HISTORY OF COMPUTERS

Some Early Developments

Computer history starts with the development of a device called the abacus by the Chinese around 3000 BC. This was used for the systematic calculation of the arithmetic operations. Al-tough there were a number of improvements in calculating devices, no conceptual changes were made until end of the 18th century. During the first decade of the 19th century, Jacquard invented an automated loom operated by a mechanism controlled by punched cards. During the same period Charles Babbage developed his differential and analytical engines. The device had provisions for inputting data, storing information, performing arithmetic operations and printing out results.This provided a base for the modern computer.
          At the end of the nineteenth century. Herman Hollerith and James Powers designed a data processing machine for processing census information. Hollerith developed codes for processing both alphabetical and numerical data.
        A significant machine built in the early 1940s was Mark I which utilized electromagnetic relays.Later in the 1940s the first electronic machine known as ENIAC ( Electronic Numeric Integrator and Calculator ) was introduced.
       During the period, 1946-52, John Von Neumann and his team developed a high-speed digital computer using vacuum tubes. This machine mainly served as a laboratory model to test many of the notions of programming and coding used in modern computers.

Computer Generations

Until 1950 the major contribution were from the Universities and Research Institutions. Almost all the later developments were due to the computer manufactures.
          From the early 1950s, computers started appearing in quick succession, each claiming an improvement over the other. They represented improvements in speed, memory (storage)systems, input and output devices and programming techniques. They also showed a continuous reduction in physical size and cost. The developments in computers are closely associated with the developments in material technology, particularly the semiconductor technology.

Computer developed after ENIAC have been classified into the following four generations:

First generation         1946-1955
Second generation     1956-1965
Third generation        1966-1975
Fourth generation      1976-present

You may notice that, from 1946, each decade has contributed one generation of computers. and magnetic core memories were developed during the period.
    All the first generation computers possessed the following characteristics as compared to the later models:

  1. Large in Size
  2. Slow operating speeds
  3. Restricted computing capacity
  4. Limited programming capabilities
  5. Short Life span
  6. Complex maintenance schedules 
    The second generation computers were marked by the use of a solid-state device called the transistor in the place of vacuum tubes. All these machines were much faster and more reliable than their earlier counterparts. Further, they occupied less space, required less power , and produced much less heat.

Fifth Generation Computers

Japan and many other countries are working on systems what are known as expert systems which will considerably improve the man-machine interaction. Such system would integrate the advancements in both hardware and software technologies and would facilitate computer-aided problem-solving with the help of organised information in many specialized areas.
        This generation of computers is termed as fifth generation computers. Al-though expert systems are expensive and time-consuming to build, they are likely to become more popular in the next few years.

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