Past, Present, and Future of Computers


Imagine being able to do almost anything right from your own living room.
You could order a pizza, watch cartoons, or play video games with people from
around the entire world. All are possible today with your computer. The
beginnings of the computer started off in a rather unique way. It was first
used to produce intricate designs with silk, a task far to long a tedious for a
human to do constantly. It\'s really unbelievable how the computers changed from
that to what they are now. Today, computers are completely astounding. The
possibilities are endless. Who knows where they will take us in the years ahead.
The computer is the most influential piece of equipment that has ever been
invented.
The begginings of the computer are actually kind of strange. It started in
the 1800\'s when a man named Charles Babbage wanted to make a calculating machine.
He created a machine that would calculate logarithms on a system of constant
difference and record the results on a metal plate. The machine was aptly named
the Difference Engine. Within ten years, the Analytical Engine was produced.
This machine could perform several tasks. These tasks would be givin to the
machine and could figure out values of almost any algebraic equation. Soon, a
silk weaver wanted to make very intricate designs. The designs were stored on
punch-cards which could be fed into the loom in order to produce the designs
requested. This is an odd beginning for the most powerful invention in the
world.
In the 1930\'s, a man named Konrad Zuse started to make his own type of
computer. Out of his works, he made several good advances in the world of
computing. First, he developed the binary coding system. This was a base two
system which allowed computers to read information with either a 1 or a 0. This
is the same as an on or and off. The on or off functions could be created
through switches. These switches were utilized with vacuum tubes. The
functions could then be relayed as fast as electrons jumping between plates.
This was all during the time of the Second World War and further advancements
were made in the area of cryptology. Computer advancements were needed in order
for the Allied Coding Center in London to decode encrypted Nazi messages. Speed
was of the essence, so scientists developed the first fully valve driven
computer. Before this, computers only had a number of valves, none were fully
driven by them because of the complexity and difficulty of producing it.
Despite the odds, several Cambridge professors accomplished the mammoth task.
Once it was built, the computer could decode the encrypted messages in enough
time to be of use, and was an important factor in the end of World War II.
The war also provided advancements in the United States as well. The
trajectory of artillery shells was a complex process that took alot of time to
compute on the field. A new, more powerful computer was in dire need. Working
with the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, the Ballistics Research
Laboratory created the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. The ENIAC
could compute things a thousand times faster than any machine built before it.
Even though it was not completed until 1946 and was not any help during the war,
it provided another launching pad for scientists and inventors of the near
future. The only problem with the ENIAC was that it was a long a tedious
process to program it. What was needed was a computation device that could
store simple ³programs² into it\'s memory for call later. The Electronic
Discrete Variable Computer was the next in line. A young man named John von
Neumann had the original plan for memory. His only problem was where and how
could the instructions be stored for later use. Several ideas were pursued, but
the one found most effective at the time was magnetic tape. Sets of
instructions could be stored on the tapes and could be used to input the
information instead of hand feeding the machine every time. If you have ever
heard of a ³tape backup² for a computer, this is exactly what this is. All the
information on your computer can be stored on the magnetic tape and could be
recovered if your system ever crashed. It\'s strange that a method developed so
long ago is still in use today, even though the computer today can do alot more
than simply ³compute².
The computer works in a relatively simple way. It