What is a computer? Well, the english dictionary states that it is “Also called [a] processor. An electronic device designed to accept data, perform prescribed mathematical and logical operations at high speed, and display the results of these operations” (dictionary, 2011). But, computers are much more than that. Computers are not just pieces of equipment, they are tools that make up our everyday lives and greatly help and facilitate them; they make our lives faster, easier, simpler, and more efficient. They have only been around for a small amount time. They are part of the “modern era” as some refer to it, and are the fastest growing technology in man's history (History of Computers, 2011).
There are many debates going on about which computer was the first one to be invented. This question is very difficult to answer if it is not more specific. The reason being that it all depends on what you are looking for in a computer. There are many types of computers, and they can be arranged in categories. Some examples of categories include, analog computers, hybrid computers, portable computers, desktop computers, war computers, mainframe computers, mini computers, microcomputers, and the list goes on and on (Types of Computers, 2011). The list could also include things like satellites, GPS systems, and house security alarms. All these things can be called computers because they have characteristics of computers, and are processors. For this reason, there is no definite answer to the question “Which was the first computer ever built?”. The question has not been left unanswered, though. The first programmable computer 'Turing COLOSSUS' appeared in the year 1943, and by many has been named the first computer to exist. It was used to “decipher World War II coded messages from Germany” (The History of the Computer, 2011). This was the main task that computers had at that time. They were used as “war computers” and were used to encode and decode messages from enemies. As stated above, it was the “first programmable computer”. This means that in that category, the programmable computer category, it was the first, but it does not mean that it was the first “computer” ever to be invented. Others attribute the title of “first electronic computer” and “first computer” to ENIAC. This was “the brain” of Turing Colossus (The History of the Computer, 2011). ENIAC, was developed by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania, and by many is considered the first computer. ENIAC set many records, including the cost, space, and material used to build it. It used an extraordinary number of 18,000 vacuum tubes and 1800 square ft. of space, to build. (First Computers, 2011). ENIAC was a major step in the development of the computer, but two inventions that really spurred on the building of computers were the Silicon Chip and Transistor. Both made it possible for computers such as ENIAC, to be reduced to a much smaller size, which cost less and was also more efficient and safer. The Transistor was created by people working at Bell Labs, and the Silicon Chip was invented by Jack St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments. Silicon Chips are still used in our modern portable computers, and they are the reason why we have portable computers since they greatly reduce the size needed for a processor.
The change that was brought about by the transistor and silicon chip, made computers like ENIAC smaller, safer, and more affordable. This meant that instead of only government owning computers, now businesses could own computers. The computers were still too big, dangerous, and laborious for home use. The computers were not safe, because like the ENIAC, that had so many parts, it had to be maintained by professionals. These many parts also had to be replaced very often. Because of this, these tasks were extremely time consuming and meant that the computers were laboriously slow machines and were not yet efficient.
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