Origin and Uses of Computers
The computer is one of the most wonderful products of modern science. It plays a significant role in modern life. A computer works with fantastic speed, precision and accuracy. It can make thousands of calculations per second. It is an electronic calculating machine that can count, write and solve highly complex problems. Computers have made in roads into every human activity. It is a friend of students, businessmen, industrialists, scientists and others.
The word computer comes from the word compute meaning to calculate. We find computers in offices, business houses, laboratories and on spaceships. We do not need to wait in the queue for a long time today. Tickets are issued by computers. Computers have made life easier and more perfect.
The neolithic structure Stonehenge near Salisbury in England is considered to be the oldest computer. It is supposed to have been built about 4000 years ago. It consists of a circular structure of stones supposed to have been temple dedicated to the sun god. It was used to predict the astronomical phenomena like the orbits of various planets. John Napier (1552 – 1617) developed logarithm with which multiplication and division become easier. Slide rule was an extension of logarithm. It was in fact a scientist by name Charles Babbage invented the modern computer in the nineteenth century. In the early stages computers used vacuum tubes. A few years later Dr. Howard Alken of Harvard University designed the automatic sequence controlled calculator – the first mechanical computer.
There are two models of computers namely Analogue and Digital – the former measures and the latter calculators. Today digital computers are more popular. Digits in Latin means finger. In earlier days fingers were used to count. Computers are used to perform very sophisticated tasks. They are used to control the direction of rockets and missiles. Such computers were used in the second world war. A lot of researches have been done in order to improve upon the existing ones.
A computer program is a set of coded instructions for the computer to obey. The writing of these programs is called computer programming. A computer, with all its sophistication and extraordinary ability to perform tasks cannot replace man. It cannot think by itself. It can only perform tasks that we program into it. A computer can control the movement pattern of the electrons and a desired pictures is produced on the screen as a picture on a TV screen is produced by bombarding electrons. Today computers are used to produce accurate scale drawing in a short time. They can produce drawings, maps, et. Computers are also used in satellites to forecast weather. A computer in a hospital can give signals to doctors about a patient’s condition.
Many people have the fear that computers create unemployment. It’s wrong. In fact, computers create jobs. In this growing world we want our tasks to be done quickly and accurately. New technology needs the manufacture of new machines, data feeding equipments and electronic instruments, the production of which requires more and more men. If employment opportunity is reduced in one area, it is increased in many others.
Therefore we do not need to be unduly worried about the introduction of computers. They create job opportunities to people in many other areas. In fact, computers are going to do for us most of our jobs in the 21st century.