Computer history timeline

The computer history timeline is longer than you might think. You might say the computer has been in development since at least 35,000 B.C., when so-called "tally sticks" were invented to help people count. And since then, we've always been working on ways to compute information better, faster, and easier and the history of the computer is a long one. That said, though, the modern computer history timeline probably begins about World War II, when a man named Konrad Zuse invented the first fully functioning binary computer; it was called the Z1 and it functioned much like we think of calculators functioning today.

So who invented the computer?

In 1939, Zuse's second incarnation, the Z2, was an electromechanical computer that was fully functioning; both it and its successor, the Z3, produced secret codes for the German army.

This allowed the Germans to have an advantage for little while, but pretty soon, British mathematician Alan Turing created what was called the Colossus Mark I.

The Colossus was the first to digitally electronic computer that was also fully programmable; it was used at Bletchley Park in England and was developed between 1942 and 1943. Encrypted German messages were read by the Colossus; it's no mistake that Turing's invention is a major reason the D-Day invasion was a success.

To backtrack a little bit, though, in America, other inventors who invented the computer Clifford Berry and John V. Atanasoff developed what they christened the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, nicknamed the "ABC." This was the first digital electronic computer. It was built by hand and used more than 300 vacuum tubes. A mechanically rotating drum held fixed capacitors in it, and this functioned as the memory.

In 1945, the computer history timeline took a big jump with ENIAC, created by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. The ENIAC (short for Electronic Numerator Integrator Analyzer and Computer) weighed a staggering 27 tons and took up an entire large room. It could perform equations totaling 5000 additions, but it was also very noisy when it did so. Before it was invented, though, an entire roomful of people was needed to solve the same equation.

Modern computers

The first hint of modern computer technology probably made its appearance in the computer history timeline in 1948, at Manchester University. This "computer" could store programs much as we store programs our own computers today, and was affectionately christened "the baby." This was probably the first computer that was truly considered a predecessor of today's modern computer.

Commercial computers

In history of the computer the first commercially available computer on the computer history timeline was the UNIVAC I, or the Universal Automatic Computer. Remington Rand manufactured it in the United States and in June of 1951, the US Census Bureau was the first to receive it. This computer used 5200 vacuum tubes and consumed 25 kW of power. In total, 46 machines were ultimately sold and cost more than $1 million each. At this time, computers were still limited by their large size and the heat they produced, which was mostly because of the vacuum tubes that were required to make them.

However, by the late 1950s, the vacuum tube went the way of the dinosaur when it was replaced by the transistor. In 1959, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas invented the monolithic integrated circuit, which is now known as the microchip. A few months later, Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor in California made the same "discovery." There was quite a legal battle between the two companies for several years, but eventually, the two products were cross licensed, with Kilby receiving the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000.

Personal computers

Ultimately part of the history of the computer, the microchip allowed small personal computers to be developed, such as those we have today. The first of these was commercially available in the mid-to-late 70s, and began to be more popular by the early 1980s. By the last decade of the 20th century, the personal computer began to be a ubiquitous part of today's culture, most especially with the explosion of what we now know as the Internet.

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