A Short History of Computers
The following is a very short history of computers. Perhaps it will help you understand where computers came from and where they are going.
- A modern computer is one which not only can store data and do calculations and
other processing but also can store a program which provides instructions on what
processing is to be done on the data. This concept was first developed in the mid 1930s.
- The first modern computer was built in the 1940s during the Second World War. However, since
this development was secret (it was used to help with code breaking), early computer histories
did not include this development.
- In the 1950s, other computers were devdeloped by universities and governments. These typically
used vacuum tubes for the storage of data and processing. As a result these computers were very
large, often filling a room; stored only relatively small amounts of data; and had very slow
processing. They were also very expensive to build.
- In the late 1950s the transistor was developed. These replaced vacuum tubes so made it possible
to make smaller, less expensive and more efficient computers.
- In the 1960s, more powerful computers were developed which included such things as magnetic
tapes or disks for data storage. These were now inexpensive enough to be affordable by large companies
or schools. Such companies as IBM (International Business Machines) grew and the use of computers
became more common.
- In late 1960s and early 1970s the microchip was developed with could include thousands of
transistors within one small package (the chip). Microchips were developed which included
memory as well as processing facilities. These became microprocessors. These are now
the basis for the modern computers used today including desktop computers, laptop computers,
notebook computers, tables, and smart phones.
- Various companies developed personal computers (PCs) during the 1970s including
Apple (the Apple and Apple 2 computers) and the Tandy Corporation the Radio Shack TRS-80).
- In 1981 IBM started selling the IBM PC. It became the standard for personal computers with
competition from Apple Corporation. Rather than develop it own operating system for the PC,
IBM used the Disk Operating System (DOS) developed by Microsoft. It was called PC-DOS. However,
Microsoft kept the ownership of DOS and eventually started selling it separately to other
computer manufacturers as MS-DOS (Microsoft DOS). The PC, originally sold by IBM and then
eventually by other manufacturers, become a standard for personal computing.
- In 1984 the Apple company introduced its MacIntosh computer to rival IBMs PCs. Eventually
they developed a "Windows" type operating system for the McIntosh which made its use more
intuitive. One could use a mouse to point to objects or text on the screen to select
them or process them. This was so popular that Microsoft developed its Windows operating
To be continued............
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