History of Computers

Critical thinking issues:

Computers are a technology that has not been predictable but rather has gone through several radical changes of direction.  Theme--what has shaped the evolution of computer technology in these different directions (first military, then business, then usability=computers can be useful to everyone)

What I want you to see first is that computers started as something very different from what we have now.  Can you imagine what a computer would be if the internet didn't exist and if there weren't any applications, you had to write your own programs?

The Digital computer is an example of the military-industrial-academic complex--it was invented out of wartime needs:
the Colossus

        whole room of electronics
ENIAC U.S. Army Photo
  Programming ENIAC (US Army Photo)
women plugging wires into Eniac

The wartime projects led to a series of vacuum tube computers.
  John Von Neumann
John Von Neumann in front of Whirlwind

Vacuum tubes could take you only so far
people typing on key punch machines
punching cards

Programming languages (chart of the history) :
a teletype with typewriter keyboard and roll of
  teletype ASR33 used in timesharing

an early microcomputer--8 books take up
        about half the top
Integrated circuits and programming languages for non-scientists

Computer Generations

languages & applications
how computers were used
vacuum tubes wires, assembly language
military research, census, weather forecasting
higher level languages--FortranCobol
scientific research, mathematical problems , recordkeeping by big businesses and government
integrated circuit
BASIC, first word processors for offices (on special purpose minicomputers)
timesharing, text based games , still mostly programs to make calculations, wide use in universities
applications become the usual way of using computers, instead of programming
games (but videogame machines are cheaper), small businesses, education

Integrated circuit:
  Texas Instruments 2500 (1972)
early pocket calculator

the key step for the computer was the introduction of the microprocessor:
 Intel 4004
integrated circuit
 Altair 8800front of Altain--just lights and

In 1977 the home computer began to move past the electronics hobbyist:
 Apple II
Apple II
 Osborne Portable
luggable computer
early windows screen
 Windows 286 (Windows 2)
For more details on the history of microcomputers I recommend The History of Computers During My Lifetime

Computers have become something completely different since the internet became popular.  Some people see the internet as leading us in a very new direction: the internet as a self-organizing system, as the last frontier
Good pages on this topic:  The Roads and Crossroads of Internet HistoryHobbes Internet Timeline

The very first beginning of the internet was a system called ARPANET:

The Internet: number of internet hosts (source  Hobbes Internet Timeline ):
1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002
235 1,024 5,089 56,000  313,000 1,136,000 3,864,000 16,729,000 36,739,000 93,047,785 162,128,493 285,139,107

The World Wide Web (sources:  About the World Wide WebHobbes Internet Timeline ) :
  Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee
number of web sites:
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
50 623 10,022 23,500 603,367 1,681,868 3,689,227 9,560,866 25,675,581 36,276,252 35,543,105 45,980,112 56,923,737
 source: Hobbes Internet Timeline

cell phone size
Internet commerce:

the internet creates new kinds of community

Three visions of what the internet would be:

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
HIST 1220
last updated 12/3/2018