Week Two: Drake Saarinen

28 May

The intellectual leap in computer design from massive devices that filled rooms all the way down to the smart phones in our pockets today is really thanks to several technological advancements as well as some public interest. First and for most the single most important advancement that happened to the electronic computers was the transistor. The transistor was a huge deal because it literally changed the way computers could be made over night. First they allowed the machines to be much smaller. This was because they replaced Vacuum tubes which were many times larger. Not only were they smaller they were much faster than vacuum tubes. This is explained in two parts, first because they have no moving parts they can be switched much faster and due to them being smaller. Transistors being smaller was important because the bigger the part is the slower the electrical signal can travel ergo slower calculations. Since transistors were much smaller they were much faster. They were also important because they could be machine made eliminating the human error of the previous vacuum switch witch were handmade. The next advancement was the Microprocessor by Intel in 1971. The Microprocessor was in affect a mini computer on a chip with a whole host of advantages. Foremost it allowed the removal of the shared time system, as each person could have their individual terminal perform their calculations. It also made computers many times cheaper and created a flood of new micro computers being built. These two advancements made a huge impact on the size and availability of computers which allowed for the first personal computers to start popping up.

The Home brew computer club is considered to be the original birthplace of personal computers. It was a club of people interested in computers who would meet up, trade parts, and information to one another. They also had a newsletter that gained allot of attraction and brought light on the idea of the Personal computer. However this was a club for people who knew how to build computers the personal computer was made available to anyone who could afford one with the introduction of the Apple I by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They marketed the Apple I and II as a complete unit that was sold already assembled, so anyone could use it. After the Apple II there were several other companies that sold personal computers ushering in the PC market for all people.

One Response to “Week Two: Drake Saarinen”

  1. Veronica Stachurski May 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    While I agree that the invention of the transistor was very important to the evolution of the computer, I do not believe that it can be considered “…the single most important advancement…” because there were just too many advancements that came both before and after it that have significantly contributed to the digital age. It was one of the first inventions that helped to reduce both the cost and the size of the computer, but the integrated circuit (IC) cannot be forgotten. Without the IC, the microprocessor may not have been created.

    The Homebrew Computer Club helped to push the computer market to the individual, but there were other reasons that individuals began to own computers. For example, IBM specifically marketed its Model 650s to individuals, rather than to corporations, which allowed the company to produce more than 12,000 systems. Another example is Commodore International, which was able to get its Commodore PET installed in schools. The Homebrew Computer Club was able to help create a market for computers outside of hobbyists, but it was a combination of the club, the installation of computers in schools, and the specific marketing of computers to individuals that encouraged people to think of computers as more than the large and expensive systems that businesses used.