History of Computer | Basic Computer Skills



In the previous post we covered three topics, introduction to computers, uses of computers, and characteristics of computers, in this post we will also cover the history of computers three topics and this post is also grow your knowledge of basic computer skills. For people who are beginners in the realm of computers, this post will be very helpful.

We'll discuss and cover the following topics. Visit “BasicComputer Course Lesson 2” on our YouTube Channel.

  • History of computer
  • Generation of computers
  • Types of computer

History of computer

The first computers were people! That is, electronic computers (and the earlier mechanical computers) were given this name because they performed the work that had previously been assigned to people. “Computer” was originally a job title, it was used to describe those human beings whose job was to perform repetitive calculations. Imagine you had a job where hour after hour, day after day, you were to do nothing but compute multiplications. In these situations. Boredom would quickly set in, leading to carelessness and mistakes. Even on your best days, you wouldn’t be producing answers very fast. Therefore, inventors have been searching for hundreds of years for a way to mechanize this task.


Here below we will tell you about the history of computers which computers were used earlier. And which scientists invented them.

  • Abacus
  • John Napier
  • Blaise Pascal
  • Barron Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz
  • Joseph Marie Jacquard
  • Charles Xavier Thomas De Colmar
  • Charles Babbage
  • George Boole
  • Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace
  • Herman Hollerith
  • Dr. John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry


The abacus was an early aid for mathematical computations. Its only value is that it aids the memory of humans for performing calculations. 

A skilled abacus operator can work on addition and subtraction problems at the speed of a person equipped with a hand calculator. The abacus was used in Asia Minor (China) about 5000 years ago. The abacus is still in use today. An abacus consists of rings that slide over rods.

John Napier

In 1617 an eccentric (some say mad) Scotsman named John Napier invented logarithms, which are a technology that allows multiplication to be performed via addition. 

The magic ingredient is the logarithm of each operand, which was originally obtained from a printed table. But Napier also invented an alternative to tables, where the logarithm values were carved on ivory sticks which are now called Napier’s Bones.

Blaise Pascal

In 1642 Blaise Pascal, at age of 19, invented the Pascaline as an aid for his father who was a tax collector.

 Pascal built a gear-driven one-function calculator (it could only add) but couldn’t sell many because of their exorbitant cost and because they really weren’t that accurate (at that time it was not possible to fabricate gears with the required precision). Up until the present age when car dashboards went digital, the odometer portion of a car’s speedometer used the very same mechanism as the Pascaline to increment the next wheel after each full revolution of the prior wheel. Pascal was a child prodigy.

Barron Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz

Just a few years after Pascal, the German Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz managed to improve the Pascaline as four functions (Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) calculator. 

Leibniz was the first advocate use of the binary system which is fundamental to the operation of modern computers. Leibniz is considered one of the greatest philosophers but he died poor and alone.

Joseph Marie Jacquard

In 1801 a French silk weaver and inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the jacquard loom. The Jacquard Loom is a mechanical loom that has holes punched in the pasteboard, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. 

Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order.

Charles Xavier Thomas De Colmar

Charles Xavier Thomas De Colmar, a Frenchman, invented the machine in 1820 that could perform the four basic arithmetic functions. This machine was called an Arithmometer. An Arithmometer was a mechanical calculator that could add and subtract directly. 

It could also perform long multiplication and division effectively by using a movable accumulator for the result. It became the first commercially successful mechanical calculator. Its study design gave it a strong reputation for reliability and accuracy and made it a key player in the move from human computers to calculating machines that took place during the second half of the 19th century.

Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage, was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of the programmable computer. 

He made a “Difference Engine” in 1833, which was powered by steam to solve mathematical equations.

After ten years. In 1842, he made a general-purpose computer named “Analytical Engine”. 

This analytical engine could add, subtract, multiply and divide in automatic sequence at 60 additions per second.

George Boole

As the inventor of Boolean logic which is the basis of modern digital computer logic, Boole is regarded as the founder of the field of computer science. 

George Boole clarified the binary system of algebra, which stated that any mathematical equation could be stated simply as either true or false.

Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace

Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. 

Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, as such she is often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith was a German-American statistician who developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards to rapidly tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data. 

He was the founder of the company that became IBM.

Dr. John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry

1n 1939, John V. Atanasoff, a professor at Iowa State University, and this graduate student Clifford E, Berry assembled a prototype of ABC (Atanasoff and Berry Computer) to save time for calculation. 

A working model of ABC was finished in 1942. The key ideas employed in the ABC included binary math and Boolean logic to solve up to 29 simultaneous linear equations. The ABC had no central processing unit (CPU) but was designed as an electronic device using vacuum tubes for digital computation. It also used separate regenerative capacitor memory that operated by a process still used today in DRAM memory.

Generations of Computers

Computers can be divided into five generations depending upon the technologies used. These are the following:

  • First Generation (1942-1955)
  • Second Generation (1955-1964)
  • Third Generation (1964-1975)
  • Fourth Generation (1975- 1980)
  • Fifth Generation (In process)

First Generation (1942-1955)

Each computer had a different binary-coded program called machine language that told it how to operate. This made the computer difficult to program and limited its versatility and speed.

The distinct features of first generations computers were:

Vacuum Tubes: vacuum tubes were used to control and amplify the electronic signals.

Operating instructions: There was no concept of the operating system. Operating instructions were used to operate computers for specific tasks.

Machine Language: To operate the computer different binary coded programs were used.

Examples: ENIAC, EDVAC, EDSAC, etc. belongs to first-generation computers.

First Generation Advantages

  • The main advantages of first-generation computers are the followings:
  • These computers were the fastest of their time.
  • They were programmed using machine language.
  • Electronic digital computers were introduced due to vacuum tube technology.

First Generation Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of first-generation computers are the followings:

  • Very big in size
  • Not reliable
  • Consumed a large amount of energy
  • Constant maintenance was required
  • More heat was generated and air conditioning was required
  • More costly
  • Very slow in speed (data processing)
  • It was difficult to write programs for these generation computers because they used only machine language
  • Nonportable
  • Limited commercial use

Second Generation (1955-1964)

The transistor technology was used in second-generation computers. The electronic component transistor was invented in 1948 at Bell Laboratories. The transistor is smaller in size and more reliable than a vacuum tube. Therefore, transistor technology was used in computers in place of vacuum tube technology. Second-generation computers replaced machine language with Assembly language allowing abbreviated programming codes to replace long difficult binary codes. More sophisticated high-level languages such as COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) and FORTRAN (Formula Translator) came into common use during this time. 

Second Generation Advantages

The main advantages of second-generation computers as compared to first-generation computers are the followings:

  • Low in cost
  • Smaller in size
  • Fast in speed
  • Less heat generated more reliable and accurate calculations
  • Consume low power etc.
  • Used for commercial purposes
  • Portable
  • Assembly language was introduced. This language is easy to write programs than machine language

Second Generation Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of this generation of computers are the followings:

  • Air conditioning required
  • Commercial production was difficult and these were very costly
  • Constant or frequent maintenance required
  • Only used for special purpose

Third Generation (1964-1975)

The IC (Integrated Circuits) technology was used in third-generation computers. In a small IC chip (5 mm square size) a circuit is designed with a large number of electronic components like transistors, capacitors, diodes, resistors, etc. Initially, an IC contained only about ten to twenty components. Thus the IC technology was named Small Scale Integration (SSI). The third generation was based on IC technology and the computers were designed using this technology.

Another third-generation development included the use of an operating system that allowed machines to run many different programs at once with a central program that monitored and coordinated the computer’s memory. 

Third Generation Advantages

The main advantages of the third generation as compared to previous generations of computers are the followings:

  • Smaller in size
  • Production cost was low
  • Very fast in computational power
  • More reliable
  • Low power consumption
  • Maintenance cost was low because the failure rate of hardware was very low
  • Magnetic disk, used for external storage
  • More storage capacity
  • Easily portable
  • Easily to operate
  • Upgraded easily
  • Widely used for various commercial applications all over the world
  • Lower heat generated
  • High-level languages were commonly used
  • Many input/output devices were introduced such as mouse and keyboard etc.

Third Generation Disadvantages

  • The main disadvantages of third-generation computers are the followings:
  • Air conditioning required
  • Highly sophisticated technology is required for the manufacturer of chips

Fourth Generation (1975- 1980)

Microchip technology was introduced in this generation of computers. LSI (Large Scale Integration) could fit hundreds of components onto one chip. By the 1980’s VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) squeezed hundreds of thousands of components onto a chip. Ultra Large Scale Integration (ULSI) increased that number into the millions. It increased their power, efficiency, and reliability. Intel made a chip named 4004 in 1971 on which a central processing unit, memory, and input/output controls were made.

IBM (International Business Machine) introduced its personal computer for use in 1981. The number of personal computers in use was 2 million in 1981 and increased to 5.5 million in 1982. Macintosh introduced an operating system that allowed users to move screen icons instead of typing instructions.

As smaller computers became more powerful, they could be linked together or networked to share memory space and software information and communicate with each other as opposed to a mainframe or minicomputer.  Computers were linked together using direct wiring called a Local Area Network (LAN) or telephone lines called the Internet.

Fourth Generation Advantages

The advantages of the fourth generation as compared to previous generation computers are the followings:

  • Smaller in size
  • Production cost is very low
  • Very reliable
  • Hardware failure is negligible
  • Easily portable because of their small size
  • Totally general purpose
  • Air conditioning is not compulsory
  • Very high processing speed
  • Very large internal and external storage capacity
  • Used advanced input & output devices such as optical readers, laser printers, CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives, etc.

Fourth Generation Disadvantages

  • The main disadvantage of fourth-generation computers is the following:
  • Highly sophisticated technology is required for the manufacturer of microprocessor chips

Fifth Generation (In process)

The main drawback of first to fourth-generation computers is that the computers do have not own thinking power. These are totally depending upon the instructions given by the users.

Fifth-generation computers are supposed to be the ideal computers but do not exist. Scientists are working to design such computers that will have the following features.

  • Having their own thinking power
  • Making decisions themselves
  • Having capabilities of learning
  • Having the capability of reasoning
  • Having a large capacity of internal storage
  • Having extra high processing speed
  • Having capabilities of parallel processing

In these computers following technologies will be used:

ULSIC (Ultra Large Scale Integrated Circuits) technology

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is also called the knowledge processor. AI means automatic programs that let the machines think and decide for themselves. The programming languages LISP (List Processor) and PROLOG (Programming with Logic) are used for artificial intelligence. Scientist at ICOT in Japan uses PROLOG to develop Artificial Intelligence software. 

Type of Computers

On the basis of the principle of construction, computers are divided into three types are followings:

  • Analog Computers
  • Digital Computers
  • Hybrid Computers

Analog Computers

An analog computer is a form of computer that used the continuously changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as electrical. Mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved. Mechanical analog computers were very important in gun fire control in World War II. They were made in significant numbers. Analog computers were also used in science and industry.

Analog quantities show the continuity of a specified value. An example is a thermometer because it measures the length of a mercury column, which varies continuously. Another example is the analog clock, which measures time by means of the distance traveled by the hand of the clock around a dial.

A digital computer is an electronic computing machine that uses the binary digits (bits) 0 and 1 to represent all forms of information internally in digital form. 

Every computer has a set of instructions that define the basic functions it can perform. Sequences of these instructions constitute machine language programs that can be stored in the computer and used to tailor it to an essentially unlimited number of specialized applications. Calculators are small computers specialized for mathematical computations. General purpose computers range from pocket-sized personal digital assistants (notepad computers) to medium-sized desktop computers (personal computers and workstations), to large, powerful computers that are shared by many users via a computer network. The vast majority of digital computers now in use are inexpensive. Special purpose microcontrollers are embedded, often invisibly in such devices as toys, and consumer electronics equipment.

Differences between Analog and Digital Computers



Analog computer works with continuous values.

The digital computer works with discrete values. It can work only with digits.

It has very limited memory.

It can store large amounts of data.

It has no state.

It has two states ON and OFF.

It can perform certain types of calculations.

Its speed of calculation is very high.

It is difficult to use.

IT is easy to use.

Analog computer is used in engineering and scientific application.

A digital computer is widely used in almost all fields of life.

An Analog computer is used for the calculation and measurements of physical quantities such as weight, height temperature, and speed.

A digital computer is used to calculate mathematical and logical operations.

Its accuracy is high.

Its accuracy is comparatively low.

Its readability is low.

Its readability is high.

Examples of analog computers are thermometers, analog clocks, and older weighing machines.

Examples of digital computers are digital watches, digital weighing machines, minicomputers, microcomputers, mainframes, and supercomputers.

 Hybrid Computers

Hybrid computers are computers that exhibit features of analog computers and digital computers. The digital component normally serves as the controller and provides logical operations, while the analog component normally serves as a solver of differential equations. 

An example of a hybrid computer system is a cement plant where all calculations are made by digital systems and accordingly actions such as increase of certain material in the furnace and increase/decrease of fuel for temperature is performed with the help of an analog system. Another example is the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) of the hospital where the hybrid computer is used. The analog quality of these computers controls the temperature of the room and given informs the doctors about the blood pressure, temperature, and physical status of the patient.


We have created this post for the newbies who are new to the computer field. It is designed to develop basic computer skills to enhance your knowledge. Also, you can review our posts on “What is Computer” and “Computer Hardware and Software”. If there is any kind of lack in this post or if liked it, please comment to us. Thanks.


Post a Comment


If you have any inquiry, please contact me given email or phone on my website.

Post a Comment (0)