The earliest counting device was the Abacus; it was developed some time between 1000 and 400 BC. The Abacus is essentially a collection of beads strung on parallel roads fixed in a frame.
The beads in the upper portion count 5, each and those in the lower portion count one each. Arithmetic calculations were performed by manipulating these beads. Significant developments in counting devices took place around 1640 when Blaise Pascal, a young French mathematician invented a simple adding machine. It consists of toothed wheels. Pascal’s machine could perform additions only. It was later improved up on by Leibnitz, a German mathematician whose machine could perform multiplications and divisions as well.
Blaise Pascal invented the mechanical calculator in 1642
Charles Babbage, an English Mathematician developed a mechanical calculating device called Difference Engine for the automatic computation of mathematical tables around 1830. Babbage was also involved in the design of another calculating machine, which could perform any general functions in an automatic way. After much effort, he constructed a machine called Analytical Engine. This machine had a s memory device, an arithmetic device, a punched card input system and an external memory store. Thus Babbage’s Analytical Engine had many of the same fundamental features as the modern computers.
The design and development of the modern computing machines started around 1935. Howard Aiken, professor at the Harvard University begin to build a machine for automatic computation using the concepts of Babbage and Punched Cards (Which were invented by Herman Hollerith ). After much effort by Aiken and IBM engineers, the project was completed and a machine was designed in 1944. It was named Mark – I. This was considered to be the first Digital Computer. Mark – I could accept data from punched cards, store them in memory, make calculations by means of automatically controlled electromagnetic relays and arithmetic counters which were mechanical.
Around 1940 vacuum tubes ( diodes and triodes ) were being used in electronic circuits. J.W.Mauchly and J.P.Eckert , professors at the University of Pennsylvania used these tubes to design a computer which was completed in 1946. It was called as Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator ( ENIAC ). This was the first electronic computer.
Von Neumann, a noted mathematician at the university of Princeton, suggested the concept of Stored Program and the use of Binary Number System in computers around 1946. Earlier machines could be programmed, but the idea of storing instructions in the computer memory was not there. The suggestion of Neumann brought a revolution in the development of computers. The first computer to use the stored program concept was designed and completed in 1949 at the Cambridge University, England. It was named Electronic Delayed Storage Automatic Computer (EDSAC). The program was fed in to the storage unit by means of paper tapes. EDSAC also used vacuum tubes and was little faster than the ENIAC.
Further developments took place in the Input and Output media. The first computer to magnetic tapes for data Input and Output was UNIVAC-I. It was produced by UNIVAC division of Remington Rand Company, USA in 1951. It was the first computer to be produced commercially. It could process Numeric as well as Alphanumeric data. Vacuum Tubes were used in this system also.
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