Imagine being able to do almost anything right from your own living room. You could order a pizza, watch cartoons, or play video games with people from around the entire world. All are possible today with your computer. The beginnings of the computer started off in a rather unique way. It was first used to produce intricate designs with silk, a task far to long a tedious for a human to do constantly. It¹s really unbelievable how the computers changed from that to what they are now. Today, computers are completely astounding. The possibilities are endless. Who knows where they will take us in the years ahead. The computer is the most influential piece of equipment that has ever been invented.
The begginings of the computer are actually kind of strange. It started in the 1800¹s when a man named Charles Babbage wanted to make a calculating machine. He created a machine that would calculate logarithms on a system of constant difference and record the results on a metal plate. The machine was aptly named the Difference Engine. Within ten years, the Analytical Engine was produced. This machine could perform several tasks. These tasks would be givin to the machine and could figure out values of almost any algebraic equation. Soon, a silk weaver wanted to make very intricate designs. The designs were stored on punch-cards which could be fed into the loom in order to produce the designs requested. This is an odd beginning for the most powerful invention in the world.
In the 1930¹s, a man named Konrad Zuse started to make his own type of computer. Out of his works, he made several good advances in the world of computing. First, he developed the binary coding system. This was a base two system which allowed computers to read information with either a 1 or a 0. This is the same as an on or and off. The on or off functions could be created through switches. These switches were utilized with vacuum tubes. The functions could then be relayed as fast as electrons jumping between plates. This was all during the time of the Second World War and further advancements were made in the area of cryptology. Computer advancements were needed in order for the Allied Coding Center in London to decode encrypted Nazi messages. Speed was of the essence, so scientists developed the first fully valve driven computer. Before this, computers only had a number of valves, none were fully driven by them because of the complexity and difficulty of producing it. Despite the odds, several Cambridge professors accomplished the mammoth task. Once it was built, the computer could decode the encrypted messages in enough time to be of use, and was an important factor in the end of World War II.
The war also provided advancements in the United States as well. The trajectory of artillery shells was a complex process that took alot of time to compute on the field. A new, more powerful computer was in dire need. Working with the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, the Ballistics Research Laboratory created the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. The ENIAC could compute things a thousand times faster than any machine built before it. Even though it was not completed until 1946 and was not any help during the war, it provided another launching pad for scientists and inventors of the near future. The only problem with the ENIAC was that it was a long a tedious process to program it. What was needed was a computation device that could store simple ³programs² into it¹s memory for call later. The Electronic Discrete Variable Computer was the next in line. A young man named John von Neumann had the original plan for memory. His only problem was where and how could the instructions be stored for later use. Several ideas were pursued, but the one found most effective at the time was magnetic tape. Sets of instructions could be stored on the tapes and could be used to input the information instead of hand feeding the machine every time. If you have ever heard of a ³tape backup² for a computer, this is exactly what this is. All the information on your computer can be stored on the magnetic tape and could be recovered if your system ever crashed. It¹s strange that a method developed so long ago is still in use today, even though the computer today can do alot more than simply ³compute².
The computer works in a relatively simple way. It consists of five parts; input, output, memory, CPU, and arithmetic logic unit. Input is the device used by the operator of the computer to make it to what is requested. The output display the results of the tasks created from the input. The data goes from the input to the memory then to the arithmetic logic unit for processing then to the output. The data can then be stored in memory if the user desires. Before the advent of the monitor, the user would have to hand feed cards into the input and wouldn¹t see the results until it was displayed by the printer. Now that we have monitors, we can view the instant results of the tasks. The main component that allows the computer to do what is desired is the transistor. The transistor can either amplify or block electrical currents to produce either a 1 or a 0. Previously done by valves and vacuum tubes, the transistor allows for much faster processing of information. The microprocessor consists of a layered microchip which is on a base of silicone. It is a computer in itself and is the most integral part of the CPU in modern computers. It is a single chip which allows all that happens on a computer. Integrated circuits, a microchip which is layered with it¹s own circuitry, also provide a much more manageable memory source. The only reason magnetic tape backups are used today is because of the space which is needed in order to backup an entire computer. Memory for todays computers consist of RAM or ROM. ROM is unchangable and stores the computers most vital componants, it¹s operating instructions. Without this, the computer would be completly inoperable. Programs today use the instructions in the ROM to complete the tasks the program is attempting. This is why you cannot use IBM programs on a Macintosh, the ROM and operating systems are different, therefor the programing calls are different. Some powerful computers today can complete both sets of tasks because they have both sets of instructions in the stored in the ROM. The reason ROM is unchangable is because of people who don¹t know what they are doing could mess things up on their computer forever. RAM is the temporary memory that is in a computer. This is the memory that is used by programs to complete their tasks. RAM is only temporary because it requires a constant electrical charge. Once the computer is shut off, the RAM loses everything that was in it. That is why you lose work that you have done if the power goes of and you didn¹t save it first. If something needs to be saved, it is either saved to the hard disk within the computer or a floppy disk. With today¹s networking capabilities, things can be saved on completly seperate machines called ³servers². Though the process of saving is the same, a server can be located five feet away or on the opposite side of the world.
With today¹s technology, anything is possible with the use of a computer. You could visit a website and find that special someone, or create a virus that could crash thousands of machines at a single moment in time. If you have the money, the possibilities are endless. In today¹s day and age, information is sacred. One of the biggest problems found with information is what is free and what isn¹t. There will always be people who want more information than will be alloted to them, today, these people are known as hackers. Hackers use their individual knowledge to gain access to information that is not meant for them to know. It is almost a shame that hackers have such a bad reputation. Most are teenagers who are looking to gain more information. Of course, some are dedicated to destruction and random violence, but there always will be those types of people in the world. Of course, there is personal information that is transmitted over the Internet that no one but the inteded party and yourself should have access to (i.e. your credit card numbers and expration dates) but who decides what is and what isn¹t personal information. This is a problem that has greatly prevented the growth of the Internet into major companies. In the future, it can only get worse. At the rate we are going, everything will be computerized and stored electronicaly. This means that with the know-how, anyone could access your information. If you have ever seen the movie ³The Net² , you know exactly what I am talking about. If all information is stored electronicaly, anyone with the desire can view, change, remove, or add your personal attributes. With enough effort, one could take away someone¹s entire identity. This may seem like a futuristic sci-fi novel, but it could be in our not so distant future.
The future of technology can only be guessed upon. I believe that the connection between computers and humans will become much closer. People will feel the need to become ³one² with their machines and possibly even be physicaly linked with them. Information will be stored, transmitted, and viewed completly electronicaly. Perhaps an implant directly into the brain will be the link between humans and computers. This implant could feed you information directly off the Internet and several other sources. I personally believe that this is extremely scary. Once that link is made, there will be the desire to get even closer to the computer. A new, even more intimate link will be made. The cycle will continue untill there is no line between humans and elctronics. We will all be robots just reacting to instructions and following protocol. This is the most horrifing thing I can imagine. Our identities will be removed and we will all become one. I dont know, maybe I need to stop for a minuet before I completly terrify myslef.
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