The History of the Personal Computer

In this era of computer technology, computers have a special place in human’s life. Someone is using computers for games, someone for training; some just loves to surf through Internet. But all these computers have a common structure and principles of operation, and accordingly, the history of development.

Get your 100% original paper on The History of the Personal Computer!
Custom essay written from scratch by professional specifically for you!

The evolutionary process that led to creation of modern computers also remains extremely fast and dynamic. Scientists have deduced that the speed of processors doubles every 18 months!

When you create a machine known as the “personal computer” you have to use a large number of discoveries and inventions that have made a significant contribution into the development of computer technology.

The process of human interaction with computers counts more than 40 years. Until recently, only specialists, engineers, mathematicians, programmers and operators could participate in this process. In recent years, there have been dramatic changes in the field of computing. Through the development and implementation of a computer chip, appeared compact and user-friendly personal computers. The situation changed, as the user can not only be an expert in computer science, but any person, whether student or housewife, doctor or teacher, worker or engineer. This phenomenon is often referred as the phenomenon of the personal computer. At present the world of personal computers counts more than 20 million species.

Babbage’s Analytical Engine. In the first half of XIX century, English mathematician – Charles Babbage tried to build a computing device with general purposes. That was a computer (Babbage called it the Analytical Engine). It was Babbage, who first thought of the computer that should contain memory and be controlled by software.

Babbage wanted to build his computer as a mechanical device, and program it through a set of punch cards – cards from construction paper, with information that is applied by holes (which was already widely used in weaving machines). However, Babbage could not complete this work – it was too complicated for the technique of the time.

The first computers. In the 40’s, several groups of scientists retried the technology, based on Babbage researches – electromechanical relays. Some of these researchers did not know anything about the work of Babbage and rediscovered his ideas again. One of them was German engineer – Konrad Zuse, who in 1941 built a small computer, based on several electromechanical relays. But because of war Zuse’s work was never published. In the U.S. in 1943, Howard Aiken created more powerful computer, called “Mark 1”. This machine was able to perform calculations hundreds of times faster than calculations made by hand (using an adding machine), and has actually been used for military calculations.

However, electromechanical relays were very slow and not reliable. Therefore, since 1943, the U.S. team, led by John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, began to design a computer based on vacuum tubes – The ENIAC. They created computer which worked thousand times faster than the “Mark 1”. However, they discovered that most of the time the computer was idle. To perform a calculation (program) in this computer, engineers had to connect the wires in a specific way, which took several hours or even several days. And the calculation itself could take only a few minutes or even seconds.

Computers with a program stored in the memory. To simplify and speed up the process of programs, Mauchly and Eckert began to design new computer that could store the program in its memory. In 1945, the famous mathematician – John von Neumann was recruited for this work. He prepared a report about this computer. The report has gained popularity, because von Neumann clearly articulated general principles of computer operation in it. The vast majority of computers were made in accordance with the principles set out in the work of John von Neumann. The first computer, in which the principles of von Neumann were embodied, was built in 1949 by English explorer – Maurice Wilkes.

The development of computer hardware components. In the 40’s and 50’s, computers have been created on the basis of vacuum tubes. Therefore, computers were very large (they occupied huge halls), expensive and unreliable, because electron tubes, as ordinary light bulbs were burning out frequently. In 1948, the transistors were invented – tiny and inexpensive electronic devices that could replace the tubes. This led to reduction of computer’s size in hundreds of times.

The first computers, based on transistors, appeared in the late 50’s, and by the mid-‘60s the external devices for computers were created, which enabled the company to release Digital Equipment in 1965. The first mini-computer PDP-8 was the size of a refrigerator and cost only 20 thousand dollars.

After appearance of transistors the most time-consuming operation in the production of computers was connection and soldering of transistors to create electronic circuits. In 1959, Robert Noyce (future founder of Intel) has invented a way to put all transistors and all the connections between them on a single wafer of silicon. The resulting electronic circuits were called integrated circuits, or chips. In 1968, Burroughs released the first computer integrated circuit; and in 1970, the Intel began to sell integrated circuit memory. Further the number of transistors that could be placed on a single unit of the integrated circuit was increased twice each year. It provides permanent reduction in the computers’ price and increases their performance.

The appearance of personal computers. Initially, microprocessors were used in a variety of specialized devices, such as calculators. But in 1974, several companies announced formation of a microprocessor based Intel 8008 PC, the device that performs the same function as large computer, but it was designed for a single user. In early 1975, the first commercial personal computer was Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor. This computer was sold for about $ 500.

Although, its possibilities were very limited (RAM 256 bytes, the keyboard and screen were absent). Its appearance was greeted with great enthusiasm and in the first months several thousand machines were sold. Buyers had to supply their computers with additional devices: a monitor for displaying information, keyboard, expandable memory blocks, etc. Soon these devices were produced by other companies. At the end of 1975, Paul Allen and Bill Gates (future founders of Microsoft Company) created a “language interpreter program” for Altair, allowing users to communicate with computer and to write programs for it. This also contributed to the popularity of personal computers.

Success of Altair 8800 forced many companies to engage in manufacture of personal computers. Personal computers were sold already fully loaded with keyboard and monitor. The demand for them has grown to tens and then hundreds of thousands of units per year. Several magazines devoted to personal computers appeared. Many useful programs, designed for business applications contributed to the increase in sales. There were also commercially available programs for WordStar, word processing and spreadsheet VisiCalc (respectively, 1978 and 1979). These and many other programs have made personal computers a very beneficial purchase for businesses: they could perform accounting calculations, write documents, etc. The use of large computers for these purposes was too expensive.

Appearance of IBM PC. In the late 70’s the spread of personal computers has even led to some reduction in demand for large computers and mini-computers (mini-computer). This has become a matter of serious concern for IBM Company (International Business Machines Corporation) – a leading company in the production of large computers; and in 1979, IBM has decided to try their hands in the PC market (Yost, 2005). However, the leadership of the company underestimated importance of the future of this market and considered creation of personal computers as small experiment – something like one of dozens works held in the firm to create new equipment.

To avoid wasting on this experiment too much money, the management of the company provided the department responsible for the project with unprecedented freedom. In particular, they were allowed to construct a personal computer using the blocks made by other companies. And they took full advantage of the provided chance.

In August 1981, a new computer called the IBM PC was officially presented to the public, and soon after it became very popular among users. After one or two years, an IBM PC took the lead in the market, pushing of the 8-bit computer models

If IBM PC was made in the same way as other computers of that time, it would be out of date in two or three years, and we would have forgotten about it. Indeed, who remembers the most wonderful TVs, phones or even cars that were made fifteen years ago?

But with IBM PC computers the story turned out differently. IBM has not made a single one-piece computer device and did not protect its design with patents. On the contrary, the company has made a computer out of different parts and did not keep specifications of these parts in secret.

In contrast, IBM PC design principles have been available to the public. This approach has provided tremendous success to IBM PC computers, although deprived IBM of the possibilities to enjoy the fruits of this success. That is how the open architecture of IBM PC affected the development of personal computers.

All this has led to the price reduction of IBM PC compatible computers and rapid improvement of their performance, hence, to the increase of their popularity.

In 1963 the mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart and his team at Stanford. The mouse (so named because its cord resembled the tail) was necessary to move the cursor.

June 28, 1972: the foundation of “Atari”. “Atari” will be vital for dissemination of video games, which will prove to people that computers are not only for dull work. Computers really can bring joy.

April 1976: Demonstration of Apple I. The first computer with fully assembled motherboard was sold for $ 666.66, and allowed Apple to start their thirty years market dominance.

Year 1980: invention of the combination Ctrl-Alt-Delete. It seems to be a mere trifle, but without David Bradley (one of the team members of IBM PC) you would turn on and off your computer in much more complicated way than you do now.

November 20, 1985: Microsoft Windows. Brilliant! They have decided not to develop a new computer but to make a system operating software, required to use the computer. Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen figured out how to make more money than anyone else.

April 3, 2010: IPAD. The latest offering from Apple Company, a tablet computer, which was designed to serve as a platform for books, periodicals, movies, music and games, as well as a new way to access the Internet.

Just for over 20 years the computer industry has become one of the main sectors of the economy of many countries. It is impossible to imagine modern life without a computer. It is used for a variety of purposes – starting from education and training of children and ending with control over the most important military installations. It is difficult to overestimate the role of computers in our lives. The development of the computer takes place to this day and innovations that help to improve the electronic brain are constantly emerging.

In addition, the peripheral devices market (printers, scanners, etc.) continues to develop, monitors, software market. Therefore, computer takes a very important place in our lives. Enterprises start to use new automated lines, new machines with programmable controllers. Production is developing intensively with computer technology, since computers started to do the work instead of a person.

The development of the electronics industry is so fast that literally in one year, today’s “miracle of technology” becomes morally obsolete. However, the principles of computer remain unchanged.

Therefore, considering the above, we can see a clear idea of what a leading place in society is occupied by personal computers, the scope of which is limitless.

DISCLAIMER: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.