical examination of source materials and usually presenting an explanation of their causes.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (1995) simply defines history as “the study of past events.…” In discussing the history of computers, chronological record of events – particularly in the area of technological development – will be explained. History of computer in the area of technological development is being considered because it is usually the technological advancement in computers that brings about economic and social advancement. A faster computer brings about faster operation and that in turn causes an economic development. This paper will discuss classes of computers, computer evolution and highlight some roles played by individuals in these developments.
CLASSIFICATION OF COMPUTERS Computing machines can be classified in many ways and these classifications depend on their functions and definitions. They can be classified by the technology from which they were constructed, the uses to which they are put, their capacity or size, the era in which they were used, their basic operating principle and by the kinds of data they process. Some of these classification techniques are discussed as follows:
Classification by Technology This classification is a historical one and it is based on what performs the computer operation, or the technology behind the computing skill.
FLESH: Before the advent of any kind of computing device at all, human beings performed computation...
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