The History Of Computers In America Essay — страница 2

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appearing in the market offering better and better adding machines. A few of these were International Business Machines (IBM), Burroughs Corporation, Remington, and many others. The Burroughs Arithmometer was ??as ubiquitous in 1905 businesses as the desktop computer is today.? (Stine, 54) The last great mechanical computer was Howard Aiken?s Mark 1, developed by IBM. It used electromagnetic components to replace mechanical parts (Snyder, ?Computer?). Although it was the most advanced mechanical computer in history, ??it epitomized the computer because it was obsolete at the moment the IBM engineers first switched it on? in 1943. The vacuum tube was taking over, making computers totally electronic.? (Stine, 95) The vacuum tube was the first completely electronic switch. Put

simply, this meant speed. Mechanical computers could only work as fast as the parts they were made of could move. One of the first computers to use vacuum tubes was the Electronic Variable Computer (EDVAC), developed by Hungarian-American mathematician John von Neumann. It was one of the first computers used in mathematics, meteorology, economics, and hydrodynamics, and it was the first electronic computer to use a program stored entirely in its own memory (Snyder, ?Computer?). Von Neumann had been hired by the War Department to build an electronic computer that could accurately simulate the course of a shell fired from a cannon at different angles and velocities. The EDVAC was used to produce these ?ballistics charts?. It was also used in the preparation of aircraft and atomic

weapons design, fire control, and logistics (Aspray, 25). Around the same time von Neumann was working on the EDVAC, an American physicist named John Mauchly was working on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), which is regarded as the first successful general digital computer. It was completed in 1945 at the Moore School of Engineering in Pennsylvania. ENIAC was built by Mauchly and an engineer named J. Presper Eckert, weighed over 60,000 lb., and contained more than 18,000 vacuum tubes. ENIAC, like EDVAC, was used by the military for calculating ballistics tables and designing atomic weapons. The biggest difference between the two computers, however, was that the ENIAC did not store programs in its memory the way EDVAC did so it had to be reprogrammed for

every new task it was used for (Snyder, ?Computer?). Eckert and Mauchly eventually started a company and developed the first computer to use both numbers and letters. Called the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC), they followed in the footsteps of Herman Hollerith and his tabulator and sent the machine to the Census Bureau where it was used for the 1950 census. UNIVAC was completely electronic and was much smaller than the ENIAC. On top of that, it was fast, able to do 1,000 operations a second. UNIVAC is most famous for predicting the winner of the 1952 election in which Eisenhower ran against Stevenson. UNIVAC?s prediction of Eisenhower?s 438 votes to Stevenson?s 93 was very close to the actual 442 to 89. ?The electronic digital computer was suddenly perceived as a super,

omniscient electrical brain.? (Stine, 110) By 1948, scientists began to realize what a problem vacuum tubes were becoming. They were very big and required huge amounts of power. One SAGE model computer used as much energy in a day as a town of 15,000 people (Stine, 111). Finally, at Bell Laboratories the solution was discovered. The transistor was developed by a team of American physicists. It acts like an electric switch, but is much more reliable, smaller, and cost-effective than the vacuum tubes. Even today, transistors are a fundamental part in almost all modern electronic devices (Snyder, ?Computer?). With the invention of transistors came the integrated circuit, invented by Robert Noyce in 1959. It consisted of a group of very small transistors and other electrical

components placed on a single chip of silicon. By 1970, engineers were able to fit thousands of transistors on a single chip. This led to the development of modern microprocessors, which contain over 10 million transistors (Snyder, ?Computer?). As integrated circuits became smaller, so did computers, both in size and price. Many companies envisioned ?personal computers? (PCs), computers small enough to be operated by a single user at work or home. The first PC was sold by Instrumentation Telemetry Systems in 1975 and was called the Altair 8800. While this PC was incredible basic (it did not have a monitor or a keyboard), it paved the way for today?s modern PCs. It also created a fierce battleground in the computer industry. IBM, which had been the standard in the computer