Past, Present, and Future of Computers

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You could order a pizza, watch cartoons, or play video games with people from

around the entire world. All are possible today with your computer. The

beginnings of the computer started off in a rather unique way. It was first

used to produce intricate designs with silk, a task far to long a tedious for a

human to do constantly. It's really unbelievable how the computers changed from

that to what they are now. Today, computers are completely astounding. The

possibilities are endless. Who knows where they will take us in the years ahead.

The computer is the most influential piece of equipment that has ever been

invented.

The begginings of the computer are actually kind of strange. It started in

the 1800's when a man named Charles Babbage wanted to make a calculating machine.

He created a machine that would calculate logarithms on a system of constant

difference and record the results on a metal plate. The machine was aptly named

the Difference Engine. Within ten years, the Analytical Engine was produced.

This machine could perform several tasks. These tasks would be givin to the

machine and could figure out values of almost any algebraic equation. Soon, a

silk weaver wanted to make very intricate designs. The designs were stored on

punch-cards which could be fed into the loom in order to produce the designs

requested. This is an odd beginning for the most powerful invention in the

world.

In the 1930's, a man named Konrad Zuse started to make his own type of

computer. Out of his works, he made several good advances in the world of

computing. First, he developed the binary coding system. This was a base two

system which allowed computers to read information with either a 1 or a 0. This

is the same as an on or and off. The on or off functions could be created

through switches. These switches were utilized with vacuum tubes. The

functions could then be relayed as fast as electrons jumping between plates.

This was all during the time of the Second World War and further advancements

were made in the area of cryptology. Computer advancements were needed in order

for the Allied Coding Center in London to decode encrypted Nazi messages. Speed

was of the essence, so scientists developed the first fully valve driven

computer. Before this, computers only had a number of valves, none were fully

driven by them because of the complexity and difficulty of producing it.

Despite the odds, several Cambridge professors accomplished the mammoth task.

Once it was built, the computer could decode the encrypted messages in enough

time to be of use, and was an important factor in the end of World War II.

The war also provided advancements in the United States as well. The

trajectory of artillery shells was a complex process that took alot of time to

compute on the field. A new, more powerful computer was in dire need. Working

with the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, the Ballistics Research

Laboratory created the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. The ENIAC

could compute things a thousand times faster than any machine built before it.

Even though it was not completed until 1946 and was not any help during the war,

it provided another launching pad for scientists and inventors of the near

future. The only problem with the ENIAC was that it was a long a tedious

process to program it. What was needed was a computation device that could

store simple A?programsA? into it's memory for call later. The Electronic

Discrete Variable Computer was the next in line. A young man named John von

Neumann had the original plan for memory. His only problem was where and how

could the instructions be stored for later use. Several ideas were pursued, but

the one found most effective at the time was magnetic tape. Sets of

instructions could be stored on the tapes and could be used to input the

information instead of hand feeding the machine every time. If you have ever

heard of a A?tape backupA? for a computer, this is exactly what this is. All the

information on your computer can be stored on the magnetic tape and could be

recovered if your system ever crashed. It's strange that a method developed so

long ago is still in use today, even though the computer today can do alot more

than simply A?computeA?.

The computer works in a relatively simple way. It consists of five parts;

input, output, memory, CPU, and arithmetic logic unit. Input is the device used

by the operator of the computer to make it to what is requested. The output

display the results of the tasks created from the input. The data goes from the

input to the memory then to the arithmetic logic unit for processing then to the

output. The data can then be stored in memory if the user desires. Before the

advent of the monitor, the user would have to hand feed cards into the input and

wouldn't see the results until it was displayed by the printer. Now that we

have monitors, we can view the instant results of the tasks. The main component

that allows the computer to do what is desired is the transistor. The

transistor can either amplify or block electrical currents to produce either a 1

or a 0. Previously done by valves and vacuum tubes, the transistor allows for

much faster processing of information. The microprocessor consists of a layered

microchip which is on a base of silicone. It is a computer in itself and is the

most integral part of the CPU in modern computers. It is a single chip which

allows all that happens on a computer. Integrated circuits, a microchip which

is layered with it's own circuitry, also provide a much more manageable memory

source. The only reason magnetic tape backups are used today is because of the

space which is needed in order to backup an entire computer. Memory for todays

computers consist of RAM or ROM. ROM is unchangable and stores the computers

most vital componants, it's operating instructions. Without this, the computer

would be completly inoperable. Programs today use the instructions in the ROM

to complete the tasks the program is attempting. This is why you cannot use IBM

programs on a Macintosh, the ROM and operating systems are different, therefor

the programing calls are different. Some powerful computers today can complete

both sets of tasks because they have both sets of instructions in the stored in

the ROM. The reason ROM is unchangable is because of people who don't know what

they are doing could mess things up on their computer forever. RAM is the

temporary memory that is in a computer. This is the memory that is used by

programs to complete their tasks. RAM is only temporary because it requires a

constant electrical charge. Once the computer is shut off, the RAM loses

everything that was in it. That is why you lose work that you have done if the

power goes of and you didn't save it first. If something needs to be saved, it

is either saved to the hard disk within the computer or a floppy disk. With

today's networking capabilities, things can be saved on completly seperate

machines called A?serversA?. Though the process of saving is the same, a server

can be located five feet away or on the opposite side of the world.

With today's technology, anything is possible with the use of a computer.

You could visit a website and find that special someone, or create a virus that

could crash thousands of machines at a single moment in time. If you have the

money, the possibilities are endless. In today's day and age, information is

sacred. One of the biggest problems found with information is what is free and

what isn't. There will always be people who want more information than will be

alloted to them, today, these people are known as hackers. Hackers use their

individual knowledge to gain access to information that is not meant for them to

know. It is almost a shame that hackers have such a bad reputation. Most are

teenagers who are looking to gain more information. Of course, some are

dedicated to destruction and random violence, but there always will be those

types of people in the world. Of course, there is personal information that is

transmitted over the Internet that no one but the inteded party and yourself

should have access to (i.e. your credit card numbers and expration dates) but

who decides what is and what isn't personal information. This is a problem that

has greatly prevented the growth of the Internet into major companies. In the

future, it can only get worse. At the rate we are going, everything will be

computerized and stored electronicaly. This means that with the know-how,

anyone could access your information. If you have ever seen the movie A?The NetA?

, you know exactly what I am talking about. If all information is stored

electronicaly, anyone with the desire can view, change, remove, or add your

personal attributes. With enough effort, one could take away someone's entire

identity. This may seem like a futuristic sci-fi novel, but it could be in our

not so distant future.

The future of technology can only be guessed upon. I believe that the

connection between computers and humans will become much closer. People will

feel the need to become A?oneA? with their machines and possibly even be physicaly

linked with them. Information will be stored, transmitted, and viewed completly

electronicaly. Perhaps an implant directly into the brain will be the link

between humans and computers. This implant could feed you information directly

off the Internet and several other sources. I personally believe that this is

extremely scary. Once that link is made, there will be the desire to get even

closer to the computer. A new, even more intimate link will be made. The cycle

will continue untill there is no line between humans and elctronics. We will

all be robots just reacting to instructions and following protocol. This is the

most horrifing thing I can imagine. Our identities will be removed and we will

all become one. I dont know, maybe I need to stop for a minuet before I

completly terrify myslef.