Rudimentary calculating devices first appeared in antiquity and mechanical calculating aids were invented in the 17th century. The first recorded use of the word "computer" is also from the 17th century, applied to human computers, people who performed calculations, often as employment. The first computer devices were conceived of in the 19th century, and only emerged in their modern form in the 1940s. First general-purpose computing device
A portion of Babbage's Difference engine.
Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer. Considered the "father of the computer", he conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century. After working on his revolutionary difference engine, designed to aid in navigational calculations, in 1833 he realized that a much more general design, an Analytical Engine, was possible. The input of programs and data was to be provided to the machine via punched cards, a method being used at the time to direct mechanical looms such as the Jacquard loom. For output, the machine would have a printer, a curve plotter and a bell. The machine would also be able to punch numbers onto cards to be read in later. The Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory, making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in modern terms as Turing-complete. The machine was about a century ahead of its time. All the parts for his machine had to be made by hand - this was a major problem for a device with thousands of parts. Eventually, the project was dissolved with the decision of the British Government to cease funding. Babbage's failure to complete the analytical engine can be chiefly attributed to difficulties not only of politics and financing, but also to his desire to develop an increasingly sophisticated computer and to move ahead faster than anyone else could follow. Nevertheless his son, Henry Babbage, completed a simplified version of the analytical engine's computing unit (the mill) in 1888. He gave a successful demonstration of its use in computing tables in 1906. Analog computers
Sir William Thomson's third tide-predicting machine design, 1879-81 During the first half of the 20th century, many scientific computing needs were met by increasingly sophisticated analog computers, which used a direct mechanical or electrical model of the problem as a basis for computation. However, these were not programmable and generally lacked the versatility and accuracy of modern digital computers. The first modern analog computer was a tide-predicting machine, invented by Sir William Thomson in 1872. The differential analyser, a mechanical analog computer designed to solve differential equations by integration using wheel-and-disc mechanisms, was conceptualized in 1876 by James Thomson, the brother of the more famous Lord Kelvin. The art of mechanical analog computing reached its zenith with the differential analyzer, built by H. L. Hazen and Vannevar Bush at MIT starting in 1927. This built on the mechanical integrators of James Thomson and the torque amplifiers invented by H. W. Nieman. A dozen of these devices were built before their obsolescence became obvious. The modern computer
Alan Turing was the first to conceptualize the modern computer, a device that became known as the Universal Turing machine. The principle of the modern computer was first described by computer scientist Alan Turing, who set out the idea in his seminal 1936 paper, On Computable Numbers. Turing reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with the formal and simple hypothetical devices that became known as Turing machines. He proved that some such machine would be capable of performing any conceivable...
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