Computer History Resource

Since the days of early Man, we have used technology to help improve our living conditions. The constant desire to ease the difficulties of life through technology is one which seems innate, and every technological revolution from the Renaissance to the Information Age has tapped into this desire. The history of computers is a testament to this fact.

Background Information

Konrad Kuse is credited with building the first electro-mechanical computer in 1936 in Germany. The computer, the Z1 had a 1-Hertz clock speed and contained a 64-word memory, with each word made up of 22 bits. Kuse used punch tape and a reader to program the computer, which could also be used to print out results in the same manner. But the two computers most everyone knows about are England?s Colossus Computer and the U.S. Eniac.

  • The History of Computing: History of computers from analog to digital.
  • The Colossus Computer: A rebuild project of the Colossus.
  • The Story of the Eniac Computer: The U.S. first military computer.
  • The Pennsylvania Connection: Eniac was built at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Colossus computer was intended for use in breaking the German?s Lorenz ciper codes used in radio communications during World War II. England?s foremost mathematician, Max Newman, originally broke the Lorenz cipher. But it took four to six weeks to break each radio transmission using the techniques he developed making the data stale or too old to use. Needing a way to speed up the process, Newman commissioned Tommy Flowers, a Post Office electronics engineer to work on a machine design to speed up the code breaking process of the Lorenz cipher. The result was the Colossus computer.

On the U.S. war front, the need to calculate ballistics firing tables for weapons to increase their accuracy was paramount. To complete this project, John W. Machly and J. Presper Eckert built the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator, nicknamed the ENIAC, at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, now part of the University of Pennsylvania?s School of Engineering and Applied Science. After construction was completed, the ENIAC was reassembled at a military base in Aberdeen, Maryland.

Sizes and Prices ? Then to Now

The Eniac needed a 1,800 square room to house its voluminous size. It weighted 30 tons, had a total of 40 panels measuring 80 feet long in the front. It used a total of 18,000 vacuum tubes, had more than 500,000 joints that were soldered, 10,000 capacitors and 70,000 resistors. It pulled in 150 kilowatts of electricity and cost roughly $500,000 to build. Computers have evolved since the Eniac and Colossus from room-sized to palm size. Today?s average computers cost from $399 and up, depending on the manufacturer and model.

  • Computer Sizes: From room-size to desk size and smaller, the computer continues to evolve.
  • Colossus: The Colossus computer had more than 2,000 valves.
  • Analog Computers: The first computers used electrical flow to reach calculations.
  • Facts about the Eniac: The Eniac required six full-time technicians to manage and operate it.

First Computerized Speech

A physicist working with the Bell Labs in 1962 used the IBM 704 computer to create the first computerized speech. John Larry Kelly, Jr. used a voice recorder synthesizer to record a song with musical accompaniment. Arthur C. Clarke, famed science fiction author was present at the time, and incorporated the event into a moment in movie history where HAL, the computer sang the same song Clarke heard played back by the computer in 1962 in the movie ?2001 ? a Space Odyssey.?

  • Speech Synthesis: The synthesis of speech in electronic devices and computers.
  • Text to Speech Applications: Many people use text-to-speech software.
  • The Benefits and Drawbacks of VRS: Voice recognition software helps the disabled.
  • The Human-Computer Interface: The human-to-computer interface technology.

The Apple Computer

First developed by Steve Wozniak in 1976, the Apple I computer cost $666.66. The first Apple contained an 8-bit central processing unit and only 4 kilobits of memory, expandable up to 48 kb using cards. The Apple I computer required customers to purchase a keyboard, display and power supply.

  • Revolutionaries of the Computer Age: The Apple changes computer history.
  • The History of Apple: The world wasn?t ready for the Apple in 1976.
  • The Introduction of Macintosh: Macintosh and the 1984 Super Bowl.

Mouse and Keyboards

While some of the first computers had the keyboards integrated directly into them, such as the Apple II and the Commodore computers, keyboards were designed on the same layout as the typewriter?s keyboard using the QWERTY standard layout for keys. Other keyboards, such as the Dvorak keyboard have been developed throughout the years with a different layout, but the QWERTY keyboard is still the most popular keyboard in use today. Changes to keyboards include splitting them for a more ergonomic layout and a reconfiguring of the keyboard in different shapes to fit the hand. Douglas C. Engelbart is credited with the development of the first mouse he had been working on with a group of researchers since 1962. Other innovations in computer technology were introduced by Engelbart in 1968 including dynamic file linking, object addressing and more.

  • QWERTY Keyboard: The QWERTY vs. the Chubon keyboard.
  • The First Mouse: The patent for the first computer mouse was issued in 1964.
  • Computer Keyboard Design: Making keyboards more ergonomic to fit human hands.
  • Dvorak Keyboard: With a different layout than the standard QWERTY layout, the Dvorak keyboard was designed for simplicity. 

Computer Storage: Floppies, CDs and Thumb Drives

The first computers didn?t have hard drives and required people to use a large ?floppy? disc about 5 1/4 inches wide. Two floppies were used, one for running the software and one for storing documents. Storage evolved to the 3 1/4 floppy from the original floppies to hard drive storage devices installed inside computers. Compact discs were added to computers in the 1980s. Since then, CD-ROM drives have been added for movies, music, and computer programs.

  • Computer Storage: The continuing evolvement of computer storage.
  • Data Storage Fundamentals: How computer data is stored on various storage devices.
  • Bit States: How data is stored on computers and devices.
  • Thumb Drive: The thumb drive was invented by a college professor in 1999.

Games, Software and Languages

For computers to function, programmers needed to develop computer languages. Some languages are written in assembly, a symbolic form of machine code, and they tell the various internal parts of the computer what to do. Other programs, or software, such as programs that create graphics, written documents, financial data, slide show presentations and much more, are utilized to add to the computer?s capabilities. With computer evolution, programmers also viewed the computer as a new game medium and over the years computer software games and animation have continued to get better. In the entertainment industry, computers are often used to complete graphics for movies. George Lucas was one of the first movie directors to employ computer generated graphics in "Star Wars."

  • The Computer Language Guide: A virtual guide to various computer languages.
  • Computer Programming Language: A History of computer programming languages
  • A History of Computer Graphics: The history of computer graphics and animation.
  • A Brief History of Graphics: A historical look at systems that employed computer graphics. 

Networking and the World Wide Web

In the late 1960s, the U.S. Defense Agency Research Projects Administration had its sights set on creating a network of military computers. It created ARPANET beginning in 1969, which served as the first large scale wide area network. Computers can be networked internally in an organization, called a local area network, or externally in a wide area network. The World Wide Web employs a group of protocols called Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) that establishes the means by which computers can communicate with each another. On the World Wide Web, each computer has a unique Internet Protocol or IP address. This address works much the same way as a street address does, as it identifies where to find the computer.

  • World Wide Web History: A brief history on the Internet and World Wide Web.
  • ARPANET: The first network of inter-linked computers was commissioned by the U.S. military.
  • The World Wide Web: Tim Berners-Lee suggests the creation of the World Wide Web.
  • Understanding the Basics: The basics of understanding World Wide Web protocols.

What Computers are Used for Today

Computers are used everywhere in today?s society and not all of them resemble your desktop or laptop computer. You can find a computer in your car that continually provides onboard diagnostics or calculates the best fuel mileage or braking scenarios. Computers are used to run manufacturing lines, teach people how to fly planes in flight simulators, and are used in business to manage company financials and production data. 

Computers manage utility and phone grids, help to create sophisticated graphics for use in movies, provide automatic data collection and gathering, communication between people using email and help designer in video gaming creation. Massive computers help scientists perform massive calculations or work on global warming problems. Computers on board satellites provide global position system data, Internet access to people in rural areas, and take pictures of potential habitable planets.

  • Computer Usage Today: More than 175 million Americans use computers today.
  • Computers and Children: Do computers motivate children to better learning?
  • Computers and Printing: How printing technology has evolved using computers.
  • Helping the Disabled: Eye tracking devices and computers help the disabled.

How Far Computers Have Come

An abacus might be called an ?early? computer though it didn?t require use with electricity. An abacus helped its user calculate numbers at a faster rate simply by moving beads into different positions on the abacus. Some of the world?s first calculators preceded the computer. Today?s palm-sized calculators have more computing power within them than the ENIAC computer that filled a 1,800 square foot room.

As technology advances, computers get smaller and work at faster rates than the ones before them. In 2012, IBM is delivering two new computers to two of the government?s foremost labs, the Lawrence Livermore Lab in California and the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. These computers will be able to finish massive calculations in two minutes instead of the two years it takes today.

  • A Look Back: An interesting perspective from 1976 on the future of computers.
  • Computer Engineering and Science: Job opportunities in computer engineering and sciences.
  • Computers, Robotics and Bionics: Computers are being integrated into robotics and bionics.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Computers and artificial intelligence ? where technology is headed.

About me

As I started this website off with, my name is Ed. And I am, without a doubt, a near field communication enthusiast...  more

Scan and go:

Scan Me scan me Scan Me