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Preston University

A Brief History of Computers

From the early days to the

Department of Computer

The early days

Abacus c. 4000 BCE

On the left, you see two abacuses (abaci
is also correct). On both abacuses, we
see the number 1998. The top area of
each abacus is used for fives, and the
bottom area is used for ones. Abacuses
are used for doing arithmetic. When
doing arithmetic, you move the beads.
The position of the beads represents the
sum, or product, so far. It is how you can
remember the partial sum or product.
Experts in the use of the abacus can be
very fast (and accurate), often faster
than an expert with a calculator,
especially addition and subtraction.
The abacus is still a mainstay of basic
computation in some societies.

Slide rules
The slide rule, also known colloquially as a slipstick,is a
mechanical analog computer. The slide rule is used
primarily for multiplication and division, and also for
functions such as roots, logarithms and trigonometry,
but is not normally used for addition or subtraction.
William Oughtred and others developed the slide rule in
the 17th century based on the emerging work on
logarithms by John Napier.


Before the advent of the pocket

calculator, the slide rule was the
most commonly used calculation
tool in science and engineering.
The use of slide rules continued
to grow through the 1950s and
1960s even as digital computing
devices were being gradually
introduced; but around 1974 the
electronic scientific calculator
made it largely obsolete and most
suppliers left the business.

Wilhelm Schickard (1592 1635) was

a German scientist who designed a
calculating machine in 1623.
Unfortunately a fire destroyed the
machine as it was being built in 1624
and Schickard decided to abandon his
Unknown to the world for more than
three centuries it was rediscovered in
1957 and therefore had no impact on
the development of mechanical

Blaise Pascal, a famous French philosopher

and mathematician invented the first digital
calculator, the Pascaline, to help his father with
his work collecting taxes.
He worked on it for three years between 1642
and 1645.
The device resembled a mechanical calculator
of the 1940's. It could add and subtract by the
simple rotation of dials on the machines face.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 1716) was a

German philosopher and mathematician.
While working on adding automatic
multiplication and division to Pascal's calculator,
he was the first to describe a pinwheel calculator
in 1685 and invented the Leibniz wheel, used in
the arithmometer, the first mass-produced
mechanical calculator.
He also refined the binary number system,
which is at the foundation of virtually all digital

Joseph Marie Charles, nicknamed Jacquard

(1752 1834, played an important role in the
development of the earliest programmable loom
(the "Jacquard loom"), which in turn played an
important role in the development of other
programmable machines, such as computers.

This portrait of Jacquard was woven in silk on

a Jacquard loom and required 24,000 punched
cards to create (1839).
It was only produced to order.
Charles Babbage owned one of these
portraits ; it inspired him in using perforated
cards in his analytical engine

Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar (17851870) was a

French inventor and entrepreneur best known for
designing, patenting and manufacturing the first
commercially successful mechanical calculator, the
The device was manufactured from 1851 to 1915 - there
were about 5,000 machines built during that time
Eventually about twenty European companies built clones
of the Arithmometer until the beginning of World War II.

Charles Babbage (1791 1871)

was an English mathematician and
is recognized today as the Father of
Computers because his impressive
designs for the Difference Engine
and Analytical Engine
foreshadowed the invention of the
modern electronic digital computer.

The Difference Engine was never

fully built. Babbage drew up the
blueprints for it while still an
undergrad at Cambridge
University in England.
But while it was in process of
being manufactured, he got a
better idea and left this work
unfinished in favor of the
Analytical Engine illustrated on
the next slide.


The Analytical Engine was

eventually built completely in
the latter half of the 19 th century,
by Georg and Edvard Schuetz as
per Babbages blueprints.

Film footage exists of the

machine in operation, and it is
truly a sight to behold, a
testament not only to Babbages
genius, but also to the
manufacturing prowess of the

The Analytical Engine incorporated an

arithmetical unit, control flow in the
form of conditional branching and
loops, and integrated memory, making
it the first Turing-complete design for a
general-purpose computer.

Lady Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815

1856), was a mathematician who helped
Babbage in his work.
Above all, she documented his work, which
Babbage never could bother to do. As a result
we know about Babbage at all.
Lady Augusta Ada also wrote programs to be
run on Babbages machines, what made her
the first computer programmer.


Hermann Hollerith (1860 1920) worked as a

statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau in the
1880s and 1890s.
The 1880 census took seven years to be
processed. Hollerith deduced that the next
census would take longer than ten years.
So, as the saying goes, necessity became the
mother of invention and Hollerith designed
and built the Census Counting Machine
illustrated in the next slide.

Punched cards (a la Jacquard looms)

were used to collect the census data
(the origin of the IBM punched
cards) and the cards were fed into a
sorting machine before being read
by the census counting machine
which recorded and tabulated the
The 1890 census took just three
months to process even though
quite a bit more data was collected
than ever before.

Holleriths company, the

Tabulating Machine Company,
became the Computer
Tabulating Recording Company
in 1913 after merging with
another company that produced
a similar product.
1917: CTRC starts operations in
Brazil; the first big project was
the 1920 census
In 1924, the company was
renamed International Business

Konrad Zuse and the Z3

The Z3 was an electromechanical

computer designed by Konrad Zuse
(1910-1995) , a German scientist.

The Z3 was one of the first machines that

could be considered a complete
computing machine. Program code and
data were stored on punched 35 mm

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941.

The German Aircraft Research Institute
used it to perform statistical analyses of
wing flutter; the machine was destroyed
in 1943 during an Allied bombardment.

Zuse asked the German government for

money to develop a new machine, but
funding was denied, since such
development was deemed "not warimportant"

While being a professor of Physics at Harvard, Howard Aiken (1900 1973) was
supported by IBM to build the ASCC computer (Automatic Sequence Controlled
Calculator), aka Harvard Mark I.
The computer had mechanical relays (switches) which flip-flopped back and forth
to represent mathematical data. It was huge, weighting some 35 tons with 500
miles of wiring.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray

Hopper (19061992) was an
American computer scientist
and United States Navy officer.
A pioneer in the field, she was
one of the first computer
programmers, and developed
the first compiler for a
computer programming

One day, the program Dr. Hopper was running gave incorrect
results and, upon examination, a moth was found blocking
one of the relays. The bug was removed and the program
performed to perfection. Since then, a program error in a
computer has been called a bug

From the electromechanical computers

to mainframes

The vacuum tube

In electronics, a vacuum tube ("tube" or "valve") is a
device that can be used to replace
electromechanical relays, because it is faster
Valves made electronic computing possible for the
first time, but the cost and relatively short Mean Time
Between Failure (MBTF) of valves were limiting
factors in the 1930s.
Later work confirmed that tube unreliability was not
as serious an issue as generally believed; the 1946
ENIAC, with over 17,000 tubes, had a tube failure
(which took 15 minutes to locate and fix) on average
every two days.

Alan Mathison Turing (1912 1954),

was an English mathematician,
cryptographer and computer scientist.
He was highly influential in the
development of computer science,
providing a formalization of the
"computation" with the Turing machine,
which played a significant role in the
creation of the modern computer.
Turing is widely considered to be the
father of computer science and artificial

During WWII Turing made a major contribution to the

development of a sophisticated computing machine
called Colossus which was used to help crack the
codes of the German Enigma Machine.
The Enigma machine was an electro-mechanical
machine used for the encryption and decryption of
secret messages, widely used for the Germans in the
Turings work helped Allied codebreakers to decrypt
a vast number of messages that had been enciphered
using the Enigma. The intelligence gleaned from this
source was a substantial aid to the Allied war effort.

Germans working with the Enigma

The BBC broadcasted in 1991 the serie 'The dream

machine. You can know something more about Turing

The Colossus
Eleven Colossus
were built
during World
War II (one Mark
1, ten Mark 2)
the first started
running in Feb

Colossus Mark 1 contained 1,500 electronic

valves; Colossus Mark 2 with 2,400 valves was
both 5 times faster and simpler to operate than
Mark 1, greatly speeding the decoding process.

Alan Turing: a tragic character

Turing was an athlete: he achieved world-class Marathon standards - his best time was only 11 minutes
slower than the winner in the 1948 Olympic Games. In a 1948 cross-country race he finished ahead of
Tom Richards who won the silver medal in the Olympics.

Turing's homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal
in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an
alternative to prison

He died in 1954, several weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning - an inquest determined
it was suicide. When his body was discovered an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the
apple was not tested for cyanide, it is speculated that this was the mean by which a fatal dose was

On 10September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an
official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Turing was treated after
the war

The ENIAC: Electronic Numerical Integrator and

This 1946 photograph shows
ENIAC , the first general
purpose electronic computer,
housed at the University of
Developed in secret starting
in 1943, ENIAC was
designed to calculate artillery
firing tables for the US Army.

The ENIAC: Electronic Numerical Integrator and

When ENIAC was announced in 1946 it
was heralded in the press as a "Giant
Brain (in Brazil, Crebro Eletrnico). It
boasted speeds one thousand times faster
than electro-mechanical machines.
The inventors of ENIAC promoted the
spread of the new technologies through a
series of lectures on the construction of
electronic digital computers at the
University of Pennsylvania in 1946, known
as the Moore School Lectures.

The ENIAC: Electronic Numerical Integrator and

Besides its speed, the most remarkable
thing about ENIAC was its size and
ENIAC contained 17,468 valves, around 5
million hand-soldered joints. It weighed 30
ton., was roughly 2.4 m 0.9 m 30 m and
took up 167 m2.
Input was possible from an IBM card reader,
and an IBM card punch was used for output.
These cards could be used to produce
printed output offline using an IBM
accounting machine, such as the IBM 405.

Programming the ENIAC

The task of programming was complex. After the program was figured out on paper, the
process of getting the program "into" the ENIAC by manipulating its switches and cables took
days. This was followed by a period of verification and debugging.

John von Neumann was a mathematician

working on the hydrogen bomb project and
became aware of the ENIAC
Von Neumann came up with the bright idea
of using part of the ENIAC internal memory
(called Primary Memory) to store the
program inside the computer and have the
computer go get the instructions from its
own memory - the stored program concept
was born!

ENIAC was conceived and designed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert of the
University of Pennsylvania they stole ideas from John Vincent Atanasoff , from the Iowa
State University and Clifford Berry.
Mauchly and Eckert successfully filed for the patent as inventors of the electronic digital
computer, ignoring Berry and Atanasoffs work.
In 1972, this injustice was rectified when Honeywell (for Atanasoff) successfully challenged
Sperry Rand (the company that acquired Eckert and Mauchlys patent), and Atanasoff and
Berry were credited as being the inventors of the electronic digital computer.


The Electronic Delay Storage

Automatic Calculator (EDSAC)
was a UK made computer.

The machine, having been

inspired by John von
Neumann's ideas was the
first practical stored-program
electronic computer.

EDSAC ran its first program

on 6May 1949

Later the project was supported by J. Lyons & Co. Ltd., a British
restaurant-chain, food manufacturing and hotel conglomerate
founded in 1887, who were rewarded with the first commercially
applied computer, LEO I, based on the EDSAC design.

The Transistor era

The transistor is the fundamental

building block of modern electronic
devices, and is ubiquitous in modern
electronic systems. It replaced the

Following its release in the early 1950s

the transistor revolutionized the field
of electronics, and paved the way for
smaller, faster and cheaper

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and

William Shockley (seated) working in
the laboratory where they built the
first transistor. Electronics magazine
called the device a "Crystal Triode."

What was the first

thing that we built
with this miraculous
new technology?

A hearing aid ! .1953

Zenith Royal-T
hearing aid - 3
tall, 2.5 wide
A prehistoric iPod?

by the first
radio in

The TRADIC (for TRansistorized

Airborne DIgital Computer) was
the first transistorized computer,
completed in 1954
The project initially examined the
feasibility of constructing a
transistorized airborne digital
The TRADIC was small and light
enough to be installed in a B-52

In the early 1950s, there were three main

computers makers


March 1951: the Census Bureau

accepted delivery of the first
UNIVAC computer - Remington
Rand became the first American
manufacturers of a commercial
computer system
Their first non-government
contract was for General Electric's
Appliance Park facility in
Louisville, Kentucky, who used the
UNIVAC computer for a payroll

Univac was used to forecast the 1952 presidential election

Polls gave the 1952 Presidential
election to Adlai Stevenson.
UNIVAC, star of CBS election
coverage, predicted an
Eisenhower landslide. UNIVAC
was right.

The computers TV debut

captivated an audience already
enthralled by technology and
confronting new toolsand new
terminologyalmost daily.

Computers in popular culture

UNIVAC became
synonymous with computer
to the American public in the
1950s. This comic book
combines computerized
matchmaking, which began in
the late 1950s, with a popular
television dating show format


Programming languages such as FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) and
COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) were developed at that time
Typical of that era were the IBM 1401 and Burroughs B200
Smaller in size
All transistorized

Burroughs B200

IBM 1401

In 1957 the first computer

came to Brazil. It was a
Univac 120, purchased
by the State of Sao Paulo
to control the water
supply service in the

We talked a lot about Univac, which was the first e bigger computer
manufacturer and no longer exists. You can guess why?
No planning, bad management!

In 1959 Anderson Clayton bought a IBM 305

RAMAC, the first computer in the Brazilian
private sector


IBM 305 RAMAC, announced 1956, was the first commercial computer that
used a moving head hard disk drive (5 MB, 1 ton) for secondary storage.
RAMAC stood for "Random Access Method of Accounting and Control".

In the 60's, the world was in the middle of

the space race. With that came the need
to build lightweight and powerful
computers that could be embedded in
NASA has spent billions of dollars on its
space program in the hiring of
manufacturers of transistors to perform
an even more radical miniaturization.
Thus were created the first integrated
circuits, also called chips. Basically, a
chip is an electronic component
comprising hundreds or thousands of
This led to the third generation of

Example of this time is the IBM 360,

sold between 1964 and 1978

Programming in the 1960s and


Data entry at the time could be made with punched paper

tape (replacing the punched cards)

Data were mainly stored in magnetic

tapes and disks, such as the IBM 2314
(1966, 30 mb)

Hard disk in 1980: 1 gb, 250

kg , US$ 81.000

From that point, mainframe computers have

evolved to the point where they are today,
even using elements also used in

z10 EC Under the covers (Model E56 or E64)

2 x Support

Processor Books,
Memory, MBA and
HCA cards
Ethernet cables for
internal System LAN
connecting Flexible

Service Processor
(FSP) cage
controller cards
InfiniBand I/O

3x I/O

Fiber Quick Connect

(FQC) Feature

2 x Cooling