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Essay/Term paper: Past, present, and future of computers

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Internet

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Past, Present, and Future of Computers

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. It's 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
The begginings of the computer are actually kind of strange. It started in
the 1800's 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
In the 1930's, 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 it's 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. It's 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
wouldn't 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 it's 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, it's 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 don't 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 didn't 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
today's 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 today's 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 today's day and age, information is
sacred. One of the biggest problems found with information is what is free and
what isn't. 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 isn't 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 someone's 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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