A Brief History of Computers
Computers have changed greatly since they were available to the individuals and the small
first invented in the 1940s. The first computers businesses that needed them. This do-it-yourself
were the size of buildings, very big buildings! kit required $400 for the base unit and about
Today, we carry more powerful computers in $2,000 of add-on components before it could do
our pockets. Read on to learn more about early much.
It was Apple® that took the next big step with
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and the development of the Apple computer (1976).
Computer, or ENIAC (1947), weighed 30 tons Apple built full-fledged computers that could
and had to be hauled around in pieces by trucks, run simple word processing, spreadsheet, and
big trucks. The ENIAC was far less powerful other programs. Eyeing this success, IBM
than today's handheld Pocket PCs. Later the jumped into the market with the IBM PC, or
UNIVersal Automatic Computer or UNIVAC Personal Computer, in 1981. This computer
was created. Another huge computer, each one used an obscure operating system called DOS by
cost $1 million. About the same time, Microsoft. Microsoft, the same company that
International Business Machines (IBM) created later created the Windows OS, was created by
the Model 701 (1952), which was the first Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The wheels of the
production-line computer. This computer came digital communication tools revolution were
in 11 pieces, on trucks, and cost $16,000 each now in full motion.
month to rent. This computer stored data on
The 1980s gave birth to the big beige box
magnetic tape. These big computers were called
desktop PCs. Why manufacturers chose beige in
mainframes. They were so expensive that only
those early days is a mystery. These early
6,000 computers were in use in the United States
computers required a rather large and sturdy
desk to hold them. About the time the personal
Talking to, or "inputting data" into, these early computer turned 25 years old, the one billionth
computers required using switches, tubes, or PC was sold. By this time, customers began to
punch cards to send the zeros and ones that demand portable and mobile computers.
instructed the computers to do something.
Punch cards look like long index file cards with Portable Computers
holes punched in them. The cards were passed
The first portable computers were created by
through a special card reader. Based upon the
Commodore and Compaq in the 1980s. IBM
location of the holes in the cards, the card reader
also made an early “portable” weighing over 33
sent messages to the computer. Today we look
pounds! During the '90s, portables became
back nostalgically on punch cards and ask,
much lighter, very powerful, and very popular.
"What was that all about?"
In the current decade, a new generation of sleek
Before the 1960s, big "mainframe" computers
Tablet PCs and ultra-light portables weighing
dominated. Only companies and large
less than three pounds are commonplace. A
government agencies could afford them. In
wide variety of lightweight, handheld computer
1975, the Altair 8080 computer introduced the
devices are also popular.
possibility of making these powerful devices