How Was the Computer Invented and When?

Imagine the world without computers. You’d have no internet to help you with your homework, and just think of all that post, photocopying and filing.

The first computer was invented in 1834, long before TV, telephones and even electricity. The inventor, Charles Babbage, called his computer the Difference Engine. It was essentially a calculator and since there was no electricity, it was mechanical. And very complicated.

In fact he never quite managed to finish it. Babbage spent a further 37 years designing the Analytical Engine, a pre-cursor to the first working general-purpose computers.

Computers really got going in the 20th century: Konrad Zuse’s Z3 was the first programmable computer, invented in 1941.

The Colossus computer was the first completely electronic computer. It was used to crack German codes during the Second World War.

By the end of the 1950s computers had become smaller and cheaper. (They were still about the size of a double-decker bus, though.)

Microprocessors, programmable components measuring just a few millimetres, were invented by Intel employee Ted Hoff in 1971. Just one of them was as powerful as the huge 30-tonne computers of the 1940s.

By the 1980s computers were small and cheap enough for individuals to buy and use at home. And today, computers are everywhere and most modern electronic devices, from washing machines to cars, contain one.

Finished Engine: Although Charles Babbage never completed the Difference Engine himself, the Science Museum in London did manage to build one in 1991, to mark the 200th anniversary of Babbage’s birth. And it worked!

Computers have taken over almost all aspects of our lives, from schoolwork and homework to keeping in touch with your friends. But not so long ago computers didn’t even exist.

Can you live without using one for at least a week? Sign the declaration and see if you have the will power to give it up.

I DECLARE: BY SIGNING THIS FORM I AGREE TO LIVE ONE WHOLE WEEK WITHOUT USING A COMPUTER AT ALL. HOWEVER TEMPTED I MAY BE, I VOW NOT TO TOUCH ONE.

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