By: Woojin Juhn
Prior to the invention of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), Charles Babbage’s engine could only execute calculations by physically changing the gears. However, in1945, when the US government succeeded in building the ENIAC, it replaced physical motion, an old form of computer language, with electric signals. To begin with, ENIAC, one of the world’s first digital computers, seemed immensely useful because of its remarkably improved speed when compared to physically-operated electromechanical calculators. On the other hand, there were numerous downsides of operating the ENIAC: the size was too big that it filled a room, used more electricity than all the houses on an average city block, contained thousands of heat-producing vacuum tubes, and the process of presetting switches and rewiring the entire system for each new calculation was very tedious.
Ten years later, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) introduced a new technology called Whirlwind Machine, which was the first computer to have real-time graphics. Time-sharing computers were very expensive but soon became popular among big organizations. These computers were powerful enough for 30 workers to operate at the same time and allowed teletypes to be placed at a great distance from the computer, by making a connection through a telephone system. However, Time-sharing computers were not suitable for use in homes and small businesses because they were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars, and they weighed about 5 tons.
The most vital development of computers occurred in the 1970s, as people started connecting computers to networks, sending emails, and transferring files through computers became possible. In addition, the size and weight of computers decreased significantly, and computers became useful to not only businesses but also to the general public. In the early 1970s, computers, still, relied on switches to input and output data, and a series of lights needed to be manually turned on and off in order for computers to work. Eventually, in the late 1970s, computers did not require any assembly and became much more compact.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the use of personal computers has risen exponentially. Hundreds of millions of computers were built by many different IT companies. Most computers were connected through the internet, and the networks created by local PC users allowed a local group of computers to communicate and share resources such as disk drives and printers.
Since the world entered the twenty first century, PCS have become an integral part of our lives, and take PCs with us wherever we go. Therefore, computer manufactures have continuously researched the technology to decrease the size and weight of PCs. As a result, traditional heavy hard drives are replaced by a solid-state disc by Apple in 2008. In modern day computers, only a tiny computer chip plays the role of brains in cell phones, digital cameras, portable music players, and PDAs (portable digital assistants). Most of these devices now connect to the Internet via wireless technology, giving users unprecedented mobility.
Woojin Juhn is an 11th-grade student at Northern Valley Demarest High School. He was born and raised in Gyeonggi-do South Korea until 16, and he moved to the US 2 years ago and now lives in Demarest New Jersey. He is interested in computer science, and he wrote an essay after reading an article on cybercrime, which has become a hot topic recently.