Humble Beginnings: The First Computer

History Pop Culture

We all have one. Laptop or desktop, Mac or PC - could we imagine a life without a computer these days? But yes, believe it or not, there was a time when they didn’t exist. So let’s find out more about the humble beginnings of the computer.

Koala on a computer

Immersed in a digital world, this Koala loves his computer

Not born from a need for games or watching YouTube, the computer was created to solve a number-crunching crisis. Imagine trying to keep track of the population in the U.S. and you will see why people craved a new way of working. And so, to avoid spending a supposed 7 years working out the census, the United States of America government made punch-based computers. But they did take up an entire room (not to put a negative spin on it or anything).

Emperor Tamarin

This Emperor Tamarin still prefers his old fashioned newspaper and pipe

In 1890, Herman Hollerith designs this punch card system to record the 1880 census. It takes him just 3 years and saves the government a whopping $5 million. You might recognise the name of this man - the company he establishes becomes IBM.

Another name - Charles Babbage. Babbage came up with the idea of a steam-driven calculating machine that would process your numbers. However, his project, funded by the English government, was a failure. His idea, nonetheless, wasn’t - and a century later the computer was created.

One final name you may know - Alan Turing. He creates the concept of a universal machine capable of processing anything that is computable. The soul of today’s computer is built on this idea.

So you have the motive, the theory and the concept. Then, combining these, the ‘Manchester Baby’ became the world’s first stored-programme computer in 1948. It was the first machine to consist of all the parts of a modern computer. Viola! The machine is born.

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Koala on a computer t-shirt Koala on a computer t-shirt

 

 





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