The Invention of Computer and Its Significance in Human History

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  • Topic: Computer, ENIAC, Harvard Mark I
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The Invention of Computer and its Significance in Human History Abstract: In human history, there are lots of great inventions which made great effects to our life; we can even say, they dominated the development of human culture. This paper would say something about an effective invention which is fast developing and have the greatest influence on human society—computer and its history and significance. The writer believes, before people see computer as a convenient and useful tool even can’t leave it, it’s necessary to review its history of development and knowing its significance would make a good effect to the development in the future.

Key words: Computer; Development; IBM

Webster's Dictionary defines "computer" as any programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data."Who invented the computer?" is not a question with a simple answer. The real answer is that many inventors contributed to the history of computers and that a computer is a complex piece of machinery made up of many parts, each of which can be considered a separate invention. In fact, the first computers were people! That is, electronic computers (and the earlier mechanical computers) were given this name because they performed the work that had previously been assigned to people. "Computer" was originally a job title: it was used to describe those human beings (predominantly women) whose job it was to perform the repetitive calculations required to compute such things as navigational tables, tide charts, and planetary positions for astronomical almanacs. Then the abacus, logarithms, Napier's Bones, slide rule, calculating clock, Pascaline, stepped reckoner, punched cards, Difference Engine, Analytic Engine, and so many fascinating machines were produced one by one.[1] Now, we focus on the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). It was the direct forefather of the modern computer because the problems associated with its operation led to the development of the latter. Designed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert of the Moore School, they get help from John von Neumann and others. In 1944, the Havard Mark I is introduced. Based on a series of proposals from Howard Aiken in the late 1930's, the Mark I computes complex tables for the U.S. Navy. It uses a paper tape to store instructions and Aiken hires Grace Hopper ("Amazing Grace") as one of three programmers working on the machine. Thomas J. Watson Sr. plays a pivotal role involving his company, IBM, in the machine's development. Early in 1945, with the Mark I stopped for repairs, Hopper notices a moth in one of the relays, possibly causing the problem. From this day on, Hopper refers to fixing the system as "debugging". The same year Von Neumann proposes the concept of a "stored program" in a paper that is never officially published. Work completes on ENIAC in 1946. Although only three years old the machine is woefully behind on technology, but the inventors opt to continue while working on a more modern machine, the EDVAC. Programming ENIAC requires it to be rewired. A later version eliminates this problem. To make the machine appear more impressive to reporters during its unveiling, a team member (possibly Eckert) puts translucent spheres(halved ping pong balls) over the lights. The US patent office will later recognize this as the first computer. The next year scientists employed by Bell Labs complete work on the transistor (John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956), and by 1948 teams around the world work on a "stored program" machine. The first, nicknamed "Baby", is a prototype of a much larger machine under construction in Britain and is shown in June 1948. The impetus over the next 5 years for advances in computers is mostly the government and military. UNIVAC, delivered in 1951 to the Census Bureau, results in a tremendous financial loss to its manufacturer, Remington-Rand. The next year Grace Hopper,...
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