The introduction of the personal computer is recent, but the history of computers is so wide that it moves us to 2,700 BC when the Sumerian and Chinese civilizations used the abacus to perform addition and subtraction. Much later the algorithm was invented, the numerical calculation, the calculation rule, the calculating machine, the punched card or the first automatic calculator that was manufactured and used on an industrial scale. In 1936 came the revolution when the mathematician Alan Turing – considered rightly the “father of computer science” – formalized the concepts of algorithm and machine of Turing, introduced the concept of Hypercomputing, the first theoretical advances of Artificial Intelligence and the design of the first digital programmable electronic computers.
In addition to helping the world end the Nazis thanks to Enigma decryption machines and FISH teletype coders, Turing’s contributions were key to the development of modern computing and the later arrival of the IBM PC. Although the term “personal computer” was used since 1972 in the legendary Xerox PARC, the tremendous success of IBM Personal Computer made it a standard and was what gave way to the current era of the personal computer.
The computer industry constantly boasts about the growth in the adoption of smartphones and tablets in the world, but at 33 years personal computers are still a sector that sells more than 75.7 million units every three months around the world, from the agreement with the Gartner consultancy. To remember its importance, three decades after it began to become popular, we share 10 personal computers that have made history:
10 classic computers that have gone down in history
Surely none of this would have been possible without the advances shown decades earlier by the classic computers to which we will pay tribute with images created by the photographer James Ball ( ‘Docubyte’ ). They are true works of art although as in all listings of this type are not “all that is” and could include other mythical prior as Colossus, ENIAC or IBM CPC. Intel 486 DX 25MHz that soon upgraded to a 486 DX2 at 66MHz. A lot has rained since then until we have reached the current moment. Dozens of different processors have been built, but we believe that there are 10 that best define the history of modern computing.
The processors or CPU (central processing unit) are part of the heart of the computers and other devices that accompany us every day. It was not long ago, it was unthinkable to talk about 64-bit architectures or clock speeds of 1 GHz. The evolution has been brutal in recent years, in addition to the manufacturing processes that have been key. From the first processors of our collection with 4 bit to the current processors with 64 bit, several cores and speeds of several gigahertz, less than 50 years have passed and the evolution has been simply spectacular. These 10 models can help us better remember the path that has been traveled to the present time.
Created in 1950, it was one of the first British computers. It is based entirely on the design of Turing (Automatic Computing Engine). It had 800 thermionic valves, used mercury delay lines for its main memory and its working frequency was 1 megahertz. A prototype that had a commercial version called DEUCE, built and sold by the company English Electric. Pilot ACE is in the Science Museum of London.
British relay-based computer created in 1951 for engineering, education and like many of the time to accelerate testing of nuclear weapons. With a weight of more than 2.7 tons, it is on display at the National Museum of Computing. The Guinness Book of Records recognized it as the oldest working digital computer.
The first computer of the successful 1400 series, reached the market in 1951. A variable word length computer often used as an off-line peripheral controller in large facilities for scientific and business computing. It could be used as an independent system, in conjunction with IBM punch card equipment, or as ancillary equipment for the IBM 700 or 7000 series. A restoration program is underway at the Mountain View Computer History Museum.
Magnetic tape unit converted into an icon of mass storage systems in the 50s and 60s. It uses magnetic tape of up to 731 meters in lengths of 26 centimeters. To allow rapid acceleration of the tape, vacuum columns were placed between the tape and the rollers of the read/write heads. The California History of Computers Museum keeps working one of these machines connected to an IBM 1401 system.
EAI Pace (TR 48)
A “desktop computer” manufactured in the early 1960s. It weighed 145 kilograms and was 1.2 meters wide, 60 cm deep and 60 cm high. It was the most complete “desktop” analog computer of its time and was used in NASA’s Apollo lunar program.
Control Data 6600
It has the honor of being the first supercomputer in history. One of the first machines based on transistors, was designed in 1965 by Seymour Cray and manufactured by Control Data Corporation. Its launch prompted a note to employees of IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson, asking for explanations of how it was possible for a company with 34 employees (including the janitor) to move them forward in creating the best supercomputer on the market. The key was in the design of a legendary engineer like Cray. It was used mainly for nuclear physics research at CERN and was the fastest supercomputer on the planet until 1969.
An analog computer based on vacuum tubes developed and manufactured in the former German Democratic Republic. About 20 machines were produced and only one survives at the computer museum in Dresden.
It was one of the last hybrid analog equipment. It was built in former Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and its use was widespread in many countries behind the Iron Curtain.
Another small hybrid analog computer that was developed at the Technical University of Dresden in the days of the former German Democratic Republic. It is installed in the high-performance center of the city.
Terminals and work stations manufactured by the extinct British ICL. They were like PC towers but mounted horizontally. They were meant to work in an office environment, with wood-plated steel cabinets for the processor and peripheral units.