The final story of the computer’s effect on society has yet to be told, but it has wrought a revolution unlike any ever seen.
Though the invention of the microprocessor made the personal computer possible, manufactures at first failed to see its potential. It wasn’t until 1977 that Americans Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched the Apple II the first mass-market microcomputer available already assembled. In the decades since, computers have become more and more user-friendly and powerful and have changed lives in unimaginable ways.
The internet, for example, has become very popular in our country, with the World Wide Web its most familiar feature.
The Web is a collection of hyperlinked pages distributed over the internet via a network protocol called HTTP (hyper-text-transfer-protocol). It was started in the late 1980’s by scientists wanting to share information on their projects, although at that time it was text-only. In a landmark development that came later, graphics were made possible with a browser called NCSA Mosaic.
The graphical interface opened up the internet to everyone and in 1993 its use exploded as ordinary people began to dial into the internet using their computer at home and a modem to get their connections.
Before all this, the only net-linked computers were at universities and other large organizations, but now anyone could use the internet, and the medium quickly evolved into the worldwide information superhighway we know today.
Although names like Aiken and Jobs, Wozniak and Gates all belong to men, many computer pioneers were women. In fact, the first computer, “compiler’ was invented by Grace Murray Hopper in 1982. Her revolutionary software facilitated the first automatic programming of computer language. Each time the computer needed instructions that were common to all programmes, the compiler would have the computer refer to codes in its own memory. The compiler was a time-and-error-saving breakthrough, or the computer world, and yet Hopper didn’t stop there. She also invented COBOL, the first use-friendly business software programme, which is still in use today.
Ten years later Evelyn Boyd Granville, one of the first African-American female computer scientists, developed computer programmes foe the Apollo Project and the Mercury Project.
Another woman pre-dated these pioneers by well over a century. She was the daughter of the great romantic poet Lord Byron. In 1833 English mathematician named Charles Babbage designed a steam-powered ‘analytical engine’ that contained many of the operating principles in use in today’s computers- data storage print outs, even decision-making functions. Babbage was never able to complete his machine, mainly because the current metal technology could not meet his unique demands. His assistant in his labors was Auguste Ade Byron, Lady Lovelace, who became the author of the ‘code’ to run Babbage’s machine. She was history’s first computer programmer. In 1979 a high-level computer language, ADA, was named in her honor.
Researchers at IBM have announced, the development of a technology that can store as much as 20 times the data of the magnetic storage media used in early twenty first century computers. The technology can cram 25 million printed textbook pages of data on a surface the size of a postage stamp!