History of the Computer Industry in AmericaAmerica and the Computer Industry
Only once in a lifetime will a new invention come about to touch every aspect of our lives. Such a device that changes the way
we work, live, and play is a special one, indeed.
A machine that has done all this and more now exists in nearly every business
in the U.S. and one out of every two households (Hall, 156). This incredible invention is the computer. The electronic computer
has been around for over a half-century, but its ancestors have been around for 2000 years. However, only in the last 40 years
has it changed the American society.
From the first wooden abacus to the latest high-speed microprocessor, the computer has
changed nearly every aspect of peoples lives for the better.The very earliest existence of the modern day computers
ancestor is the abacus. These date back to almost 2000 years ago. It is simply a wooden rack holding parallel wires on which
beads are strung. When these beads are moved along the wire according to "programming" rules that the user must me!
morize, all ordinary arithmetic
operations can be performed (Soma, 14).
The next innovation in computers took place in 1694 when Blaise Pascal invented
the first "digital calculating machine". It could only add numbers and they had to be entered by turning dials. It was designed to
help Pascals father who was a tax collector (Soma, 32).In the early 1800s, a mathematics professor named Charles
Babbage designed an automatic calculation machine. It was steam powered and could store up to 1000 50-digit numbers. Built
in to his machine were operations that included everything a modern general-purpose computer would need.
programmed by--and stored data on--cards with holes punched in them, appropriately called "punch cards". His inventions
were failures for the most part because of the lack of precision machining techniques used at the time and the lack of demand
for such a device (Soma, 46).After Babbage, people began to lose interest in computers. However, between 1850 and 1900
there were great advances!
in mathematics and physics that
began to rekindle the interest (Osborne, 45).
Many of these new advances involved complex calculations and formulas that
were very time consuming for human calculation. The first major use for a computer in the U.S. was during the 1890 census.
Two men, Herman Hollerith and James Powers, developed a new punched-card system that could automatically read
information on cards without human intervention (Gulliver, 82). Since the population of the U.S. was increasing so fast, the
computer was an essential tool in tabulating the totals.These advantages were noted by commercial industries and soon led to
the development of improved punch-card business-machine systems by International Business Machines (IBM),
Remington-Rand, Burroughs, and other corporations.
By modern standards the punched-card machines were slow, typically
processing from 50 to 250 cards per minute, with each card holding up to 80 digits. At the time, however, punched cards were
an enormous step forward; they provide!
d a means of input, output, and
memory storage on a massive scale. For more than 50 years following their first use, punched-card machines did the bulk of
the world's business computing and a good portion of the computing work in science (Chposky, 73).By the late 1930s
punched-card machine techniques had become so well established and reliable that Howard Hathaway Aiken, in collaboration
with engineers at IBM, undertook construction of a large automatic digital computer based on standard IBM electromechanical
Aiken's machine, called the Harvard Mark I, handled 23-digit numbers and could perform all four arithmetic operations.Also, it had special built-in programs to handled logarithms and trigonometric functions. The Mark I was controlled from
prepunched paper tape. Output was by card punch and electric typewriter.
It was slow, requiring 3 to 5 seconds for a
multiplication, but it was fully automatic and could complete long computations without human intervention (Chposky, 103).The
outbreak of World !
War II produced a desperate need
for computing capability, especially for the military. New weapons systems were produced which needed trajectory tables and
other essential data. In 1942, John P.
Eckert, John W. Mauchley, and their associates at the University