Which invention allowed computers to be smaller?

Which invention helped computers to be smaller? What is the history of compute`s hardware? How did everything start from the very beginning?

Which invention could help computers to be smaller

Which invention could help computers to be smaller in your arms? What is the history of computers and computer hardware how could we create a magnificent world filled with computers and its structures? People always dreamt about machines that could be quite powerful to control everything around us and at the same time would be small enough to place into our pockets. Therefore, what invention enabled computers to be smaller and lighter. If you have a desire to get the answer to this question, then you need to follow the whole history of computers. It seems that this invention helped people from the very beginning of the history.

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History of computers

The history of computers and elements that helped computers to be smaller and better. The history covers grand space of time from the earliest device that could help to ease calculations to the super-computers that can do a variety of things and can manage you to create everything instead of human. Before the 20th century, most of the calculations in the world were made by humans. Some early mechanical machines could provide different calculations, but they were quite simple. The earliest mechanical instruments like an abacus were called calculating machines. The operator who controlled all processes connected with calculations was called a computer.

The first aid that could be provided to the computers were mechanical devices that could help with calculating – make it faster and more rational. The initial knowledge about elementary arithmetic could help people to manipulate the mechanism and get more results from everything. Computers later became purely mechanic as they obtained only new technologies. Later, computers just represented numbers in many forms. They were powered with rotations and voltage. Numbers could also be manipulated by mechanical mechanisms. This approach could only make the results greater. New technologies, like miniaturized transistors computers, which were one of the first decisions provided computers to be smaller. The cost for the computers became so small that many families in the USA had them by the end of the 1980s. In the 1990s with the creation of the Internet, the world entered into the digital era of computers. Some new technologies helped computers to become so small, that it could even be placed into hands. With the start of the 2000s, computers, smartphones and tablets became extremely popular in industrialized countries. In the 2010s the progress which could have been the only imagination of writers, now it becomes a reality. In the nearest future, we might get super mini computers from science movies, and who knows what which invention allowed computers to be smaller.

History of computers

Ancient era of computers

There were thousands of devices that could help computation for people; the simplest device is our fingers. One of the most ancient computing devices can be named tally stick. Technologies in the ancient world were not that popular and had many problems with developing. The next step in developing computers was Fertile Crescent. It represented counts of items, like livestock or grains. The abacus was early used in arithmetic tasks. One of the earliest abaci that we know now was used in Babylonia as early as 2400 BC. Since then, the history knew many other forms of reckoning tablets and boards. European counting house provided markers that moved according to certain rules. It helped people to count everything. Usually, it was connected with money.

Few analogs of computers were created in medieval and even ancient times. They were used to perform astronomical calculations. One of the most ancient included Antikythera mechanism. It`s counted as the earliest computers The Hero of Alexandria provided to the ancient world with many mechanisms and complex devices connected with modern computers. Middle ages provided as with Abu Rayhan Al-Bituni, who invented other computing devices that could provide as new ideas for calculating.  Muslims created many devices during middle age era. Their main tasks were monitoring and discovering sky. Their ideas and discoveries regarding calculating can be seen in modern computers. Their discoveries provided a breakthrough in astronomy. They also helped to create some of the interesting devices and create new ideas to help modern computers to become smaller. Another invention that helped to create modern computers was the astronomical clock tower which was invented by Su Song in China.

Ancient era of computers

Renaissance tools

John Napier, a Scottish mathematician, and physicist, discovered that such procedures, like division and multiplication of numbers, he also managed to perform different logarithms of the numbers with his super machine. Napier had to perform many different multiplications to reach the first logarithmic table. That was the time when Napier provided his “Napier`s bones.”  It was an abacus-like device, which could greatly simplify calculations including division and multiplication.

Shortly after Napier`s work, there were created many others machines that could carry out operations faster than its predecessors. One of the examples for the device created for increasing the speed of calculation was Edmund Gunter`s calculating machine. This device managed to simplify arithmetic calculations that included division and multiplication greatly. Next person who managed greatly improve the calculation rules was William Oughtred. He followed the ideas of calculation with new rules, like a combination of two Gunter rules. It was one of the greatest inventions that provided the computer like devices to become smaller.  These inventions can be called the predecessors of the modern pocket calculator that can help you even today with everything connected to the mathematics, like division and multiplication of numbers.

Renaissance tools

Mechanical calculations

Wilhelm Schickard, who was a German polymath, created a calculating machine. His creation saw the light in 1623. It was a combination of the world`s first mechanical machine built into base with Napier`s rods. Therefore, it was projected mechanism provided a computer to be smaller. The mechanism was made of a single-tooth gear. Nevertheless, according to different sources, this mechanism was destroyed by a fire in 1624. The creator of the mechanism, Wilhelm Schickard was to disappoint over the previous creation and its destruction, that he refused to build another machine. The fire truly managed to add disappointed to the heart of creator.

Blaise Pascal was a genius boy from the very childhood.  In his teenage years, he decided to work with pioneering devices, like calculating machines. He managed to create more than fifty prototypes for the machines when the final provided a mechanical calculator. He managed to build more than twenty machines, which later got names, like Pascal`s calculators or Pascalines. Nine of Pascalines can be traced in European Museums. There are some disputes about who should be named a creator of the first mechanical calculator. Should it be Blaise Pascal with his Pascalines or Wilhelm Schickard with his Napier's rod addition?

Mechanical calculations

Another famous mechanism was created around 1672 by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. It was named the stepped reckoner. He tried to create a device that could be used not only for subtraction and addition but also provided a moveable carriage that could help with division and multiplication. According to Leibniz, it was unworthy of a man of science or any gentleman to lose hours for calculation, like slaves. He decided to make this process faster. Leibniz managed to incorporate a fully successful mobile mechanism. He managed to implement a binary numeral system. It`s the central ingredient for all modern computers of the world. Nevertheless, many computers and mechanism were based on the decimal numeral system, like ENIAC of 1945.

The first successful and mass producing mechanical calculator was created in 1820 by Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar. It was called the Thomas Arithmometer. It was a fully mobile device, which could provide different operations including subtraction and addition, division, and multiplication. It used similarly to Leibniz Mechanical calculators’ conception of drums. This conception remained unchanged up to 1970s. After that, Japanese presented totally new calculators that could be provided to mass production and exploitation by people of the world.

Which invention provided computers to be smaller and lighter?

Which invention provided computers to be smaller and lighter? Card Data Processing

Joseph-Marie Jacquard created a Loom. This loom was a base in which the pattern was controlled by a paper tape contracted from punched cards. The paper pattern could be perfectly changed where the mechanical design of the loom could have remained unchanged. It was an achievement in programming for the 19th century. Jacquard's machine was an improvement if compare it with similar weaving looms used previously. Punched cards could be preceded by punch bands. The same proposition was provided in the Basile Bouchon machines. These bands helped to make many things automatic, like automatic pianos and numeral control machines.

The next step in programming and making computers smaller were the late 1880s. Heman Hollerith invented data storage with punched cards that could be read by the machines. He also invented the machine called tabulator to read these punched cards. He also designed a keypunch machine to imprint the data.  These machines used electromechanical relays together with digital counters. United States Census used this technology up to 1890s. These processes made the Census work twice as fast than the previous one. Therefore, Hollerith`s company became the core of IBM.

Card Data Processing

The new era of computing technologies which made computers to be smaller was 1920. In this year, calculating machines were able to subtract, add, multiply, divide and print accumulated totals.   It was possible to insert removable control panels with providing dozens of wire jumpers. One of the victories for IBM was inserting card system process records of 26 million workers in the United States according to the Social Security standards of 1935. Therefore, punched cards became a unique and ubiquitous mechanism in government and industry for accounting administration of any levels possible. It certainly helped to systematize and monitor different numbers.

The punching cards methods were not stayed unnoticed for many articles and scientific researches.  Leslie Comrie and W.J. Eckert made some publications connected with punched cards. One of the most notorious articles for that time was Punched Card Methods in Scientific Computation in 1940. This article provided information how well this technique could solve different equations on the advanced level. These machines were perfectly used during world war two as monitoring and processing statistical data. It was also used for vast numbers of administrative service. One of the best usage for punching machines was The Astronomical Computing Bureau at Columbia University that represented state of the art in computing for that time.

Calculator in which invention allowed computers to be smaller

Calculator in which invention allowed computers to be smaller

By the end of the 20th century, most of the mechanical calculators were redesigned to use electric motors. The word “computer” was provided as a job title for people who used these calculators to perform mathematical calculations.  At the end of the 1920s, British scientist Lewis Fry Richardson had some interest in weather prediction that helped him in a proposition of human computers and numerical analysis of the weather system. Even today, the most powerful computers needed to use its Navier-Stokes equations to model the weather.

Many companies tried to make desktop mechanical calculators. One of the most notorious was a product made by Monroe and Marchant Calculator in the 1930s.  This machine could perfectly subtract, add, multiply and divide. In 1948, Austrian inventor Curt Herzstark introduced his mechanical device called the Curta. It was one of the first smallest calculating devices that could be placed into one`s pocket. It was a descendant of Thomas`s Arithmometer and Gottfried Leibniz`s stepped reckoner.

The world`s first all-electronic desktop calculator can be named the British Bell Punch ANITA. This machine used Dekatrons, cold tubes and vacuum tubes for its circuit.  It also used 12-cold cathode tubes named “Nixie” for display. The ANITA was the first and the only desktop calculator available at the beginning of the sixties. It was a silent and quick calculator. Nevertheless, the progress did not stop as later in June 1963 it was manufactured a new computing device called Friden EC-130. This machine had an all-transistors design in its display. It also introduced reverse Polish notations. That was the era of calculating devices, it couldn`t manage computing structures and tasks for the modern computers, but they managed to provide some steps in computing.

Analog computers

Analog computers

The analog computers can be named the closest relatives of the modern computers. In the first part of the 20th century, the analog computers were considered as a future of computing systems and devices. They were able to use the continuously changeable mechanical structures. It also included physical phenomena such as hydraulic, mechanical or electrical quantities to model the problem. This problem could be solved on the contrast of the digital computers. It represented varying quantities symbolically as its values changed with time. The analog computers do not use discrete values. They used continue values. The processes couldn`t be repeated at the exact equivalence.

One of the first modern analog computers was a tide-predicting machine. This device was created by Sir William Thomson in 1872. This device used a system of wires and pulleys to automatically calculate tide levels. It could set a period at a particular location. This helper was a great addition to navigation in shallow waters. Sir William Thomson device was a great addition to the analog computing. Moreover, it was one of the first devices that could be installed not only on the ground, but also used in navigation at sea.

There were different mechanical analyzers to solve different equitation, but they could also use wheel and disc mechanisms. This concept was provided in 1876 by James Thomson. He managed to explode possible contents of such calculations. His brain processes stimulated him to provide the limited output to the torque of the ball and disk integrators. Different analyzers were used for different tasks and inputs. The integrator drove next integrator and provided graphic input to the quotation. These ideas were perfectly managed for graphic output of various data. It can be possibly used for many equitation in the sea navigation.

The advanced computer mechanism provided the first fire control system. It was used for long range ship gun laying. It was a certain discovery as the ship ranges increased dramatically in the late 19th century. It was a simple matter of calculating proper aim point with given the flight times of shells. There were various spotters for measuring a distance to the ships and other objects which were connected to the central plotting station.  There were firing directing teams who could provide various adjustments for Coriolis effect, wind effect and weather effect on the firing shells. The first analog of the mechanical powered computer was developed by a British engineer Arthur Pollen. This computer was frequently used by the Imperial Russian Navy in the World War I.

Mechanical progress provided computers to be smaller and faster

Mechanical progress provided computers to be smaller and faster. They were used to aim accuracy to the air bombing. Drift Sight was the first mechanical device to aid in such task.  It was developed by Harry Wimperis in 1916. This device was frequently used by The Royal Naval Air Service. It could measure wind speed from the air. It could help to measure the trajectory of the bombarding from the air. The system was later improved by the Course Setting Bomb Sight. It reached its peak during the World War Two with Mark XIV Bomb Sight.

The zenith of different analyzers for computing systems could be reached with Vannevar Bush and H.L. Hazen starting from 1927. It was the era of new computing integrators which could provide different equitation developed from the mechanical equitation of James Thomson and H.W. Nieman. There were dozens of devices that provided different help for calculations and computing at the beginning of the 20th century. The most powerful device was constructed at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

The first fully successful all-purpose analog computer was created by Helmut Holzer in 1941. This computer was created at Peenemunde Army Research Center. By the 1950s, the success of digital electronics was tremendous. It managed to provide circumstances for creating not only computing machines but hybrid computers controlled by digital electronics. It remained as a substantial use for the 1950s and 1960s. It was later used in specialized applications. Therefore, we can see it some computing devices even today. Nevertheless, it was not all processes which invention allowed computers to be smaller. From the giant machines that could be placed only in one room to the smallest computing devices.

Transistor computers

Transistor computers

One of the main inventions that allowed computers to be smaller was an invention of transistors. The first bipolar transistor was invented in 1947. From the 1950s, transistors started replacing vacuum tubes in computing designs. It provided the rise of the second generation of computers. At the very start point for construction of computing devices, there was only one transistor available on the market. It was germanium point-contact transistor. There are many advantages for transistors if compare them with vacuum tubes:

  • Transistors are smaller. It was the first and the most general evaluation as they provided large computers with vacuum tubes to be smaller and be placed in much smaller cases.
  • They require less power if to compare with vacuum tubes. It could provide much more storage for electricity. One more point for an economy of electricity.
  • They could provide less heat. It was a magnificent discovery as it only meant that transistors are more reliable and secure.
  • Silicon junction of transistors was much more reliable than vacuum tubes.
  • Transistors could serve much longer than its vacuum tubes relatives
  • They are more secure than vacuum tubes

Transistor computers could provide and contain thousands of closed circuits. They can provide much more compact space for the storage of this data. Transistors helped to reduce computer size, initial cost and processing cost together with operating cost. It only means that transistors are the main beneficial contributors who made computers to be smaller. The typical computer of the second generation was constructed and printed out of circuit boards, like IBM Standard Modular System. This system could carry from one to four logical gates or as it was called flip-flops. This was the very beginning of creating new computers which were quite smaller than its predecessors.

The pioneer in the transistor computers for that time was the University of Manchester. This university provided a basis for Tom Kilburn and his team to build a machine with using a newly developed transistor that substituted valves. The germanium point-contact transistors were less reliable than valves, but the replacement provided far less energy power using. The first transitioned computer that came into exploitation was operational only by 1953. The second version of this computer came into play in April 1955. The second version of the computer could only come into play with 200 transistors.  It also consisted of power state diodes and had less power consumption as much as 150 watts. Nevertheless, the machine used valves to generate 125kHz clock waveforms. It was also needed for circuits and reading with writing on the magnetic drum memory.

The next stage for making computers smaller

The next stage for making computers smaller was the Harwell CADET of 1955. This machine was built by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment`s electronic division. The design of this machine included a 64-kilobyte drum memory store. That was enough for multiple moving heads designed by the National Physical Establishment. In 1953, the team of scientists built a small enough magnetic drum on transistors for the Royal Radar Establishment that was able to read and write with memory storage. This machine did not use valves and could work only with transistors.

Cadet used 324-point contact transistors for creating their machines with the UK company Standard Telephones and Cables. Nevertheless, according to the reports, these transistors were too noisy, and that was the reason to end their function. In 1956 CADET started offering regular computing services. It also included the computing of 80 hours.  Nevertheless, there were problems in staying that computer in a perfect shape for a long time. It only meant that they needed a pause for working up to 90 minutes.

The Transistor Computer`s design was adopted by many companies. This managed to provide a new era of computers that in some points were smaller than modern laptops. It was obvious that the progress was not stopped with a creation of transistors and there were many other fantastic “what inventions enabled computers to be smaller and lighter” circumstances. To pinpoint the evolution of computers, it should be followed and discovered the whole history of computers generations. The short history of computers and how they became smaller and lighter is provided in this article.

What is a computer?

What is a computer?

If we start from the very beginning, a computer is a form of electronic device that helps people to deal with any task connected with calculation and computation. If we look at the history pages, then the first computer was an abacus as it performed the basics of the calculations.  Every computer can provide a basic form of input and output together with processing the data. Modern computers are exquisite forms of electronic devices that help us dealing with every problem in the world. How computers started their triumph steps to the world of people? Which invention enabled computers to be smaller and lighter?

First Generation of Computers

As it was mentioned earlier, first electronic computers could use only vacuum tubes, which were quite huge and difficult to store even in one large room. The first computer from the first generation can be named Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer or shortly ENIAC. It didn`t operate with binary code, but it was the first step for the computing industry. The plugboards were the first programming devices used for this computer. Nevertheless, it can`t be computable with modern devices; even your simple calculator can provide more features than this machine, but for the 1940s-1950s it was a revolutionized machine.

First Generation of Computers

Second Generation of Computers

As it was mentioned earlier, the transistors were the main contributors to make computers smaller. Thanks to their invention, computers stopped consuming a tremendous amount of energy and produced far less hit for its maintaining. They were very much smaller if compare them to the previous generation. Even by today’s standards they can provide much of competition for retro style computers. The first transistor computer was created in Manchester in 1953. The most popular transistor computer for their peak era of 1955-1960 was IBM 1401.

Second Generation of Computers

Third Generation of Computers

The integrated circuit was the next step allowed computers to be smaller and lighter. It provided the idea of creating microchips for computers we know today. The idea of making a circuit out of pieces of silicon allowed computers to be much smaller and more practical to produce. This also started integrating even larger numbers of transistors into computers. A large number of the transistors can be placed into one microchip. The Sixties was the first step for making these types of computers popular. If we take things seriously, we can say that the third generation of computers still goes on.

First mini-computers that appeared lately were still based on non-microchips transistors. A Later version of these computers were hybrids that consisted of microchips and transistors at the same time. One of this hybrids was famous IBM`s System/360. These computers were smaller and cheaper than previous generations that allowed them to be more practical in usage and less power consuming.  Minicomputers can be seen for today as a bridge between microcomputers and mainframes. That helped computers to grow in quality and quantity and also helped to produce the idea of computers to be smaller in the sixties.

Third Generation of Computers

Fourth Generation of Computers

The invention of microchip-based technologies helped computers to be much smaller and simple in usage. Central based processing units with multiple microchips were natural for different CPU components. The continued miniaturization even led toward single chips CPUs. That only meant that all necessary CPU components could be put into one single chip. This chip was later called microprocessor. The first single-chip microprocessor was provided by Intel company and named Intel 4004.  The rise of microprocessors spawned the evolution of microcomputers. This kind of computers eventually become small and practical enough to become personal computers that we know today.

The first generation of microcomputers from 1971 to 1976

The first microcomputers were weird. They usually came in small boxes with a wide range of switches. It was used only by engineers and hobbyists who could understand the binary code. Some of these computers could come with keyboards and monitors; that had a slight resemblance of modern computers. It`s not quite sure which of the early microcomputers can be called first. CTC Datapoint 2200 can be named a candidate for the first of the firsts in using microprocessors. It was based on the multi-chip CPU design. It was not made for being just a standalone computer, but a complex tool for storing mainframes. The reason why CTC Datapoint 2200 can be called the first standalone computer is a de-facto evidence. It was small enough, and its basis and architecture were later used in computers, like IBM PC and its descendants. Nevertheless, if we look deep into characteristics of what can be called the first computer with a proper microprocessor can be called Micral N with a proper used a microprocessor of Intel 8008. Popular early microcomputers can be called Altair 8800, Apple I, KIM-1 which included MOS Technology.

The first generation of microcomputers from 1971 to 1976

Second Generations of Microcomputers

Microcomputers continued to evolve, and they became easier to operate. Therefore, a larger audience can use technologies, which enabled computers to be smaller and lighter. The computers started to come with keyboards and monitors. They could easily be connected to a TV. They supported the visual representation of text on the screen.

In other words, lights and switches were replaced with screens and keyboards. The binary code was not replaced, but it was obvious that the computer could provide a vaster range of commands and simpler programming. Even today with using these technologies to be provided in our home. Therefore, modern computer era started at the end of the 1970s.

Second Generations of Microcomputers

Which invention allowed computers to be smaller?

There might be no certain answer to this question as the main inventor of everything was a human. We decided to create tools for simplifying our life around us. Nevertheless, it doesn`t mean that we should take credits only to humans. The exact answer to this question might be the invention of transistors, microchips, and microprocessors. These guys are to blame for having a PC in your home. Moreover, these inventions keep the progress of computers. We can see from day to day how modern computers become lighter, faster and more powerful.


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