Computers: Introduction

Introduction: The history of computers is a big story, but I want to focus on the impact of users on the shape of the technology. The early history of computers shows the significance of demand.

  Portion of Babbage's Analytical Engine
Charles Babbage: I don't consider Babbage the inventor of the computer, since he could neither build his machine nor was there a demand for it, but he is worth mentioning because everyone starts with him.

women and tabulating machines

women computers at Harvard College Observatory c. 1890

The demand for massive calculations, tabulations, and collections of information was growing in other fields--big businesses collected, processed and filed a lot more information.
 Monroe Keyboard Calculator (1953)

Hollerith tabulating equipment used in 1890 census

more sophisticated and higher speed calculations

Pickett 10" Powerlog Exponential slide rule

    How to use a slide rule and one to try

 Vannevar Bush and his Differential Analyzer

as the war loomed there was particular concern about the need for ballistics calculations.

  Harvard Mark I

This page written and copyright © Pamela E. Mack
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last updated 11/21/2005