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A Short History About Computers

An Input device 2. Storage for numbers walling to be processed 3. A processor or number calculator 4. A unit to control the task and the sequence of its calculations 5. An output device Augusta Dad Byron (later Countess of Lovelace) was an associate of Babbage who has become known as the first computer programmer. An American, Herman Hollering, developed (around 1890) the first electrically driven device. It utilized punched cards and metal rods which passed through the holes to close an electrical circuit and thus cause a counter to advance. This machine was able to complete the calculation of the 1890 U. S. Anus in 6 weeks compared with 7 1/2 years for the 1880 census which was manually counted. In 1936 Howard Oaken of Harvard University convinced Thomas Watson of IBM to invest $1 million in the development of an electromechanical version of Baggage’s analytical engine. The Harvard Mark 1 was completed In 1944 and was 8 feet high and 55 feet long. At about the same time (the late sass’s) John Donations of Iowa State university and his assistant Clifford Berry built the first digital computer that worked electronically, the BBC (Donations-Berry Computer). This machine was basically a small calculator. In 1943, as part of the

British war effort, a series of vacuum tube based computers (named Colossus) were developed to crack German secret codes. The Colossus Mark 2 series (pictured) consisted of 2400 vacuum tubes. John Macaulay and J. Prosper Cracker of the University of Pennsylvania developed these Ideas further by proposing a huge machine consisting of 18,000 vacuum tubes. MANIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was born in 1946. It was a huge machine with a huge power requirement and two major disadvantages. Maintenance was extremely difficult as the tubes broke down regularly and had to be replaced, and also there was a big problem with overheating.

The most important limitation, however, was that every time a new task needed to be performed the machine need to be rewired. In other words programming was carried out with a soldering Iron. In the late sass’s John von Neumann (at the time a special consultant to the MANIAC team) developed the ADVANCE (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) which pioneered the “stored program concept”. This allowed programs to be read into the computer and so gave birth to the age of general-purpose computers.

The Generations of Computers It used to be quite popular to refer to computers as belonging to one of several “generations” of computer. These generations are:- The First Generation (1943-1958): computer too business client. This happened in 1951 with the delivery of the UNIVAC to the US Bureau of the Census. This generation lasted until about the end of the sass’s (although some stayed in operation much longer than that). The main defining feature of the first generation of computers was that vacuum tubes were used as internal computer components.

Vacuum tubes are generally about 5-10 centimeters in length and the large numbers of them required in computers resulted in huge and extremely expensive machines that often broke down (as tubes failed). The Second Generation (1959-1964): In the mid-sass’s Bell Labs developed the transistor. Transistors were capable of performing many of the same tasks as vacuum tubes but were only a fraction of the size. The first transistor-based computer was produced in 1959. Transistors were not only smaller, enabling computer size to be reduced, but they were faster, more reliable and consumed less electricity.

The other main improvement of this period was the development of computer languages. Assembler languages or symbolic languages allowed programmers to specify instructions in words (albeit very cryptic words) which were then translated into a form that the canines could understand (typically series of Co’s and 1 ‘s: Binary code). Higher level languages also came into being during this period. Whereas assembler languages had a one-to-one correspondence between their symbols and actual machine functions, higher level language commands often represent complex sequences of machine codes.

Two higher-level languages developed during this period (FORTRAN and COBOL) are still in use today though in a much more developed form. The Third Generation (1965-1970): In 1965 the first integrated circuit (C) was developed in which a complete circuit of hundreds of components was able to be placed on a ingle silicon chip 2 or 3 mm square. Computers using these Ice’s soon replaced transistor based machines. Again, one of the major advantages was size, with computers becoming more powerful and at the same time much smaller and cheaper.

Computers thus became accessible to a much larger audience. An added advantage of smaller size is that electrical signals have much shorter distances to travel and so the speed of computers increased. Another feature of this period is that computer software became much more powerful and flexible and for the first time more than one program could share the computer’s resources at the same time multi-tasking). The majority of programming languages used today are often referred to as gal’s (3rd generation languages) even though some of them originated during the 2nd generation.

The Fourth Generation (1971 -present): The boundary between the third and fourth generations is not very clear-cut at all. Most of the developments since the mid sass’s can be seen as part of a continuum of gradual miniaturization. In 1970 large-scale integration was achieved where the equivalent of thousands of integrated circuits were crammed onto a single silicon chip. This development again increased computer performance (especially reliability and peed) whilst reducing computer size and cost. Around this time the first complete general-purpose microprocessor became available on a single chip.

In 1975 Very Large Scale Integration (VEIL) took the process one step further. Complete computer central processors could now be built into one chip. The microcomputer was born. Such chips are far more powerful than MANIAC and are only about LLC square whilst have come into existence. Such languages are a step further removed from the computer hardware in that they use language much like natural language. Many database languages can be described as gal’s. They are generally much easier to learn than are gal’s.

The Fifth Generation (the future): The “fifth generation” of computers were defined by the Japanese government in 1980 when they unveiled an optimistic ten-year plan to produce the next generation of computers. This was an interesting plan for two reasons. Firstly, it is not at all really clear what the fourth generation is, or even whether the third generation had finished yet. Secondly, it was an attempt to define a generation of computers before they had come into existence. The main requirement of the 56 machines was that they incorporate the features of Artificial Intelligence, Expert Systems, and Natural Language.

The goal was to produce machines that are capable of performing tasks in similar ways to humans, are capable of learning, and are capable of interacting with humans in natural language and preferably using both speech input (speech recognition) and speech output (speech synthesis). Such goals are obviously of interest to linguists and speech scientists as natural language and speech processing are key components of the definition. As you may have guessed, this goal has not yet been fully realized, although significant progress has been made towards various aspects of these goals.

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