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History of Computers



The first use of the word "Computer" was recorded in 1613, referring to a person who carried out calculations, or computations, and the word continued with the same meaning until the middle of the 20th century.

From the end of the 19th century onwards, the word began to take on its more familiar meaning, describing a machine that carries out computations.

The history of the modern computer begins with two separate technologies—automated calculation and programmability — but no single device can be identified as the earliest computer, partly because of the inconsistent application of that term. 

A few devices are worth mentioning though, like some mechanical aids to computing, which were very successful and survived for centuries until the advent of the electronic calculator, like the Sumerian abacus, designed around 2500 BC which descendant won a speed competition against a modern desk calculating machine in Japan in 1946, the slide rules, invented in the 1620s, which were carried on five Apollo space missions, including to the moon and arguably the astrolabe and the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient astronomical computer built by the Greeks around 80 BC. 

The Greek mathematician Hero of Alexandria (c. 10–70 AD) built a mechanical theater which performed a play lasting 10 minutes and was operated by a complex system of ropes and drums that might be considered to be a means of deciding which parts of the mechanism performed which actions and when. This is the essence of programmability.

Around the end of the tenth century, the French monk Gerbert d'Aurillac brought back from Spain the drawings of a machine invented by the Moors that answered Yes or No to the questions it was asked (binary arithmetic).

Again in the thirteenth century, the monks Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon built talking androids without any further development (Albertus Magnus complained that he had wasted forty years of his life when Thomas Aquinas, terrified by his machine, destroyed it).

In 1642, the Renaissance saw the invention of the mechanical calculator, a device that could perform all four arithmetic operations without relying on human intelligence.

The mechanical calculator was at the root of the development of computers in two separate ways; initially, it is in trying to develop more powerful and more flexible calculators that the computer was first theorized by Charles Babbage and then developed, leading to the development of mainframe computers in the 1960s, but also the microprocessor, which started the personal computer revolution, and which is now at the heart of all computer systems regardless of size or purpose, was invented serendipitously by Intel during the development of an electronic calculator, a direct descendant to the mechanical calculator.


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