Who invented the Computer

Computing techniques have been developed over centuries, but the programmable computer was developed only in the 20th century.

Human beings have used computing devices for centuries. The earliest known computing devices were tally sticks, used for counting. Archaeologists have found tally sticks dating back to 35,000 BC. In approximately 2400 BC, the ancient Babylonians invented the abacus, which uses beads strung on a wire to keep track of amounts and perform basic arithmetical calculations.

Charles Babbage

However, it was not until the nineteenth century that a mathematician began to develop the modern computer. In 1837, Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics, designed the first mechanical computer, known as the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine was powered by a steam engine and could be programmed using punch cards, which were also used to program mechanical looms to create intricate patterns in fabrics.

The Analytical Engine stood apart from previous computing devices because it could be programmed. Due to a lack of time and funding, however, Charles Babbage was never able to build the computer he had designed. Although often hailed as the father of modern computing, Charles Babbage is not usually credited with the invention of the computer.

Konrad Zuse

Instead, the inventor of the computer is usually listed as either Konrad Zuse or the team of John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. Between 1935 and 1938, Konrad Zuse built and programmed the Z1, a fully-programmable computer. The Z1 had mechanical problems, but used the binary system of storing data still used in today’s computers. In 1943, Zuse finished work on the Z3, a fully-functional programmable computer with many of the Z1’s problems fixed.

John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry

Meanwhile, in 1937, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry worked together at Iowa State University to create the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, or ABC. The ABC was built by hand, using over 300 vacuum tubes. The inventors of the computer soon improved on the ABC by building the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, in 1943.

The first commercially-available personal computer in the U.S. was the UNIVAC I, or the Universal Automatic Computer. Manufactured by Remington Rand, the UNIVAC I earned its place in computer history when the first unit was installed with the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951. Eventually, 46 UNIVAC I units were sold, costing $1 million each.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack

The integrated circuit and the microprocessor made personal computers for home and office use a reality. Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack are credited with the invention of the personal computer, although the first system was sold by Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems in 1974. A build-it-yourself computer kit, the Altair, was sold by catalog shortly thereafter, joining the history of the computer.

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