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The Development Of Computers Essay

1823 words - 8 pages


Today, it is incredible to consider that in 1969 men landed on the moon using a computer with a 32-kilobyte memory, that was only programmable by the use of punch cards. In 1973, Astronaut Alan Shepherd participated in the first computer "hack" while orbiting the moon in his landing vehicle, as two programmers back on Earth attempted to "hack" into the duplicate computer, to find a way for Shepherd to convince his computer that a catastrophe requiring a mission abort was not happening; the successful hack took 45 minutes to accomplish, and Shepherd went on to hit his golf ball on the moon. Today, the average computer sitting on the desk of a suburban home office has more ...view middle of the document...

In fact, its acceptance as a science was difficult for many institutions up until recently. Juris Hartmanis, writing in "Observations About the Development of Theoretical Computer Science", claims that computer science is "indeed a different intellectual discipline than we have ever encountered before":

The fundamental difference between, say, physics and computer science is that in physics, we study to a very large extent a world that exists, and our main objective is to observe and explain the existing (and predict new observable) phenomena. The relations between experiments and theory are quite well understood and richly illustrated by successful examples. Computer science, on the other hand, is primarily interested in what can exist and how to describe and analyze the possible in information processing. It is a science that has to conceptualize and create the intellectual tools and theories to help us imagine, analyze, and build the feasibly possible (Hartmanis, 1981, p. 43).

George Boole (1815 1864), was an English mathematician and logician whose great discovery was that one could apply a set of symbols to logical operations, something Leibniz had been groping toward nearly two centuries before. This laid the most important foundation for computer development. Nearly every digital computer model ever made has been based on Boole's system for symbolic logic, now known as Boolean Algebra (Asimov, 1982, p. 389).

Johann von Neumann was one of the elite quantum physics revolutionaries in Gottingen, Germany, in the late twenties. He was one of the original logicians who posed the questions that Turing and Kurt G"del answered in the 1930s. During the development and operation of ENIAC, John von Neumann, who had a cursory interest in that machine, observed some limitations in its design. The primary problem was that ENIAC could not hold programs or processed data in a "memory" but had to rely on punch cards or tapes to keep track of its work. This slowed the machine's potential drastically under certain uses. From this observation, Von Neumann developed the idea of the "stored program" and his model has become known as the Von Neumann Model: a simple Central Processing Unit and memory model upon which most modern computers are based (Zientara, 1981, p. 185).

The first successful digital computer was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). ENIAC's speedup in multiplication over the Harvard machine developed by Aiken was roughly 500 to 1. This speedup doomed the electromechanical approach to creating a computer (Goldstine, 1972, p. 117).

By the time ENIAC was complete, the design had expanded from one containing 5,000 vacuum tubes, to one which contained 18,000 vacuum tubes of 16 basic types, 1500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors; it was 8 ft high, 3 ft wide, almost 100 ft long, weighed 30 tons, and consumed 140 kilowatts of power. ENIAC was used for the first computerized weather forecasts as well as...

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