History of computer part-7 - Ts Read

Friday, 2 June 2017

History of computer part-7

◆First Generation Machines

Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer

Built by Eckert and Mauchly at the Moore School, this was the first large scale all-valve digital computer used mainly for the calculation of ballistics. It was 100 feet long, weighed 80 tons, had 70,000 resistors, over 18,000 vacuum tubes and guzzled electricity to . the tune of 150,000 watts. It could run only for a short time at a stretch because it heated up so fast, and so like many of us, had to be shut down in order to cool off. When the ENIAC was operating, some wags in Philadelphia used to say that the lights of the city used to dim if the machine was tumed on. By way of comparison, one hour on the ENIAC was the equivalent of one week on the Mark I

The Electronic Numerator, Integrator Analyser and Computer (ENIAC) was a decimal machine. It required the physical setting of thousands of switches. This took time; as did the problems with programming, electricity consumption and with the fact that the storage space was very limited. Also, the ENIAC was rather difficult to carry around in a suitcase !!! However, there were benefits: firstly, it had the advantage of reprogramming capabilities and, secondly it helped to strengthen the idea of storing a program inside the machine.

The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic

From the same Moore School came the ELECTRONIC DISCRETE VARIABLE AUTOMATIC COMPUTER (EDVAC). Developed in 1952, this had the data fed through punched cards and was able to use stored programs. Eckert and Mauchly were also responsible for the UNIVERSAL AUTOMATIC COMPUTER (UNIVAC 1). This machine was a real workhorse. It could work for 24 hours a day, it was self-checking, it used magnetic tapes as input media and used about 10,000 vacuum tubes. While it managed a Nostradamus (it predicted correctly Eisenhower’s victory in the American presidential elections), it consumed too much power and had at least one tube failing every hour.

The EDVAC was to have a central processor and a memory to store both data and programs. In this enterprise, Mauchly and Eckert were eventually joined by Von Neumann, who suggested that the computer should only work with one bit at a time. The EDVAC was the first stored program computer conceived. However, it was the Manchester University which was the first to build such a computer: The Manchester Mark 1. (And please don’t mix this up with the original Mark 1).

Commercial Computers 

The computers built during this tiine were all scientific machines, used for those mind-boggling scientific calculations that space ventures are made of. Soon, however, I the wise ones realised that the machines could be used for commercial applications too. While our country was busy with the first general elections, in Britain and the U. S, the first commercial computers came into being the LEO in Britain and the UNIVAC 1n the U. S.

The problem with these first generation computers was that they were bulky and used to heat up far too fast. Something was urgently needed to overcome this handicap and it came from the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey: the transistor. The transistor does a similar job to the valve. It can increase or decrease the electric current flowing through it but Operates many times faster than a valve and 1s cheaper, smaller, reliable and far less heavy on electricity than a valve.

The Whirlwind

In 1944, the US. Navy decided to build a flight trainer and stability analyser to tram its pilots. It was expected to provide real-time responses to human actions. We were already into the 50s when the machine, the WHIRLWIND, finally became a reality. It was a major advance in computing. The first real-time computer, it came to be the father of computer applications like air traffic control, real-time simulation, ticketing and the like. It was also the first machine with magnetic-core memories and interactive monitors.