Introduction and History of Computers

Computer Types

Before you Start,

This course is designed for those who are absolute beginners in computers. This course is a gentler, lighter course without delving too much into technical details.

Prerequisites for this course are,

  • There are no prerequisites! (You should be able to follow along no matter how little experience you have in this subject.)

What is a Computer?

A computer is an electronic device, operating under the control of instructions stored in its own memory that can accept data (input), process the data according to specified rules, produce information (output), and store the information for future use.

Sounds like more technical? It’s okay, here is a simple one!

A computer is a “box” that you put some “stuff” in, the box does “stuff” with it, and then the box has some way of showing the world what it has done.

The stuff you put into a computer is called data, and gets into the computer using the input. Data is simply a form of information. Based on what information the computer has gotten, it can decide to do stuff with it. What the computer does with information is known as processing. Once the computer has done some processing, there should be a way to show the world what it has done.

The History of Computers

Throughout human history, the closest thing to a computer was the abacus, which is actually considered a calculator since it required a human operator. Computers, on the other hand, perform calculations automatically by following a series of built-in commands called software.

Computers were initially large machines that could fill entire rooms. Some were operated using large vacuum tubes that formed the basis of today’s transistors.

In order to operate such machines, punch cards were used. One of the first such examples of this was the Jacquard Loom.

Old computers were used punched cards to get instructions
Charles Babbage

In 1833 Charles Babbage invented the world’s first computer called Analytical Engine using his difference engine, together with the punch card design.

Charles Babbage invented the world's first computer called Analytical Engine
Charles Babbage invented the world’s first computer called Analytical Engine

Some Notable Inventions of the Computing History

Z1 (1935)

A mechanical computer designed by Konrad Zuse in 1935 and first built in 1936. It was a binary electrically-driven mechanical calculator with limited programmability, reading instructions from punched tape.

ENIAC (1946)

A behemoth of a machine weighing 27 tonnes, Originally planned for use in calculating artillery firing tables, its first tasks were to perform calculations for hydrogen bomb design. The ENIAC used thousands of vacuum tubes and a punch card mechanism.

Commodore 64 (1982)

An 8 bit computer introduced in January 1982, the Commodore 64 rose to become the best selling personal computer of all time. Office productivity tools such as word processors, spreadsheets and databases were available, but due to its advanced graphics and audio systems, along with the inclusion of a cartridge slot, the Commodore was also seen as a gaming device.

The History of Computers – Time-line have created this awesome landmark time-line illustrating the History of Computers.