Evolution of Computers

Before learning about evolution of computers, first let us know the definition of a computer.

A computer is an electronic device used for storing and processing data and carrying out sequence of operations. In short, it is a device which is invented to simplify the complicated tasks.

History and Evolution of Computers

The word COMPUTER was first used in a book named as ”The Young Mans Gleanings” written by English writer Richard Braithwait. “I haue read the truest computer of Times, and the best Arithmetician that euer breathed, and he reduceth thy dayes into a short number” is the line taken from that book which first used the word COMPUTER.

The answer to the question “Who invented the computer?” is not a simple one. Because it is not a single machine but a collection of different complicated parts,so development of each part can be considered as a separate invention. Many Scientists have contributed to the history of computers. Let us go through various computing devices which were developed prior to the existing computer.


Many centuries ago when man started to count the numbers, he thought of a device which can trace the numbers and thus came the existence of ABACUS. It was the first counting device which was developed in China more than 3000 years ago. The name Abacus was obtained from Greek word Abax which means slab. This device basically consists of a rectangular wooden frame and beads.

The frame contains horizontal rods and the beads which have holes are passed through the rods. Counting was done by moving the beads from one end of the frame to the other.

abacus-7935 and evolution of computers

Napier ’s Bones

It is a device which contains a set of rods made of bones. It was developed by John Napier, a Scottish Mathematician and hence the device was named as Napier’s Bones. The device was mainly developed for performing multiplication and division. Later in 1614 he also introduced logarithms.

Bones_of_Napier_(board_and_rods) evolution of computers


Pascaline is a calculating machine developed by Blaise Pascal, a French Mathematician. It was the first device with an ability to perform additions and subtractions on whole numbers. The device is made up of interlocked cog wheels which contains numbers 0 to 9 on its circumference. When one wheel completes its rotation the other wheel moves by one segment. Pascal patented this device in 1647 and produced it on mass scale and earned a handful of money.

Arts et Metiers Pascaline and evolution of computers

Punched Card System

Punched Card System is used for storing and retrieving data. This was invented by Herman Hollerith, an American Statistician in US Census Bureau. The system stores the data coded in the form of punched holes.

Punched card and evolution of computers


Herman Hollerith also invented Tabulator which was the first step towards programming. The first tabulator which he invented in 1890 was used to operate only on 1890 census cards. As he was a statistician in census bureau, he developed devices to simplify the tasks related to his department.

Later in 1906, Type 1 tabulator was developed with a plug board control panel which allowed it to do different jobs without being rebuilt. His inventions were the basis for the modern information processing industry.

Digital Era

Coming to the digital era, Binary system made its entry into the computer world. According to this system, 0’s and 1’s were used. This system was suggested by Claude Shannon, an American Mathematician.

The first electronic computer was built by Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff, a Physics Professor and Clifford Berry. The computer was names as ABC(Atanasoff-Berry Computer). This computer used vacuum tubes for data storage. It was designed mainly for solving systems of simultaneous equations.

In 1946, General Purpose Computer was developed which contained 18000 valves and used to consume 100kilowatts of power and weighted several tonnes.


In 1947, Transistors were introduced into the computers. With the introduction of transistors, computations were simpler and faster.

ULN2803A Transistor Array

In 1957, IBM developed FORTRAN.

In 1959, Integrated Circuit(IC) came into existence which was later used in the computers.

In 1960, Mainframe computer was designed which used IC for the first time.

In 1970, Memory chip with 1KB storage capacity was developed by Intel.

In 1975, First micro computer was developed by H. Edward Roberts(now the father of micro computer)

In 1980’s and 1990’s, many modifications and upgradations were done and the usage of chips and various other stuffs changed the computers completely.

Watch out this space for our upcoming articles related to Future of Computers which includes Optical Computing and Surface Computing……

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