History of Computers in the U.S. The most incredible thing ever invented is the computer. It exists in nearly every business in the U.S. and one out of every two households.

"From the first wooden abacus to the latest high-speed microprocessor, the computer has changed everyones lives." The very earliest computer is the abacus, which dates back almost 2000 years ago in Chinese history. It is a wooden rack that holds wires on which beads are strung. When these beads are moved along the wire according to special rules, all ordinary math operations can be performed. The next invention 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 Pascal s father do his taxes. In the early 1800 s, a math professor named Charles Babbage designed an automatic calculation machine. "It was steam powered and could store up to 1000 50-digit numbers.

" It was programmed with cards with holes punched in them, appropriately called punchcards. His inventions were failures for the most part because of the lack of precision used at the time and the lack of demand. After that, people began to lose interest in computers. Between 1850 and 1900 there were great advances in mathematics and physics that created a new interest. Many of these new advances involved complex calculations and formulas that took to much time for a human to do. "The first major use for a computer in the U.

S. was during the 1890 census." Herman Hollerith and James Powers, developed a new punched-card system that could automatically read information on cards without humans. Since the population of the U.

S. was increasing so fast, the computer was a good tool for getting the totals. "These advantages were noted by companys and soon led to the development of improved systems by International Business Machines (IBM), Remington-Rand, Burroughs, and other corporations." The punched-card machines were very slow, typically processing from 50 to 250 cards per minute, with each card holding up to 80 digits. But this was a huge step forward for computers.

"For more than 50 years following their first use, punched-card machines did most of the U.S's computing and mainly computing work for science." "In the 1930s the machines had become so well established and reliable, that Howard Hathaway Aiken from IBM, started the construction of a automatic digital computer based on standard IBM parts. Aiken's machine, called the Harvard Mark I, handled 23-digit numbers and could perform all four arithmetic operations.

" It also had special built-in programs to handle scientific problems. The Mark I was controlled from prepunched paper tape. "It was slow, requiring 3 to 5 seconds for a multiplication, but it was fully automatic and could complete long computations." "The outbreak of World War II produced a desperate need for computing capability for the military".

In 1942, John P. Eckert and John W. Mauchley from the University of Pennsylvania decided to build a high-speed electronic computer for them. This machine became known as ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator). "It could multiply two numbers at the rate of 300 products per second, by finding the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory.

" ENIAC was about 1,000 times faster than the old punch card systems. "ENIAC used 18,000 standard vacuum tubes, occupied 1,800 square feet of floor space, and used about 180,000 watts of electricity." It was, however, efficient in handling scientific and military operations. ENIAC is the first successful high-speed digital computer and was used in many applications from 1946 to 1955. "Mathematician John von Neumann undertook a theoretical study of computation in 1945, that demonstrated that a computer could have a very simple and yet be able to execute any kind of computation effectively by means of proper programmed control without the need for any changes in hardware." "He came up with ideas for methods of building and organizing practical, fast computers used today.

" "These ideas, which came to be called stored-program technique, became useful for later computers and were used all over the world." * Early in the 1950s two important engineering discoveries changed the electronic computer field. The first computers were made with vacuum tubes, but by the late 1950 s computers were being made out of transistors, which were smaller, less expensive, more reliable, and more efficient. In 1959, Robert Noyce, a physicist at the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation, invented the integrated circuit, a tiny chip of silicon that contained an entire electronic circuit. Gone was the bulky, unreliable, but fast machine; now computers began to become more compact, more reliable and have more capacity. These new technical discoveries rapidly found their way into new models of digital computers.

Memory storage capacities increased 800% in commercially available machines by the early 1960s and speeds increased by an equally large margin. These machines were very expensive to purchase or to rent and were especially expensive to operate because of the cost of hiring programmers to perform the complex operations the computers ran. Such computers were typically found in large computer centers--operated by industry, government, and private laboratories--staffed with many programmers and support personnel. By 1956, 76 of IBM s large computer mainframes were in use, compared with only 46 UNIVAC's. In the 1960s efforts to design and develop fastest possible computers with the greatest capacity reached a turning point with the completion of the LARC machine for Livermore Radiation Laboratories by the Sperry-Rand Corporation, and the Stretch computer by IBM.

The LARC had a core memory of 98,000 words and multiplied in 10 microseconds. Stretch was provided with several ranks of memory having slower access for the ranks of greater capacity, the fastest access time being less than 1 microseconds and the total capacity in the vicinity of 100 million words. During this time the major computer manufacturers began to offer a range of computer capabilities, as well as various computer-related equipment. These included input means such as consoles and card feeders; output means such as page printers, cathode-ray-tube displays, and graphing devices; and optional magnetic-tape and magnetic-disk file storage. These found wide use in business for such applications as accounting, payroll, inventory control, ordering supplies, and billing.

Central processing units (CPUs) for such purposes did not need to be very fast arithmetically and were primarily used to access large amounts of records on file. The greatest number of computer systems were delivered for the larger applications, such as in hospitals for keeping track of patient records, medications, and treatments given. They were also used in automated library systems and in database systems such as the Chemical Abstracts system, where computer records now on file cover nearly all known chemical compounds (Rogers, 98). The trend during the 1970s was, to some extent, away from extremely powerful, centralized computational centers and toward a broader range of applications for less-costly computer systems.

Most continuous-process manufacturing, such as petroleum refining and electrical-power distribution systems, began using computers of relatively modest capability for controlling and regulating their activities. In the 1960s the programming of applications problems was an obstacle to the self-sufficiency of moderate-sized on-site computer installations, but great advances in applications programming languages removed these obstacles. Applications languages became available for controlling a great range of manufacturing processes, for computer operation of machine tools, and for many other tasks. In 1971 Marcian E. Hoff Jr.

, an engineer at the Intel Corporation, invented the microprocessor and another stage in the development of the computer began. A new revolution in computer hardware was now well under way, involving miniaturization of computer-logic circuitry and of component manufacture by what are called large-scale integration techniques. In the 1950s it was realized that "scaling down" the size of electronic digital computer circuits and parts would increase speed and efficiency and improve performance. However, at that time the manufacturing methods were not good enough to accomplish such a task. About 1960 photoprinting of conductive circuit boards to eliminate wiring became highly developed. Then it became possible to build resistors and capacitors into the circuitry by photographic means.

In the 1970s entire assemblies, such as adders, shifting registers, and counters, became available on tiny chips of silicon. In the 1980s very large scale integration (VLSI), in which hundreds of thousands of transistors are placed on a single chip, became increasingly common. Many companies, some new to the computer field, introduced in the 1970s programmable minicomputers supplied with software packages. The size-reduction trend continued with the introduction of personal computers, which are programmable machines small enough and inexpensive enough to be purchased and used by individuals.

One of the first of such machines was introduced in January 1975. Popular Electronics magazine provided plans that would allow any electronics wizard to build his own small, programmable computer for about $380 The computer was called the Altair 8800. Its programming involved pushing buttons and flipping switches on the front of the box. It didn t include a monitor or keyboard, and its applications were very limited. Even though, many orders came in for it and several famous owners of computer and software manufacturing companies got their start in computing through the Altair.

For example, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple Computer, built a much cheaper, yet more productive version of the Altair and turned their hobby into a business. After the introduction of the Altair 8800, the personal computer industry became a fierce battleground of competition. IBM had been the computer industry standard for well over a half-century. They held their position as the standard when they introduced their first personal computer, the IBM Model 60 in 1975. However, the newly formed Apple Computer company was releasing its own personal computer, the Apple II (The Apple I was the first computer designed by Jobs and Wozniak in Wozniak's garage, which was not produced on a wide scale).

Software was needed to run the computers as well. Microsoft developed a Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) for the IBM computer while Apple developed its own software system. Because Microsoft had now set the software standard for IBM s, every software manufacturer had to make their software compatible with Microsoft s. This would lead to huge profits for Microsoft. The main goal of the computer manufacturers was to make the computer as affordable as possible while increasing speed, reliability, and capacity. Nearly every computer manufacturer accomplished this and computers popped up everywhere.

Computers were in businesses keeping track of inventories. Computers were in colleges aiding students in research. Computers were in laboratories making complex calculations at high speeds for scientists and physicists. The computer had made its mark everywhere in society and built up a huge industry.

The future is promising for the computer industry and its technology. The speed of processors is expected to double every year and a half in the coming years. As manufacturing techniques are further perfected the prices of computer systems are expected to steadily fall. However, since the microprocessor technology will be increasing, its higher costs will offset the drop in price of older processors.

In other words, the price of a new computer will stay about the same from year to year, but technology will steadily increase. Since the end of World War II, the computer industry has grown from a standing start into one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the United States. It now comprises thousands of companies, making everything from multi-million dollar high-speed supercomputers to printout paper and floppy disks. It employs millions of people and generates tens of billions of dollars in sales each year. Surely, the computer has impacted every aspect of people s lives.

It has affected the way people work and play. It has made everyone s life easier by doing difficult work for people. The computer truly is one of the most incredible inventions in history.