Sunday, March 27, 2016

History of Computer Hardware

In 1939, Professor John Vincent Atanasoff, with the help of his graduate student, Clifford Berry, developed the first electronic calculating machine. This computer could solve relatively complicated physics computations. Atanasoff and Berry built a more sophisticated version, the ABC (Atanasoff Berry Computer), in 1942.

Professor Howard Aiken developed a massive electro-mechanical computer (MARK I). This machine  was 51 feet long, 8 feet high, and 2 feet deep. It could perform three additions a second and one multiplication every six seconds.

Dr. John Mauchly, in collaboration with J. Presper Eckert, Jr., completed the electronic numerical integrator and computer (ENIAC) in 1946. This computer occupied 15,000 square feet, weighed 30 tons, and contained 18,000 vacuum tubes.  The ENIAC could perform over 80 additions or 8 multiplication operations per second.

In the early 1950s, Mauchly and Eckert developed the first commercially viable electronic computer, the universal automatic computer (UNIVAC I) for Remington-Rand Corporation.  This first generation of computers was programmed in binary code (zeros and ones, machine language), which required specialists.

IBM introduced its first commercial computer, the IBM 650, in 1954.
 The second generation of computers replaced vacuum tubes with transistors, which were smaller, required less power, and ran without generating significant heat. This and other innovations in data storage technology made computers smaller, faster, and more reliable. The first scientific computer using transistors was the IBM 7090. A second important innovation of this era was the development of high-level computer languages, which enabled computer specialists to write programs using coded instructions that resemble human language. The IBM 705, introduced in 1959, used the FORTRAN language processor. This model became the standard machine for large-scale data processing companies.

The development of integrated circuits enabled computer manufacturers to incorporate many transistors within the layers of semiconductor material. The greater computing power and efficiency of computers brought the cost of data processing services within the reach of an increasing number of businesses. Many businesses started using data processing services provided by some establishments, and a few acquired their own computers. IBM’s 360 series of mainframe computers emerged during this period as the market leader. These machines used a single machine language.  A large
market generated greater demand for computer programmers and spawned new companies to provide computer-related services. An independent software industry began to emerge.

The 1960s and 1970s also witnessed the implementation of time-sharing and telecommunication technologies, which enable multiple users to access a computer from remote terminals. In addition, multiple task handling was developed (parallel processing and multiprogramming).

In 1965, the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) introduced the first minicomputer, the PDP-8 (programmed data processor). at about one-fourth the price of mainframe computers. Minicomputers substantially widened the market for computers and computer programmers. 260 minicomputers and 5,350 mainframes were sold in 1965. Minicomputer unit sales surpassed mainframe unit sales by

By the 1970s, computers incorporated “semiconductor chips” no larger than a human fingernail and containing more than 100,000 transistors.  For the past two decades, the memory capacity of a semiconductor chip has doubled approximately every 18 months.

In the early 1970s, Intel Corporation developed the microprocessor, a chip that contains the entire control unit of a computer. Very large scale integration (VLSI) technology led to the development of the microcomputer. Microcomputers came to dominate the computer industry by the mid-1980s. With its Apple II computer system, which included a keyboard, monitor, floppy disk drive, and operating system, Apple Computer vastly expanded the market for computers. Microcomputer unit sales
surpassed minicomputer unit sales in 1976, their second year of production. By 1986, sales of microcomputers (costing less than $1,000) reached approximately 4 million units and produced revenues of almost $12 billion, giving microcomputers the largest share of computer industry revenues.

The rapid growth of the microcomputer sector of the industry spurred the emergence of independent software vendors (ISVs) who developed massmarketed programs for this growing market of versatile machines. Microcomputer owners were ready to use various new programs. The cost
of developing software for these machines was relatively low.

IBM entered the microcomputer market in 1981 with its PC (personal computer) product. The IBM PC utilized an Intel microprocessor (16-bit 8088 chip) and an operating system, PC-DOS (disk operating system), licensed from  Microsoft, then a fledgling company. Microsoft’s MS-DOS is a single-tasking, single-user operating system with a command-line interface. Like other operating ystems, MS-DOS oversees operations such as disk input and output, video support, keyboard control, and many internal functions related to program execution and file maintenance.

IBM’s strong brand in the business computer industry as well as its vast distribution network  enabled IBM to rapidly attract customers for its PC product. Many ISVs and hardware manufacturers developed and marketed software and peripheral products to run on the IBM PC. IBM actively encouraged ISVs and the makers of peripheral equipment (e.g., printers and monitors) to develop products for the PC. While promoting an “open architecture” with regard to these sectors of the industry, IBM included a specialized chip (BIOS)  for transferring data within the PC that hindered other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from offering fully compatible computer systems. T

ISVs  developed a wide range of programs to run on the IBM PC, including word processing, database, and spreadsheet software. For example, Lotus Corporation developed a version of the spreadsheet Visicalc (originally designed to run on the Apple II) to run on the IBM PC platform. Within a year of its introduction, Lotus 1-2-3 eclipsed Visicalc and became the spreadsheet market leader. Its success led to the label “killer app” to designate an application program of such widespread popularity that it spurs sales of a hardware/operating system platform. This reinforced the
importance of owning an IBM PC, thereby adding further to the value of IBM’s
trademark in the microcomputer market. The powerful IBM trademark and the
growing availability of software designed to run on the IBM/Microsoft platform
catapulted IBM to a dominant position in the early microcomputer marketplace
and greatly encouraged the dissemination of microcomputers. It also made Microsoft and Intel well-recognized trademarks in the microcomputer industry. Microsoft and Intel retained rights to market their products to other OEMs in the computer industry. Because of the availability of software designed to run on the IBM PC platform, other OEMs sought to develop computer systems that could run the growing supply of IBM-compatible software. Although Microsoft’s MS-DOS operating system could be licensed in the marketplace, IBM refused to license its BIOS chip. As a result, other OEMs could not fully emulate the internal operations of the IBM PC readily, and some software designed for the IBM PC did not operate satisfactorily on the computer systems of other OEMs. As a result, consumers strongly favored IBM PCs. Other computer companies had little choice but to offer IBM PC compatibility in order to compete effectively in the microcomputer marketplace.

With the exception of Apple Computer, which maintained a niche in the marketplace, no serious alternative to the IBM PC/MS DOS platform survived. By 1984, Compaq developed a BIOS chip that successfully ran software developed for the IBM PC. Later that year, Phoenix Technologies Ltd.
developed a fully IBM PC-compatible ROM BIOS, which it licensed to a broad range of OEMs. Other OEMs entered the market for IBM PC-compatible computer systems. As consumers became increasingly confident that software application programs designed for the IBM PC would run on the computer systems of other OEMs, these PC “clone” computers eroded IBM’s dominance
of the marketplace by offering lower prices, wider selection, and additional features.

By 1986, numerous OEMs competed in the IBM-compatible/MS-DOS marketplace and IBM’s hold on the market had significantly loosened. The broad range of software available for the IBM-compatible/MS-DOS platform enabled MS-DOS to emerge as the de facto operating system standard in the industry by the late 1980s.

At about the same time, Microsoft began developing the Windows operating system platform incorporating a graphical user interface. The Windows platform was backward-compatible with MS-DOS (i.e., applications designed to operate in the MS-DOS environment could run on the Windows platform as well). Most MS-DOS users as well as new computer users migrated to the Windows platform, which has been the dominant platform since the mid-1990s.

Laptop Development

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