Term Paper: Computer What Is Going to Be Next

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¶ … Computer: What is going to be next?

The development of computers is a process that has been going on for the last 70 years or so. The nature of development has been different over the years and the changes have come due to the realization of mankind of the possible utilities of computers also. The first attempts were mainly laboratory experiments to help men calculate faster through the use of mechanical-electrical methods. The developments were also more scientific than developments of technology. At the same time, other scientists came up with their own version of a computer which was used in the Navy. The next development came with the armed forces giving a contract for the development and building of a computer exclusively for them. The development was a computer which the forces could not use as the war ended in the meantime. The team that developed this computer went on to make further developments and those developments led to the development of UNIVAC, which was the first computer apart from IBM as the operations of this computer was faster due to its method of input. There was no competitor till now for IBM's punched card input. This was the beginning of the decline for IBM and its dominance in the computer industry.

IBM tried their hand utilizing their superiority in terms of design and product technology when the age of computers shifted to personal computers by coming out with the real personal computer in 1981. By that time, the world of technology had shifted and there were different specializations in areas of the industry. Intel dominated the central processing unit manufacture and this dominance lasts even today; the base system operation software had been monopolized by Microsoft and this permitted them to have a stranglehold on personal computer software totally; and the starting check up and system logic was developed by IBM, but this was also copied and started by others.

Thus the manufacture and development of computers became really widespread. The usage of personal computers for a home gadget with abilities to calculate fast, write down long passages, copy different material that one seeks, see or hear songs or movies; communicate with others, etc. are done by today's computers. Yet, this is an industry where the pace of development has to be kept up, or the participant in the industry will be thrown out. This is leading to many developments which are falling by the wayside and new developments are coming out. Whether these will succeed or not finally depends on the desires of the users. Ultimately they have to meet some needs that the user feels are required, or they will just be a technological curiosity fit for a museum.


The nature of computers has developed over the years and the first levels were designing of calculating machines with a high speed rather development of computers with the benefits as we know them to exist today. At different stages in history, new technologies have come out, or the developments of some scientists have reached a stage where the final machine from that research has been available for mankind to use.

1942: The first Electronic Computer

Professor John Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry put together the world's first electronic-digital computer at Iowa State University between 1939 and 1942. The computer prepared by them contained several innovations in computing, and the innovations included a binary system of arithmetic, parallel processing, regenerative memory, and a separation of storage memory for the computer and its computing functions. John Atanasoff was very fond of fast cars and scotch and even wrote most of the concepts of the first modern computer on the back of a cocktail napkin. He teamed up with Clifford Berry to build a prototype of the computer in late 1939. Their computer was the first computing machine to use electricity, vacuum tubes, binary numbers and capacitors. The capacitors were contained in a rotating drum which also held the electrical charge required for the memory. Berry had a background in electronics and mechanical construction skills and was brilliant and inventive. He proved to be the ideal partner for Atanasoff. The prototype that was built by the team got them a grant of $850 so that they build a full-scale model. (Inventors of the Modern Computer: The Atanasoff-Berry Computer the First Electronic Computer - John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry)

This took them the next two years in the effort to improve their machine, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. When the final machine was ready, it was the size of a desk, weighed over 700 pounds, contained more than 300 vacuum tubes, and a mile of wire. Compared to computers of today, it was very slow and could calculate one operation in 15 seconds, when today a computer can calculate over 150 billion operations in 15 seconds. The computer was very large, and could not be carried around, and thus it remained in the basement of the physics department. At that time, the war was going on and John Atanasoff could not complete the patent process and/or develop the computer further. Then storage space was needed in the physics building, and the result was the dismantling of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. (Inventors of the Modern Computer: The Atanasoff-Berry Computer the First Electronic Computer - John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry)

1944, another computer:

Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper built the MARK series of computers at Harvard University. The first in this series of computers was Mark I which was built in 1944. The machine was a giant roomful of noisy, clicking metal parts, 55 feet long and 8 feet high. The weight of the machine was 5 tons and it contained almost 760,000 separate pieces. This machine was used by the U.S. Navy for gunnery and ballistic calculations in operation until 1959. The computer was controlled by pre-punched paper tape, and able to add, subtract, multiply, divide and refer to previous results. It contained special subroutines for logarithms and trigonometric functions and operated up to 23 decimal place numbers. Data was stored and counted mechanically through the use of 3000 decimal storage wheels, 1400 rotary dial switches, and 500 miles of wire. (Inventors of the Modern Computer: The Harvard MARK I Computer - Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper)

Since the computer had electromagnetic relays, the machine was classified as a relay computer. All output was printed out on an electric typewriter. By today's standards, the Mark I was slow, needing 3-5 seconds for a multiplication operation, but it was probably faster than the earlier machine. One of the developers, Howard Aiken had no idea of the eventual widespread appeal of computers. "Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States," he said as late as 1947. Apart from building this machine, Grace Hopper is responsible for the term 'bug' that denotes a computer fault. The original 'bug' was a moth, and that had caused a hardware fault in the Mark I. Hopper was the first to 'debug' a computer by removing the moth. (Inventors of the Modern Computer: The Harvard MARK I Computer - Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper)

1946 - The First Practical Electronic computer

The United States military needed a calculating machine for preparing the artillery firing tables and these are the settings used for different weapons for target accuracy. The branch of military responsible for preparing the tables is Ballistic Research Laboratory and they decided to give the job to John Mauchly who was at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at Pennsylvania. Mr. Mauchly had become famous for his research for preparing some calculating machines with electric motors inside and in 1942 had started building a better calculating machine based on the work of John Atanasoff. He wanted to use vacuum tubes to speed up calculation and the development work started in May 1943. (Inventors of the Modern Computer: The ENIAC I Computer - J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly)

In the designing of this machine and its building, he was joined by J. Presper Eckert. The total period for designing was one year and another year and a half for building. The cost for building it was $500,000. The main reason for the designing of ENIAC -- Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator was then over as the war had ended. The machine was then used for designing a hydrogen bomb, weather forecasting, cosmic ray studies, thermal ignition studies and designing of wind tunnels. The machine was the biggest of all with 17,468 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, 6,000 manual switches and 5 million soldered joints.

The area covered was 1,800 square feet, and the machine had a weight of 30 tons and a consumption of electric power of 160 kilowatts. The machine was also the fastest till that time and could perform 5,000 additions, 357 multiplications or 38 divisions within one second. The increase in speed was achieved, but the programming was a very slow… [END OF PREVIEW]

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