All of the first computers were invented for military purposes in the nineteen forties and fifties. Once the war was over though, the second major role of the computer was in business. They were used at first for simple tasks like taking a census or monitoring minor activities in the finances of a business.
The first business computer was called UNIVAC1. UNIVAC1 was used for the first time in 1951 to take a United States census. This computer was invented by John Mauchly and J. Eckert. Together they founded and built the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Theirs was the first computer to use a compiler and store programs. The United Kingdom was first introduced to business computers in 1953. These were called the Lyon Electronic Office computers, or LEO for short. LEO was first used by a restaraunt company for their accounting.
The computer card shown below is an example of the kind that used to be used. It is life-size, and the numbers can be seen on it. These cards were used to put programs into computers. It would take one card just to execute a few simple commands. You can only imagine how long it took to put a whole program onto a computer.
By the year 1962, there were over ten thousand business computers in Western Europe alone. There were over forty thousand in the United States. In just one year, those numbers doubled. Now there are at least one hundred thousand business computers in the world.
There were generally four major business applications for computers in the ninteen sixties and seventies. First, there was the computer "clerk." These computers would handle large amounts of repetitive clerical work. Most of the early business computers fit into the "clerk" category and many today still do. Second, computers were used as an information system. These computers would try to gather, predict, and store data. Because computers weren't very sophisticated back then, the technology used to provide such services wasn't able to give any real results. Because of this, companies that used these computers went out of business quickly. Third, there were the computers with the first drafting technonlogy. These computers were used for designing crude and small buildings or crude vehicles and aicraft. Finally, there were the computer "controllers." They were fed information which responded with programs that were already installed. The programs would help a computer decide on raising or maintaining certain information such as investing in stocks.
Business computers today may be used with information to rate the pollution in the air of a city or for reserving plane tickets from several different locations at once. However, modern computers are still used for determining merger decisions, architectual design, and the like.
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