# Science in History: From the Abacus to the Modern Computer Part 1: The Abacus

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2 The Abacus: Questions Answer the following questions about the abacus: 1. The first counting device was. a. the Chinese abacus b. the Salamis tablet c. the human hand d. the counting board 2. Why does the earliest counting board date only to 300 BC when counting boards were possibly being used in 3000 BC? 3. What are calculi? 4. Which two types of the abacus were directly derived from the Chinese abacus? a. Aztec and Japanese b. Japanese and Egyptian c. Egyptian and Aztec d. Russian and Japanese 5. The Japanese abacus. a. had a wooden frame and five or seven kernels on each string b. was made of marble and required the use of counters c. was derived from the Chinese abacus in the second century AD d. had a wooden frame and five or six beads on each wire 6. The basic function of the abacus is to: a. help one in counting, in a passive way. b. keep track of figures smaller than ten. c. replace the calculator. d. keep a record of past financial transactions 7. Match: a. abacus was invented in China st century b. abacus still used in England th century c. origin of Salamis tablet 3. 2 nd century AD d. abacus still used in many countries BC

3 Part 2: The Era of Mechanical Computation With the need to deal with higher and higher figures, a more sophisticated counting machine became necessary, but little progress was made beyond the abacus until the beginning of the seventeenth century, whose great minds gave birth to the first ideas concerning mechanical computation. The first counting device - a mechanical Calculating Clock was invented by Wilhelm Schickard in 1624, but was forgotten for a time, so the man usually credited with inventing the first mechanical calculator is Blaise Pascal. Pascal, a French scientist and inventor, created a device in 1642 which, unlike the passive abacus, performed mathematical operations in an active manner. This calculator, called the Pascaline, could add and subtract numbers with up to eight digits, but was never used much because of its high cost and unreliability. German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz studied the Pascaline, and by means of an innovative gear system added a third function: multiplication, which was performed as a sequence of additions. The first mechanical calculator that could perform the four basic arithmetic functions was built by Frenchman Charles Xavier Thomas of Colmar more than a century later. Colmar s Arithometer of 1820 was widely used until the beginning of the twentieth century. The first step towards the creation of computers as we know them today was made by an English mathematics professor, Charles Babbage. Early on, he realized that all mathematical calculations can be broken up into simple operations which are then constantly repeated, and that these operations could be carried out by an automatic, rather than a mechanical, machine. He started working on a Difference Engine, but after ten years he abandoned it for the Analytical Engine the real predecessor of the computer. The plans for the colossal steam-powered Analytical Engine made use of another great invention, punched cards, created in 1820 by Joseph- Marie Jacquard for use in looms. The cards were to function as programs. Sadly, Babbage never completed the machine, largely due to poor machining techniques of the time. Punched cards were also used seventy years later by an American inventor, Herman Hollerith, who created a computing machine out of necessity. He was charged with the task of computing the U.S. Census, and so his machine used punched cards as a primitive form of memory to store data rather than as programs. Although still mostly mechanical, Hollerith s computer was the first machine to use electricity, thus bringing to a close the Mechanical Era of computation.

4 The Era of Mechanical Computation: Questions Answer the following questions about early calculating devices: 1. Explain the most important difference between an abacus and early calculators. 2. The first mechanical counting device was invented by in a. Blaise Pascal, 1820 b. William Schickard, 1624 c. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, 1642 d. Charles Xavier Thomas of Colmar, The first machine which could handle multiplication and division was a. the Pascaline b. Leibniz s innovation of the Pascaline c. the Arithometer d. the Difference Engine 4. Which of these statements is true? a. In 1820 Colmar s Arithometer was no longer in use. b. The Pascaline could add and subtract ten-digit figures. c. The Difference Engine was powered by electricity. d. Babbage s Analytical Engine was never built. 5. The man who first planned his machine to deal with mathematical operations as sequences of simple repetitive tasks was. 6. Punched cards were. a. invented by Charles Babbage in 1820 b. used as programs by Herman Hollerith c. first used in looms in 1820 d. used for storing data by Joseph-Marie Jacquard 7. Which of these was not a part of Herman Hollerith s computer? a. punched cards used as programs b. electrical power c. punched cards used as memory d. mechanical functions

6 Early Computers: Questions Answer the following questions about the first computers: 1. What number system was used by the first computers? a. decimal system b. duodecimal system c. binary system d. metric system 2. Name one advantage and one disadvantage of vacuum tubes: 3. was the first all-electronic computer. a. the EDVAC b. Zuse s calculator c. the ENIAC d. the ABC 4. The ENIAC was the first programmable computer. How was the programming performed? 5. Which of these computers were not created for military purposes? a. the ABC b. the ENIAC c. the Colossus d. Konrad Zuse s computers 6. Vacuum tubes. a. were first used in computers by J. V. Atanasoff b. were replaced by mechanical switches c. were invented by George Boole d. were in use before World War I 7. The ENIAC was not used for. a. weather forecasting b. breaking enemy code c. calculating trajectories of weapons d. developing the hydrogen bomb

7 Part 4: Computers Today The invention of the transistor in 1947 was the beginning of a new era. Vacuum tube computers, which had taken up many rooms, now shrunk to bearable sizes. The transistor was also much faster and more reliable. As before, computers were now being used by specialized laboratories, but more often for peacetime science than for military purposes. Early supercomputers, the Stretch by IBM and the LARC by Sperry-Rand, were built for atomic energy laboratories. These were the first machines to replace binary codes with programming codes consisting of a few letters. Additionally, they each had an operating system and a memory, and could store data on disk. Transistors were definitely an improvement, but there was one drawback: they created heat, which tended to damage the heat-sensitive components. This problem was eliminated by the invention of the integrated circuit in The integrated circuit compressed several components onto one tiny quartz chip. The number of the components one chip could hold rose into the hundreds, later into the thousands, and then into the millions with ultra large scale integration (ULSI). In addition to the invention of the integrated circuit, another development of the 1960s was an operating system with a central program supervising other programs which could run simultaneously. Since computers were no longer so large, they also became cheaper. In the 1970s, computer manufacturers were ready to bring computers to consumers. These computers had user-friendly programs and offered the first word processors, spreadsheets, and even the first computer games! In 1981, the first IBM PCs were introduced into homes, schools and offices. The Apple Macintosh was introduced three years later. These computers looked much like the ones we are used to today: they had a monitor, a mouse and a keyboard. The number of personal computers soared from 2 million in 1981 to almost 6 million in 1982, to 65 million in As their potential grew, new ways of using computers were being developed. Computers could be linked together to form networks sharing software, memory space and information. The World Wide Web, which was started in 1989, links up computers worldwide to provide people with opportunities to share information and to enable communication via . Today computers are an inseparable part of many people s lives and jobs and are likely to continue to be tools that we rely on.

8 Computers Today: Questions Answer the following questions about modern-day computers: 1. Computers using transistors were than vacuum tube computers. 2. Early supercomputers. a. stored data on disk b. had no operation system c. used binary codes d. had no memory yet 3. What disadvantage of the transistor did the integrated circuit eliminate? 4. Which of these could not have been used by someone in the 1970s? a. a spreadsheet b. a computer game c. a web-page d. a word processor 5. The first personal computers (PCs) appeared in. a b c d Name at least one of the first manufacturers to supply the market with user-friendly computers: 7. Name at least three advantages computer networks create:

9 Unit Review Questions Answer the following questions: 1. Which of these devices did not perform numerical operations on its own (actively)? a. Zuse s calculator b. Greek counting boards c. Babbage s Difference Engine d. Apple Macintosh 2. Which of these used counters? a. Aztec abacus b. The Colossus c. Roman counting boards d. Chinese abacus 3. Match the materials used with the devices/machines they were used in: a. corn kernels 1. Salamis tablet b. quartz 2. Japanese abacus c. wires 3. Aztec abacus d. marble 4. IBM PC 4. Which of these used beads to count? a. calculator b. supercomputer c. counting board d. abacus 5. Computers in the 19 th century were generally and than computers in the second half of the 20 th century. 6. Which of these was not mechanical? a. The Pascaline b. The Colossus c. The Arithometer d. The Difference Engine 7. Match the computers with the purposes they were used for: a. Hollerith s computer 1. weather prediction b. ENIAC 2. atomic energy research c. the Colossus 3. cracking code messages d. LARC 4. U.S. census

10 Unit Review Questions, Page 2 Answer the following questions: 8. Name at least two people who created their computers for military purposes around the time of World War II: 9. Arrange these components in chronological order: a. transistor 1. b. integrated circuit 2. c. vacuum tube 3. d. electromechanical relay Write the correct inventor on the line next to the inventions: 1. Pascaline 2. punched cards 3. first all-electronic computer 4. first device to perform 4 basic math functions 5. first electromechanical computer 6. Calculator Clock 7. binary system 8. Analytical Engine 9. ENIAC 10. vacuum tube calculators a. Wilhelm Schickard f. Charles Xavier Thomas of Colmar b. Clifford Berry g. Konrad Zuse c. Charles Babbage h. Blaise Pascal d. J. P. Eckert e. Herman Hollerith i. Joseph- j. George Marie Boole Jacquard 11. Match the breakthroughs in computer development to the right dates: a. Invention of the transistor b. World Wide Web started c. First use of punched cards as programs d. Invention of the integrated circuit

11 Unit Review Questions, Page 3 Answer the following questions: 12. Several kinds of calculating devices are used today. Which of these is not? a. Abacus b. Apple Macintosh c. Arithometer d. IBM PC 13. When did computers which could be used by ordinary people start to appear? a. 1930s b. 1950s c. 1970s d. 1990s 14. Arrange these chronologically in order of appearance: a. 1. b. Computer games 2. c. Word-processors 3. d. Operating system How is your life influenced by computers? What are their benefits and drawbacks? How would your life be without them?

12 Answer Sheet The Abacus 1. c 2. No counting boards dating to 3000 BC have been discovered because they were generally made of materials that do not last, e.g. twigs, pebbles, sand. 3. Calculi are ancient Greek and Roman counters, i.e. small round stones used on counting boards. 4. d 5. d 6. a 7. a 3; b 2; c 4; d 1 The Era of Mechanical Computation 1. An abacus is a passive device, whereas early calculators could perform mathematical operations actively, without the user doing the operations mentally. 2. b 3. c 4. d 5. Charles Babbage 6. c 7. a Early Computers 1. c 2. Vacuum tubes were faster than mechanical switches used before, but used up a lot of space so vacuum tube computers were huge. 3. d 4. The ENIAC could be programmed by wiring its parts together in a certain sequence. 5. a 6. a 7. b Computers Today 1. faster, more reliable any of these 2. a 3. The main disadvantage of the transistor was overheating. This is not a problem with the integrated circuit. 4. c 5. b 6. IBM, Apple 7. sharing software, sharing memory space, sharing information, communication, etc.

13 Review 1. b 2. c 3. a 3; b 4; c 2; d 1 4. d 5. larger, slower, more expensive, less common, less reliable etc. 6. b 7. a 4; b 1; c 3; d 2 8. Konrad Zuse, Alan Turing, J. P. Eckert, J. V. Mauchley any two of these 9. 1 d; 2 c; 3 a; 4 b 10. a 6; b 3; c 8; d 9; e 5; f 4; g 10; h 1; i 2; j a 3; b 1; c 4; d c 13. c 14. a 4; b 3; c 2; d answers will vary

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