• There have been many different inventions that have led us to our modern day computer
    • Original computers were non-electronic devices used simply to tally and calculate numbers
    • As time progressed more and more improvements were added to these computers which have led to the modern day computers that we have
    • There have been several different types of computers over history, and these will be discussed in this project.


  • The abacus is a tool used for calculating
  • It is wooden, and has beads that are moved to indicate the number being used
  • The main places where the abacus is still in use are China, Japan, Hong Kong and Africa
  • The first abacus was invented around 1000 BC
  • The first abacus was based on a flat stone covered with sand
  • The abacus is generally composed of ten columns with seven beads in each column
  • Numbers are counted by moving the beads up or down the beam that they are attached to
  • Modern abacus’ can also be used for multiplying, division, addition, subtraction and square rooting

Water Clock

  • The water clock is arguably the oldest time measuring instrument
  • The earliest water clocks existed around 3000 BC
  • In 1600 BC the Egyptians and Babylonians invented newer water clocks
  • The first mechanized water clock was invented in 724 BC by Liang Ling-Can
  • These mechanized water clocks were an instrumental leap forward in technology at that time
  • These clocks were able to pour the water at a more precise time than any water clock invented before it
  • These clocks were used as a guide to help design the computers made in the early 20th century

Antikythera Mechanism

  • The Antikythera mechanism was the first analog computer
  • The device was Invented around 150 BC
  • Its main purpose was to have past or future dates entered through a crank and then it would calculate the distance of the moon and sun at these points
  • The mechanism had two cranks, one in the front and two in the back
  • It is believed that the main reason that this device was built was because it was much too difficult to calculate the distances of the moon and the sun by hand
  • The device was lost for over around two millenniums
  • The device was not rediscovered until 1900 off the coast of Greece

Sequence Control

  • Sequence control was invented by Heron of Alexandria in 60 AD
  • Sequence control was made to help foretell a sequence of events coming in advance without influencing the outcome directly
  • The mechanism used drums with pins and gears to help understand the events that laid ahead
  • This design was not only used for the sequence control machine
  • The music box was based on sequence control because they used pins and drums to hit against a comb to make music

Lullian Circle

  • The Lullian circle was invented by Raymond Llull at around 1300 AD
  • The invention involved two paper discs that had different alphabetical symbols and letters on them
  • The alphabetical symbols and letters represented different attributes, similar to that of modern day tarot cards
  • They would be placed onto a piece of hardware, which was invented by Llull and they would be spun
  • When the discs were rotated a combination of letters from the two discs were put together to form an idea of what might lie in the future for the person
  • The circle was based on the idea that there was a limited number of undeniable truths that could be told from these discs or any other machine like it

Calculating Clock

  • The calculating clock was built around 1623 AD in Herrenberg, Germany
  • It was invented by a man named Wilhelm Schikard
  • This was the first machine that could add or subtract any numbers as high as six digits
  • The machine could also indicate when too much information had been requested by ringing a bell
  • The clock used Napier’s bones, which were rods that were also used on the abacus to tally the addition and subtraction
  • This idea had been lost for centuries until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century
  • A remodeled version was not made until 1960


  • The Pascaline was the second mechanical calculator invented
  • It was invented in 1645 by Blaise Pascal
  • The device was built by Pascal to help his father, who was a tax commissioner, so he would be able to reduce his workload
  • The Pascaline used a decimal system for its adding and subtracting
  • This calculator had metal dials with numbers set on them
  • As a person turned the dials to specific numbers an answer to the addition or subtraction was placed at the top of the calculator
  • The Pascaline however, did not contain any negative numbers on it, so it was very complicated to perform subtraction on the machine

Stepped Reckoner

  • The stepped reckoner was the first calculator that was able to multiply numbers
  • It was invented by Gottfried von Leibniz during the 1670’s
  • It could multiply numbers as high as 5 and 12 digits
  • The machine could also give an answer as high as 16 digits
  • The machine was also less known for its ability to divide and find square roots
  • This machine has been known as the forefront for the desktops that we use for our computers today
  • These ideas continued to be reproduced until electronic calculators were invented in the 1970’s
  • This invention was also lost for a long time until it was discovered in an attic in 1879

Difference Engine

  • The Difference Engine was the first mechanical computer, designed in 1822 by Charles Babbage
  • Babbage had noticed that when people were doing these calculations using other machines, they were constantly making errors
  • He believed that if he built a mechanical computer, there would no longer be errors made by these people
  • The project was composed of 25 000 parts, was more than 15 tons and was eight feet tall
  • Its purpose was to tabulate logarithms and trigonometric functions
  • Although the difference engine was never completed to its original standards, it helped pave the way for improvements on the idea, which have led to our modern day computers

Analytical Engine

  • The analytical engine was also designed by Charles Babbage
  • It was worked on from 1837-1871, which was the year of Babbage’s death
  • The analytic engine was 30 feet long and powered by a steam engine
  • The major feature of the engine, along with being a large calculator, was the fact that it was the first device that could store memory
  • The machine had the ability to store memory of up to 1000 numbers with each containing as many as 50 digits
  • There would also have been a mill within the engine that would be doing all of the arithmetic
  • The idea was pretty much forgotten until it was finally designed in 1915, by Percy Ludgate

Electronic Tabulating Machine

  • The electronic tabulating machine was invented by Herman Hollerith
  • The machine was invented in 1886 while he was at the Baltimore Department of Health
  • The idea was similar to that of today’s modern calculator
  • Hollerith used spring-mounted needles to trigger the numbers
  • He then put all of these numbers into columns and he let the calculator sort them mechanically
  • After the columns were sorted the calculator totaled the numbers and the sum of the numbers were placed in their respective columns
  • Herman Hollerith is more famously known for the computer company he founded called IBM


  • The first flip-flop was designed in 1919
  • The device was designed by William Henry Eccles and F.W. Jordan
  • It was originally called the Eccles-Jordan Trigger circuit
  • The device was made up of two items
  • One of these was called radio-tubes
  • The flip-flop greatly enhanced computer memory as we know it today and without it we would not be able to make projects like these


  • The Z3 was invented by Konrad Zuse, during WWII in Berlin
  • The Z3 is known as the first modern-day computer
  • The Z3 was a 64 bit calculator which was faily efficient for its time
  • The memory and the calculation units came through telephone relays
  • The computer that Zuse made was Turing-complete for all the calculations made
  • This meant that it could comply with well instructed demands from the user of the computer
  • An example of this today, would be the tapping of a keyboard, because the computer is complying with the user’s instruction

Mark I

  • The Mark I was the first digital computer ever invented
  • It was developed by IBM and a team of scientists at Harvard University in 1944
  • The computer read an instruction from a punched paper tape
  • After completing the instruction, it immediately read the next instruction and continued to read instruction after instruction
  • The machine was also known as the first to be able to process long computations automatically
  • The Mark I could store up to 72 numbers, with each being 23 decimal digits long
  • The Mark I was also downright gigantic
  • The machine was 51 feet long and 8 feet high
  • At the top of the machine was a steel frame holding a calculator
  • The original name of the project was ASCC, but it was changed to Mark I when Harvard scientists joined the project


  • Whirlwind was a major leap in the history of computers and was the key to many computers used today
  • It was built in 1951 by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology
  • It was the first computer to ever operate in real-time, which means that there were deadlines set for when the computer had to respond with an answer
  • This was also the first computer that used video-output
  • At the heart of the whirlwind there was a control store which featured a master clock, to tell the machine when to respond
  • The machine also contained a calculator, like most previous inventions
  • For the computer to solve an addition problem it took 48 micro-seconds, and to solve a multiplication problem it took 61 micro-seconds
  • The whirlwind had a main memory of 256 words, which was unheard of at the time

Dot Matrix Printer

  • The first ever dot matrix printer was invented in 1957 by IBM
  • The printer is similar to a typewriter because it was run by having an ink-soaked cloth move against a paper
  • It is different from a typewriter however because it is run with a dotted matrix as opposed to a daisy wheel
  • The dotted matrix allows for different fonts to be used as opposed to one font used by the daisy wheel on the typewriter
  • The dotted matrix functions is attached to a wire which is moved by an electromagnet at the user’s request
  • The first printer could use up to 80 columns
  • It also printed rather large 5X7 uppercase characters on a special-sized paper

The Mouse

  • The mouse was invented in 1964 by Douglas Engelbart
  • The first mouse was a thick device which used two wheels which were perpendicular to each other
  • When these wheels rotated it translated into one rotation which led to it being moved on the screen
  • The first mechanical mouse was invented in 1972 by Xerox. It replaced the original wheeled-mouse with a two ball-point mouse which was attached to a wire and was able to move in any direction
  • This style of mouse was used in computers all the way through the 1990’s
  • After the old design, a more modern mouse using one rubber-made ball with two buttons was invented
  • This style of mouse is the type that we see with all of our computers today
  • Recently, there have been laser-mice which use the laser on the bottom of the mouse to move the mouse more accurately along the monitor
  • These mice have better traction than the style of mice which do not use a laser
  • There has also been the invention of the wireless mouse, which does not require to be connected to the computer by wire

IBM System/360

  • The IBM system/360 was also created in 1964
  • The IBM system/360 was the first system that could be used by people of all profession
  • The IBM system/360 moved quicker than any computer before it by doing tasks in billionth of seconds
  • This computer was also the most well organized computer of its generation
  • It was twice as powerful as any computer built in history
  • The memory for the computer was also greater than any computer before it
  • This computer could store anywhere from 8000 characters of information to 8 000 000
  • Information storages linked to the system could hold billions more characters
  • This was also the first computer where a user could process business and scientific problems into the computer


  • Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Microsoft’s first major invention was Microsoft Word which was released in 1983 and was the first program to use bold text
  • Microsoft released a system known as DOS (disk operating system)
  • This became the leading system of the 1980’s
  • In 1983 Microsoft created a home-computer system which had its own DOS system
  • In 1985 the company released Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows
  • The company did not make the full transition to windows until 1991
  • By 1993 Windows became the most used program in the world
  • Microsoft eventually went on to release Windows 95, 98, 2000 and XP


  • MS-DOS was the most widely used computer program throughout the 1980’s
  • The first major MS-DOS to be released was MS-DOS 2.0 which introduced subdirectories, handle-based file operations, command input/output operation and redirection
  • MS-DOS was able to hold floppy discs with up to 32 Megabytes of information
  • MS-DOS was one of the first computers to have the idea of Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • This is the idea that along with showing text, a computer would be able to show graphical images
  • However, GUI’s were not consistent until the most successful software in computer history was created


  • Windows was originally released in 1985, but the transition was not fully made until 1993
  • In 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95. This was the first system to ever use a start button. It was also the first Microsoft system to include the Internet Explorer
  • Windows 98 was the next major program released by Microsoft in 1998. This was the first system to include updated USB drivers. It had 315 MB of space (75 more than Windows 95). It also featured a much more prominent E-mail system. Windows 98 also updated to the much more successful and efficient, Internet Explorer 5.0.
  • Windows 2000 was the next program which was used by a wide base. Windows 2000 was the first to feature an on-screen keyboard. It was also the first to be presented in many different languages
  • Windows XP was the next computer system created. It was the first system to use LCD (Liquid Clear Display). This was also the first system to use shadows under all menus that comes in contact with the mouse. Windows XP was a significant update from Windows 2000 due to its additions in picture among other systems


  • The original laptop was invented in the early 1970’s by Xerox
  • In 1981 the first easily portable computer was invented
  • It was called the Osborne I and it was much larger and heavier than the laptops that we use today
  • By the end of the 1980’s laptops had become highly popular among business people
  • The laptop was revolutionized when Windows 95 was released
  • This allowed for work and internet research to be much easier to do than previously
  • Eventually laptops began to replace desktop computers
  • An example of this would be a 2005 HP


  • Apple has revolutionized computing since its inception in 1976
  • In 1983 Apple had two computers called the Macintosh and the Lisa
  • Lisa was officially the first computer to have a Graphical User Interface, meaning that it was the first to have images on its screen
  • Apple was also the first personal computer to use a mouse
  • In 1989 Apple entered a new era known as the golden age
  • During this time Apple released the Macintosh Portable Computer
  • In 1994 Apple teamed with IBM and Motorola to rebuild there computers by using IBM and Motorola hardware to go with Apple’s new and innovative computer designs
  • In 1997 Apple partnered with Microsoft to help them form their new computers
  • In 2006 Apple began working with Intel on computers and ivented a laptop known as the MacBook pro, which was four times faster than the fastest laptop Apple had ever built

World Wide Web

  • The World Wide Web is part of the Internet which is a collection of interconnected computer networks
  • The world wide web is used for many functions
  • A person can use this program for research for a school project or for their own personal knowledge
  • A person can view sports scores, statistics or standings
  • Someone may also use the world wide web to view videos
  • The world wide web was made public in 1993 by a program called mosaic
  • This started an era of business known as the dotcom-bubble, which was a time of great prosperity for nations of the western world
  • The world wide web has revolutionized the world and has made data more accessible than any time in the history of man


  • The first concept of email was introduced in 1961, but was not modernized until the 1990’s
  • As email expanded individuals were given personal addresses with which they could send messages between each other
  • With this program messages can be sent and received within seconds
  • The most successful business e-mail program is Outlook Express
  • This is the programs that most businesses in the world subscribe to
  • On a more personal level, especially among teenagers, hotmail is extremely popular
  • This is a program in which friends exchange simple e-mails between each other
  • This program cleared the way for Instant Messaging
  • There are also more recent email companies
  • An example of one of these types of companies is Gmail
  • This email has the longest memory of all of these companies

Instant Messaging

  • Instant messaging was invented by four teens in Tel, Aviv Israel and was patented in 1997
  • This is most commonly used by teenagers throughout the world
  • Instant messaging can be done by having several people in an internet chat room or in personal one-on-one conversations
  • Instant Messaging really began to take flight in 2000 when a product called Jabber was released
  • By then, MSN Messenger had become the most dominant instant message system
  • Recently, it has become possible to speak and view others while instant messaging
  • This is part of a new invention called webcam which allows one to take photos of themselves or videos


  • The computer has greatly changed the way students and others research information
  • The first search engine was called Archie which was invented in 1990
  • Gopher was created in 1991 and it featured two programs: Archie and Veronica
  • In 1996, askjeeves became the prominent search engine
  • In 1998, Google, the largest and most successful search engine was released
  • It rose to prominence by 2001 and has become the easiest search engine to use
  • Google can be used by a person searching anything and then the search engine will find all the sites on the internet and will allow a person to click on the links to the sites
  • Wikipedia was the next major search engine and it was founded in 1998
  • It did not rise to prominence however, until 2003
  • This was the first search engine where anyone could post something on the site and others could look at it


  • Youtube has completely revolutionized the internet because of the ability to view free videos with such easy access
  • In order for a person to view a video all that they must do is go to the site and type what they want to see into the search box
  • It is also one of the first websites in history where someone can practically view a video of their choice for free
  • It was founded in February 2005 by three employees of PlayPal in California
  • Youtube grew extremely quickly during the summer of 2006 by becoming the fifth most popular website on the internet
  • During the summer there were as many as 100 000 000 clips being viewed daily
  • There were also as many as 60 000 videos on the website
  • In October 2006 the company was bought by Google Enterprises
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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