A big Huzzah for Technology



Credit// Microsoft

By: Ashwini Selvakumaran

In the world of ever evolving social media, the movement of the fast-paced technology has winded up in our gracious fingertips. However, if we take a peek back in time, how did the evlotion of computers, turn into today’s whirlwind production of laptops, and gadgets galore?


As the late Steve Jobs said, Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.


The word "computer" was first used in 1613, to describe a human who performed calculations or computations. This definition remained the same until the end of the 19th century, when the industrial revolution gave rise to machines whose primary purpose was calculating.


The start of the whole chain reaction of computers was due to mathematical genius Charles Babbage (1791-1871). Frustrated at the many errors he found while examining calculations for the Royal Astronomical Society, Babbage knew there had to be a way to perform calcilations faster, and more efficently. With that thought, the automation of computers had begun. By 1812, Babbage noticed a natural harmony between machines and mathematics. He started cracking at the first of many attempts to build a machine.

Credit// Bush

The first serious attempt at building a computer for scientists however, was made by Vannevar Bush (1890–1974), an engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the Government. In the 1930s, Bush and one of his students, Harold Locke Hazen, built an analog computer called the "differential analyzer." It was a collection of gears, shafts, and wires. It was better than the calculators of the time, but it was still slow, often needing two or three days of set-up time before it could solve a problem.


Early computers were also bulky and large. A faster and more accurate differential analyzer was built in 1935, and were composed of a special component called Vaccum tubes. These were electron tubes; from which almost all air or gas had been evacuated. This device was used extensively in radio and electronics during the 1900’s.


From the introduction of vaccuum tubes emerged a breakthrough; From 1956 to 1963 ‘second generation computers’ as they were come to called, were significantly faster than their predecessors. Another significant change was in the size of the computers, which were smaller. Transistor computers used transistors, electron circuits which also developed core memory in computers.


Though transistors were clearly an improvement over the vacuum tube, they still generated a great deal of heat, which damaged the computer's sensitive internal parts. Integrated circuits, or ‘microchips’ were introduced, which quickly solved the problem, developing it with quartz rock to slow down the heat. From 1964 to 1971 computers went through a significant change in terms of speed. “Semiconductors” became the heart and brains of computers, allowing millions of components to be stored in a single disc, extending a computer’s memory. The "conditional control transfer," was also introduced, which allowed the computer to be stopped at any point and then resumed, allowed for greater versatility in computer programming.


The key element to the fourth generation of computers, was the central processing unit, which allowed all computer functions to be coordinated through a single source.This not only increased the speed of computers but also made them smaller, more powerful, and less expensive. In addition, monitors were now allowing people to interact with computing machines. As computers were first developed up for scientific and Government usage, this expressed a significant breakthrough in the development of computers for the masses.

By the late 70s and early 80s assembled personal computers for home use, such as Apple and the first IBM computer, were making their way onto the market. After the integrated circuits, the only place to go was down - in size, that is. Large scale integration (LSI) could fit hundreds of components onto one chip. Personal computers and their ability to create networks eventually would lead to the Internet in the early 1990s. Computer memory and storage also went through major improvements, with an increase in storage capacity and speed.


Today, we carry more computing power on our smartphones than was available in these early models. Technology was first introduced as a budding solution to the cramped fingers of tired mathematicians and scientists, frustrated at solving problems. Technology has developed to a point where we can have a touch of virtual reality right in our fingertips. However, it is remarkable to enter the past, and view the origins of computers from early times.

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