The concept of a computer did not materialize overnight. Just as the growth and development of mature biological species normally took place in fits and started over the ages, the computer also took thousands of years to mature.
Ancient people used stone for counting or made scratches on a wall or tied knots in a rope to record information. But all these were manual computing techniques. Attempts had been going on for developing faster computing devices and the first achievement was the abacus, the pioneer computing device made by man. Let us take a look at the development of the computer through various stages.
Around 3000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Mesopotamians quite unknowingly laid the foundation of the computer era. They discovered the earliest form of a bead - and write counting the machine, which subsequently came to be known as abacus. The Chinese improved upon the abacus so that they could count and calculate fast.
Napier's 'Logs' and 'Bones'
John Napier developed the idea of logarithm. He used 'logs' to transform multiplication problem to addition problem. Napier's logs later became the basis for a well known invention-the computing machine known as slide rule. Napier also devised set of numbering rods known as Napier's Bones. He could perform both multiplication and division with these Bones
The idea of logarithm developed in 1614, notably reduced the tedium of repetitive calculations
Pascal's Adding machine
Blaise Pascal, a french mathematician, invented a machine in 1642 made up of gears which was used for adding number quickly. This machine was named as adding machine and was capable of addition and subtraction. It worked on clock work mechanism principle. The adding machine consisted of numbered toothed wheels having unique position values. The rotation of wheels controlled the addition and subtraction operations. This machine was capable of carry - transfer automatically.
Gottfried Leibnitz , a German mathematician, improved an adding machine and constructed a new machine in 1671 that was able to perform multiplication and division as well. This machine performed multiplication through repeated addition of numbers. Leibnitz's machine used stepped cylinder each with nine teeth of varying lengths instead of wheels as was used by Pascal.
Joseph Jacquard manufactured punched cards at the end of American revolution and used them to control looms in 1801. Thus the entire control weaving process were automatic. The entire operation was under a program's control. With the historic invention of punched cards, the era of storing and retrieving information started that greatly influenced the later inventions and advancements
Babbage's Difference Engine
Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics developed a machine called Difference Engine in the year 1822. This machine was expected to calculate the logarithmic tables to a high degree of precision. The difference engine was made to calculate various mathematical functions. The machine was capable of polynomial evaluation by finite difference and its operation was automatic multistop operation.
In 1887, an American named Herman Hollerith fabricated what was dreamt of by Charles Babbage. He fabricated the first electromechanical punched card tabulator that used punched cards for input, output and instructions. This machine was used by American Department of Census to compile their 1880 census data and were able to complete compilation in 3 years which earlier used to take around 10 years.
Mark - I
Prof.Howard Aiken in U.S.A constructed in 1943 an electromechanical computer named Mark-I which could multiply two 10- digit number in 5 seconds - a record at that time. Mark-I was the first machine which could perform according to pre programmed instructions automatically without any manual interferences. This was the first operational general purpose computer.