The ideas and inventions of many engineers, mathematicians and scientists led to the development of the computer.
The first computer was developed in 1642 and consisted of gears and wheels. The first wheel would count from 1 to 9, the second wheel would count from 10 to 99, the third wheel would count from 100 to 999, etc. The only problem with the first computer, was that it could only add and subtract. Its inventor was a French Mathermation and Scientist by the name of Blaise Pascal.
In 1670, the German mathematician, Liebniz improved Blaises invention so that it could multiply and divide as well. Liebniz also found a system of counting other than decimal, called binary which made the machine easier to use.
George Boole, in the 1800's, perfected binary mathematics and could logically work out complex binary calculations in his head which helped greatly to move the computer industry.
The French textile weaver, Joseph Jacquard, made his contribution to the computer in 1801 with the loom. The loom was a machine that used punched cards to weave patterns. Holes would be punched in patterns on cards and then placed between the rising needle and thread creating the pattern punched. By changing cards and alternating patterns, Jacquard could create complex woven patterns.
Charles Babbage was inspired by these punched hole cards and during the 1830's developed the idea of a mechanical computer. He worked on this idea for 40 years but, unfortunately, he did not have the technology to provide for the precision parts needed to build this computer.
Hollerith, an American inventor, invented a punched hole computer called a Tabulator in 1888. His machine used electrically charged nails that, when passed through a hole punched in a card, created a circuit. The circuit would then register on another part where it was read and recorded. He founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896.
Over the next few years, Hollerith continued to improve the machine. He then sold his shares in 1911 and the name was changed to The Computing Tabulating Recording Company. Then in 1924, the name was changed to International Business Machines Corporations or IBM.
An American electrical engineer started work to develop a computer that would help scientists do long and complex calculations. Vannevar Bush built a differential analyser to solve equations like quantities of weight, voltage or speed. These computers became known as analog computers. These analog computers are not as accurate as normal computers. Examples are thermometers, thermostats, speedometers, simulators etc.
Scientists saw greater potential in computer electronics. John Atanasoff built the first special purpose analog computer in 1939. This was inpoved in 1944 by using switching devices called electromechanical relays. In 1946, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) computer was developed. Instead of electromechanical relays, it used 18000 electric valves. This computer weighed more then 27 metric tons, occupied more then 140 square metres of floor space and used 150 kilowatts of power during operation. It was able to do 5000 addition and 1000 multiplications per second. The only problem was that it took very long to program the computer to do the calculations as it could not store the information.
Stored programming techniques was worked on by an American team who developed the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) in 1951. At the same time, two of the team members worked on a more advanced computer that could use both numbers and the alphabet. This was called the UNIVAC 1 (UNIVersal Automatic Computer) and was the first computer available to be sold to people and businesses.
The invention of the transistor in 1947, meant that computers could be faster and more reliable. The first fully transistorized computer was introduced in 1958 by Control Data Corporation followed by IBM in 1959.
Technology advancements in the 1960's saw the creation of the integrated circuit which contained thousands of transistors and other parts on a silicon chip. This meant that computers could become smaller. During the early 1970's, many different kinds of circuits were available some of which could even hold memory as well as computer logic. This resulted in smaller computers becoming available and the central chip that controlled the computer became known as the microprocessor.
Today, the technology has become so good that it is possible to hold a computer in the palm of your hand.