By Jide Awe | Contributing Writer
History - How, Where, When Did It All Start?
The first computational device was the abacus. This has been in continuous use for thousands of years. During the 1600's the Pascal adding machine was developed. This was a mechanical device that laid the groundwork for today's odometers and gas meters. The 1800's saw many machines developed that were controlled by punch cards - weaving looms. The theoretical basis for electronic circuitry was developed in the mid 1800's.
In 1947, just after the first electronic computer was built, the transistor was invented, enabling the birth of vastly less expensive, more reliable computers. Even with transistors, computers were still too complex and costly for widespread use until the advent of the integrated circuit (IC) in 1961 made truly inexpensive computers possible at last.
From this point forth there were many firsts as computers became less mechanical, smaller, faster and cheaper. In 1971, IC technology progressed to a point where a complete central processing unit - the heart of the computer - could be integrated on a single piece off silicon, giving birth to the microprocessor. The microprocessor led to the personal computer. The Personal Computer is distinguished by its size, cost, and applications for small business and the home. The first one appeared in January 1975 and was the Altair 8800 kit. Only hobbyists bought these. Then the Radio Shack TRS 80 and Apple computers hit the market as the first pre-assembled microcomputers.
Market growth remained sluggish until two business students - Dan Bricklin and Dan Fylstra - developed a program to run on Apple computers to handle the tedious recalculations in their school assignments. This program was called VisiCalc and is the forerunner to the spreadsheet program Lotus 123.
With VisiCalc as a useful tool, Apple sales took off. Apple became the standard because all programs were written for Apple. Today in the US, Apple still dominates the school market.
In 1981 IBM introduced its PC. IBM’s legacy still dominates the industry today. The PC was unable to run Apple software. Unlike Apple or other IBM products, the IBM PC had an open architecture. This means the technical details of how it operated were published with the product's introduction. This permitted hundreds of companies to write software (programs) for the IBM PC and a variety of hardware accessories. Adding IBM's sterling reputation, the open architecture did enable rapid market penetration. The microcomputer was no longer a toy, it was a business tool.
The open architecture also allowed for the generation of a host of lower cost compatible computers. IBM had traded quick initial market entry for eventual erosion of market share. In both instances, the consumers' benefit. In the early 90s Computers were applied variously in the fields of Science, Technology and Space exploration.
Initially, PCs revolutionized how businesses are run, but today, computers deepest impact are felt in the merging of Communications and Information. The emergence of the World Wide Web and the explosion of Internet usage is having far-reaching effects on all aspects of society.
Success and progress in all spheres of life, is now driven by Information and Technology. The future is bright, but it is up to every user of the technology to see that it is used to positive effect.
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