How the First Computer Was Developed
The first suggestion that the machine for mathematical computation could be built was made more than a hundred years ago by the mathematician Charles Babbage. We now realize that he understood clearly all the fundamental principles of modern computers.
Babbage was born in Devonshire, England, in 1792. He did not receive a good education, but he taught himself mathematics so well that when he went to Cambridge, he found that he knew more algebra than his tutor.
At that time mathematics in Cambridge was still under the influence of Newton and quite unaffected by the contemporary developments on the continent.
Charles Babbage was outstanding among his contemporaries because he insisted on the practical application of science and mathematics. For example, he wrote widely on the economic advantages of machine tools.
In 1812 he was sitting in his room looking at a table of logarithms which he knew to be full of mistakes, when an idea occurred to him of computing all tabular function by machinery. Babbage constructed a small working model which he demonstrated in 1822.
The Royal Society supported the project, and Babbage was promised a subsidy.
In 1833 he began to think of building a machine which was in fact the first universal digital computer, as the expression is understood today.
Babbage devoted the rest of his life to an attempt to develop it. He had to finance all of the work himself and he was only able to finish part of the machine though he prepared thousands of detailed drawings from which it could be made.
Babbage wrote more than 80 books and papers, but he was misunderstood by his contemporaries and died a disappointed man in 1871.
He tried to solve by himself and with his own resources a series of problems which in the end required the united efforts of two generations of engineers.
After his death his son continued his work and built part of an arithmetic unit, which printed out its results directly on paper.
As 8-bit CPU machines became widely accepted, the number of portables increased rapidly. The Osborne 1, released in 1981, used the Zilog Z80 and weighed 23.6 pounds (10.7 kg). It had no battery, a 5 in the cathode ray tube screen (13 cm), and dual 5.25 in (13.3 cm) single-density floppy drives.
Then there were a lot of different modifications of computer.
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