• Perhaps Computer is the most powerful and versatile tool created by human beings till now.
  • In today’s scenario, computer plays a major role in almost every aspect of life and influences our lives in one way or the other. Today, you can hardly find any area which is not influenced by computer.
  • The word computer comes from the word “compute” which means to calculate.
  • Computer is also meant for calculation but it is much more than just a calculating machine.
  • Origin of computer could be rigorous efforts of men to count large numbers. This process of counting of large numbers generated various systems of numeration like Babylonian system of numeration, Greek system of numeration, Roman system of numeration and Indian system of numeration. Out of these, the Indian system of numeration has been accepted universally. It is the basis of modern decimal system of numeration 0-9. This finally led the base of origin of computer.

History/Origin of Computer

The history of computer focuses on major development during different periods of time.Some major are – 


  • Nearly 5,000 years ago, the “abacus” was developed in China in 3000 B.C.
  • The word abacus means calculating board.
  • The “abacus” may be considered the first counting device and it has been used since ancient times by a number of civilizations for basic arithmetical calculations.
  • The abacus is also called a counting frame, which is a calculating tool for performing arithmetic operations.
  • The arithmetic calculations are performed by manipulating the beads of abacus by using the principle of positional weight of beads on a rack.
  • Abacus is used even today to teach small children how to count.
  • A skilled abacus operation can be as fast as a hand held calculator.
  • The Chinese abacus has a frame holding vertical wires, with seven beads on each wire. A horizontal divider separates the top two beads from the bottom five, sometimes referred to as the heaven and the earth beads. 

Napier’s Bones

  • John Napier built a mechanical device called Napier’s Bone, for the purpose of multiplication in 1617 A.D. His “bones” are set of eleven rods side by side products and quotients of large numbers can be obtained. The sticks were called “bones” because they were made of bone of ivory.
  • John Napier was a mathematician who became famous for his invention of logarithms.
  • The use of “logs” enabled him to reduce any multiplication problem. 

Slide Rule

  • English mathematician E. Gunter developed the slide rule.
  • This machine could perform operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
  • Although the slide rule appeared in various forms during the seventeenth century, it consists of two movable rulers placed side by side. Each ruler is marked off in such a way that the actual distances from the beginning of the ruler are proportional to the logarithms of the numbers printed on the ruler. By sliding the rulers, one can quickly multiply and divide.

Pascal’s Calculator

  • Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and one of the first modern scientists to developed and build calculator.
  • He developed a machine at the age of 19 that was capable of adding and subtracting numbers.
  • The machine was operated by dialing a series of wheels, gears and cylinders.

Leibniz’s Multiplication and Dividing Machine

  • Like Pascal, Gottfried Leibniz was a seventeenth century scientist who recognized the value of building machines and built around 1673 a mechanical device that could do mathematical calculations and save labor too.

Difference Engine

  • The first step towards the creation of computers was made by an English mathematics professor, Charles Babbage. Early on, he realized that all mathematical calculations can be broken up into simple operations which are then constantly repeated, and that these operations could be carried out by an automatic machine.
  • In the 1820s Charles Babbage started working on a Difference Engine, but after ten years he abandoned it for the Analytical Engine – the real predecessor of the Computer.
  • Babbage outlined the basic elements of a modern general purpose computer which was based on the method of finite differences.
  • It uses only arithmetical addition and removes the need for multiplication and division which are more difficult to implement mechanically.
  • Charles Babbage is called the father of the computer.

The Analytical Engine

  • The Analytical Engine marks the progression from the arithmetic calculation to general-purpose computation.
  • It was also developed by Charles Babbage.
  • This machine was based on the principle that, for certain formulas, the difference between certain values is constant.
  • The Analytical Engine has many essential features found in the modern digital computer.
  • The Engine had a ‘Store’ (memory) where numbers and intermediate results could be held, and a separate ‘Mill’ (processor) where the arithmetic processing was performed. It had an internal stock of the four arithmetical functions and could perform direct multiplication and division.
  • It was also capable of functions like: conditional branching, looping (iteration), micro-programming, parallel processing, latching, and polling etc.
  • The logical structure of the Analytical Engine was essentially the same as that which has dominated computer design in the electronic era.

Mechanical and Electrical Calculator

  • In the beginning of 19th century, the mechanical calculator was developed to perform all sorts of mathematical calculations. Up to the 1960s, it was widely used.
  • Later the rotating part of mechanical calculator was replaced by electric motor. So it was called the electrical calculator.

Modern Electronic Calculator

  • The electronic calculator used in 1960s was run with electron tubes, which was quite bulky.
  • Later it was replaced with transistors and as a result the size of calculators became fairly small.
  • The modern electronic calculator can compute all kinds of mathematical computations and mathematical functions.
  • It can also be used to store some data permanently.
  • Some calculators have in-built programs to perform some complicated calculations.
  • Modern electronic calculators contain a keyboard with buttons for digits and arithmetical operations.
  • These calculators can perform sophisticated arithmetic and financial computations such as converting from polar to rectangular coordinates, taking square roots, computing logarithms and trigonometric relationships.

EDVAC(Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) :

  • Before ENIAC was finished, Von Neumann designed EDVAC with a memory to hold both a stored program as well as data. This enabled much faster operation since the computer had rapid access to both data and instructions. The other advantages of storing instruction were that computer could do logical decision internally.

ENIAC(Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) :

  • The first digital computer ENIAC, was a huge monster that weighed over thirty tons, and consumed 200 kilowatts of electrical power.
  • It had around 18,000 vacuum tubes that constantly burned out, making it very unreliable.
  • The first general purpose programmable electronic computer built by J. Presper Eckert and John V. Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • The ENIAC was 30-50 feet long, weighed 30 tons, contained 18,000 vacuum tubes, 70,000 registers, 10,000 capacitors and required 150,000 watts of electricity.

UNIVAC(Universal Automatic Computer) :

  • Eckert and Mauchly developed what was arguably the first commercially successful computer, the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC), in 1952.

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