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History of Early Computing

A potted history of early computing devices

Logo of History of Early Computing
First Published
Tue Oct 04 2022
Last Published
Thu Jan 26 2023
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Jacquard Loom


French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard developed a loom in which the pattern being woven was controlled by a paper tape constructed from punched cards. The paper tape could be changed without changing the mechanical design of the loom.


Difference Engine


Charles Babbage designed this automatic mechanical calculator to tabulate polynomial functions. He built a 1/7th model, but he never finished the complete machine.


Ada Lovelace


An English mathematician and writer (and daughter of poet Lord Byron), Ada Lovelace translated a text on Babbage's Analyical Engine, adding many notes, including an app for calculating Bernoulli numbers.


The Hollerith Electric Tabulating System

[Commercial use]

Herman Hollerith invented data storage on punched cards that could then be read by a machine. His machines used electromechanical relays and counters and was used in many census programs around the world. Hollerith's company eventually became the core of IBM.


Turing Machine


A Turing machine is a mathematical model of computation describing an abstract machine that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules.


Field-effect transistor


The first working device to be built was a point-contact transistor invented by physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain while working under William Shockley at Bell Labs. The three shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for their achievement.


Monolithic integrated circuits


The first planar, monolithic integrated circuits were developed by Fairchild Semiconductor based on the work of Lehovec, Hoerni, Kilby and Noyce, and tested on this date. NASA's Apollo Program was the largest single consumer of integrated circuits for the next 5 years.