The Digital Abacus Essay Research Paper

  • Просмотров 294
  • Скачиваний 4
  • Размер файла 22
    Кб

The Digital Abacus Essay, Research Paper #1. The Hisory As the computer revolution continues along at it’s furious pace one wonders where we are heading. Will we eventually live in an automated utopia where we lounge about, or might our creations destroy us as in the Terminator movies? Will the Internet make it’s vast knowledge available to all, or will it further the separation between the have’s and have not’s. While there are many good things that stem from computers there is a dreadful weakness. We as a nation and a world are addicted to electricity. If there were to be a worldwide outage of power we would be like lost children. Knowledge of the origins of computers and theory of their function is important to civilization should such an event occur. The history

of computers starts out about 2000 years ago, at the birth of the abacus, a wooden rack holding two horizontal wires with beads strung on them. When these beads are moved around, according to programming rules memorized by the user, all regular arithmetic problems can be done. Another important invention around the same time was the Astrolabe, used for navigation. Blaise Pascal is usually credited for building the first digital computer in 1642. It added numbers entered with dials and was made to help his father, a tax collector. In 1671, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz invented a computer that was built in 1694. It could add, and, after changing some things around, multiply. Leibnitz invented a special stepped gear mechanism for introducing the addend digits, and this is still

being used. The prototypes made by Pascal and Leibnitz were not used in many places, and considered weird until a little more than a century later, when Thomas of Colmar created the first successful mechanical calculator that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide. A lot of improved desktop calculators by many inventors followed, so that by about 1890, the range of improvements included the following: accumulation of partial results, storage and automatic reentry of past results (A memory function), and printing of the results. Each of these required manual installation. These improvements were mainly made for commercial users, and not for the needs of science. While Thomas of Colmar was developing the desktop calculator, a series of very interesting developments in computers

was started by Charles Babbage in Cambridge, England. In 1812, Babbage realized that many long calculations, especially those needed to make mathematical tables, were really a series of predictable actions that were constantly repeated. From this he suspected that it should be possible to do these automatically. He began to design an automatic mechanical calculating machine, which he called a difference engine. By 1822, he had a working model to demonstrate with. With financial help from the British Government, Babbage started fabrication of a difference engine in 1823. It was intended to be steam powered and fully automatic, including the printing of the resulting tables, and commanded by a fixed instruction program. The difference engine, although having limited adaptability

and applicability, was really a great advance. Babbage continued to work on it for the next 10 years, but in 1833 he lost interest because he thought he had a better idea — the construction of what would now be called a general purpose, fully program-controlled, automatic mechanical digital computer. Babbage called this idea an Analytical Engine. The ideas of this design showed a lot of foresight, although this couldn t be appreciated until a full century later. The plans for this engine required an identical decimal computer operating on numbers of 50 decimal digits (or words) and having a storage capacity (memory) of 1,000 such digits. The built-in operations were supposed to include everything that a modern general purpose computer would need, even the all important