The Evolution of Technology | Friendly Computers

The Evolution of Technology

The forefather of digital computers is usually awarded to ENIAC – Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator. ENIAC was built at the University of Pennsylvania between 1943 and 1945.  Funding for this project came from the war department because the ENIAC promised to replace all the “computers,” meaning all the women who were employed to calculate firing tables for the Army’s artillery guns.  The ENIAC filled a 20’x40’ room, weighed 30 tons, and used more than 18,000 vacuum tubes. In the 1950s – 1960s the EDVAC, ILLIAC, and JOHNNIAC were developed.  The EDVAC was the first computer that could ‘store’ a program. The first computer with reel-to-reel tape was the UNIVAC – Universal Automatic Computer. It was the first computer to be mass produced. UNIVAC became the household word for “computer” just as “Kleenex” is for tissue. The first UNIVAC was sold to the Census ENIAC was unquestionably the origin the U.S. commercial computer industry but its inventors never achieved fortune from their work.  By 1955, IBM was selling more computers than UNIVAC by the 1960s the group of eight companies selling computers was known as “IBM and the seven dwarfs”.  IBM grew so dominant that the federal government pursued anti-trust proceedings against them from 1969 to 1982. Wonder what type of event is required to dislodge an industry heavyweight?  In IBM’s case it was their decision to hire an aggressive firm called Microsoft to provide software for their personal computer – the PC. During the 1970s, we saw the dawn of the Mainframe Computer like the IBM 7094 and IBM 360. There were two ways to interact with a mainframe.  The first was called time sharing because each user was given a tiny sliver of time in a round-robin fashion using a teletype. The alternative to this was batch mode processing where the computer gives its full attention to one user and  the user was required to  prepare their program off-line on a key punch machine which generated punch cards. With the advance of the personal computer (PC), things changed fast. By the 1990’s a university student would typically own his own computer and have exclusive use of it in his dorm room. This transformation was a result of the invention of the microprocessor. A Harvard freshman named Bill Gates decided to drop out of college so he could concentrate all his time writing programs for computers. This put him in the right place at the right time once IBM standardized the Intel microprocessors for their line of PCs in 1981. The Intel Pentium 4 used in today’s PCs is still compatible with the original Intel 8088 used in IBM’s first PC.

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