Week One: Drake Saarinen

21 May

The origins of the modern digital computer come from a vast span of time and technological development. Many of the original devices were never constructed (theoretical) but were non the less helpful for other engineers in developing other computational devices of their own. The first devices used to compute are believed to be Astrolabes, devices used to calculate and track the positions of the planets, moons, stars, as well as determine the time and latitude. In fact many of the earliest devices used for computations were for astrology. The next big step in the development towards modern computers is the ability to program a mechanical device to get a designed output. This first appeared with the creation of the Castle Clock which allowed the “user” to change the lengths of days and and night which would change the way the device operated. The next step was with the Jacquard loom which used punch cards to input a desired pattern into the loom for a specific pattern of cloth. This was a big step because it would mark the fist appearance of punch cards which would later arise and the dominate form for programming computational devices in the next century and a half.

By far one of the most significant man to advance computers was Charles Babbage who designed two devices that could be programmed to solve complex mathematical calculations. He is important because his designs / prototypes  marked one of the first times that computers were use to solve complex equations that were not astronomical. Almost all computers after his devices were used in this way. After Babbage I believe that Herman Hollerith to be a very significant individual in the development of modern computers. He created a device that was actually used in a real setting. Counting the US census and making that process much easier and more efficient was a step that allowed many people to see the potential in electric powered computing devices. It is also worth noting that his device was much faster and smaller than its mechanical predecessors (still massive by today standards).

In the 20th century much like every industry, WWII was a time of unparalleled technological advancement. WWII pushed computers to to become more and more complex and to be used for many different reasons, code breaking algorithms, mortar charts, and air craft components to name a few were made for the war, and their technologies remained and continued to advance long after its closing.

4 Responses to “Week One: Drake Saarinen”

  1. Tyler DeFrain May 23, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    I agree with what you have stated in your post about the origin of computers and the amount of time it had taken to develop them. Clearly, the evolution of computers was quite a long process. It started with the analog computers and as you have stated these beginning computers such as the astrolabes later aided engineers in their development of more modern computers. Personally, I found Turing and Flowers to be the main pioneers of the digital computer. I see how many different people can be argued in different ways however, I felt the advancements made in technology at Bletchley Park, were quite influential since they developed the very first digital computer and made strides in technology that were pretty significant for the time, and the computing systems of that time. I saw that you also agreed in your last little paragraph how WWII pushed computers to become better and more technologically advanced.

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