History of Computer The first computers were people! That is, "Computer" was originally a job title: it was used to describe those human beings (predominantly women) whose job it was to perform the repetitive calculations required to compute such things as navigational tables, tide charts, and planetary positions for astronomical almanacs. Boredom would quickly set in, leading to carelessness, leading to mistakes, and even on your best days you wouldn't be producing answers very fast. Therefore, inventors have been searching for hundreds of years for a way to mechanize (that is, find a mechanism that can perform) this task. The abacus was an early aid for mathematical computations. Its only value is that it aids the memory of the human performing the calculation. A skilled abacus operator can work on addition and subtraction problems at the speed of a person equipped with a hand calculator (multiplication and division are slower). The abacus is attributed in China. In fact, the oldest surviving abacus was used in 300 B.C. by the Babylonians. The abacus is still in use today. A modern abacus consists of rings that slide over rods, but the older one pictured below dates from the time when pebbles were used for counting (the word "calculus" comes from the Latin word for pebble) the numbers. I have given below the pictures for pebbled abacus, they have used in the past: By John Nappier In 1617 an eccentric (some say mad) Scotsman named John Napier invented logarithms, which are a technology that allows multiplication to be performed via addition. The magic ingredient is the logarithm of each operand, which was originally obtained from a printed table. But Napier also invented an alternative to tables, where the logarithm values were carved on ivory sticks which are now called Napier's Bones. Napier's invention led directly to the slide rule, first built in England in 1632 and still in use in the 1960's by the NASA engineers of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs which landed men on the moon. The below pictures are about Napier's Bones: By Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci (14521519) made drawings of geardriven calculating machines but apparently never built any. The first geardriven calculating machine to be built was probably the calculating clock, so named by its inventor, the German professor Wilhelm Schickard in 1623. This device got little publicity because Schickard died soon afterward in the bubonic plague. By Blaise Pascal In 1642 Blaise Pascal, at age 19, invented the Pascaline as an aid for his father who was a tax collector. Pascal built 50 of this geardriven onefunction calculator (it could only add) but couldn't sell many because of their exorbitant cost and because they weren’t that accurate (at that time it was not possible to fabricate gears with the required precision). Just a few years after Pascal, the German Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (coinventor with Newton of calculus) managed to build a fourfunction (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) calculator that he called the stepped reckoner because, instead of gears, it employed fluted drums having ten flutes arranged around their circumference in a stairstep fashion. Although the stepped reckoner employed the decimal number system (each drum had 10 flutes), Leibniz was the first to advocate use of the binary number system which is fundamental to the operation of modern computers. Leibniz is considered one of the greatest of the philosophers but he died poor and alone. By Charles Babbage By 1822 the English mathematician Charles Babbage was proposing a steam driven calculating machine the size of a room, which he called the Difference Engine. This machine would be able to compute tables of numbers, such as logarithm tables. He obtained government funding for this project due to the importance of numeric tables in ocean navigation. By promoting their commercial and military navies, the British government had managed to become the earth's greatest empire. But in that time frame the British government was publishing a seven volume set of navigation tables which came with a companion volume of corrections which showed that the set had over 1000 numerical errors. It was hoped that Babbage's machine could eliminate errors in these types of tables. But construction of Babbage's Difference Engine proved exceedingly difficult and the project soon became the most expensive government funded project up to that point in English history. Ten years later the device was still nowhere near complete, acrimony abounded between all involved, and funding dried up. The device was never finished. The below picture for Charles Babbage's different engine:
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