Tuesday, December 17, 2002

FYI
This may interest some of you eggheads.

What was the first computing machine? (pre tube era)
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You will have to take your pick, depending on what you call a
computing machine.

500 BC Bead and wire abacus ...............................................................................Egypt
200 AD Computing Trays..........................................................................................Japan & China
1632 AD Slide Rule...................................................................................................England
1642 AD Pascaline calculating machine - adds - subtracts...........................................France
1679 AD Pascaline improved so it can multiply - divide
1801 AD Punch Cards used to run looms....................................................................France
1822 AD Babbage "Difference Engine" calculates logarithms........................................England
1833 AD Babbage "Analytical Engine" had memory, could be programmed,
printed card input and output. (Design only)
1853 AD Scheutz & Scheutz of Sweden builds and sells the Difference Engine..............Sweden
1886 AD Burroughs sells first commercial adding machine...........................................USA
1887 AD Hollerith builds a census tabulating machine and wins a
government competition. Uses punch cards. Becomes IBM in 1924...............USA

As with any technology, it is interesting to see how the dates of invention speed up as the technology matures.

When I was in college, we used slide rules and Friden mechanical calculating machines in the labs. They would clank on for half a minute to do one calculation, especially the one that could do square roots. We were amazed! Some students would think up some unique math operation so the machines would beat out a loud mechanical musical rhythm and break everybody up.

The first hand held scientific calculator that came was HP35 (circa 1970). It cost $399.99 and HP thought that department supervisors would buy it for their department and share it with all the engineers. They were stunned
to see individual engineers buying HP35s for themselves. The typical engineer made about $15,000 to $22,000 a year back then. HP sold about 100,000 at the $400 price and easily recouped their $10,000,000 development cost. The price began to drop dramatically with competition from Texas Instruments.

The HP35 actually heralded the era of the "electronics gadget nerd" who would not shrink from spending large sums of money for these new electronic "toys" - setting the stage for the home computer craze.

The calculator and the microchip also heralded the beginning of the end of the concept of a repairman.
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Source in part: The New York Times Almanac 1998

Contributed by Ted Perzeszty