Today, we use computers for just about everything — from doing our homework to staying in touch with friends. But if you go back even 50 years, you will know this wasn’t always the case. A relatively new invention in the history of the world, computers as you know them today were born as the result of years of hard work, study, research and a dream; of a machine that could do the impossible.
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer geographer and a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Al-Khwarizmi developed the concept of the algorithm in mathematics, which is a reason for him being called the grandfather of computer science.
Today, we program software with the help of a sequence of instructions called an algorithm. Without algorithms, the modern computer wouldn’t exist. From Google’s ability to search to a simple thing like “shutting down” the computer, all these actions are based on the principles of Al-Khwarizmi’s text written about 1200 years ago! Isn’t that amazing?
Charles Babbage, born to a wealthy London family in 1791, was the brain behind the idea of a general programmable computer. He spent his life developing plans for two different computers. The first, called the Difference Engine, was partially completed in the early 1830s. The Analytical Engine, his second and more complex design was never completed at all. However, both had the potential to be very powerful calculating tools and were revolutionary both in terms of ideas and practice for their time.
His machines were essentially the first computers in history!
Alan Turing was a World War II hero, who, along with his team at Bletchley Park, constructed a computing machine called the Bombe, to decode messages encrypted using the Nazi Enigma machine. Had it not been for Alan Turing, the war would’ve continued for 8 more years!
Amongst his other contributions (and there are plenty!), Alan Turing also paved the way for computer programming. The earliest computers did not store programs in their memory. To set up these computers for a fresh task, it was necessary to modify some of the machine's wiring, re-routing cables by hand and setting switches. Almost 7 decades ago, Alan Turing made the first computer that could store programs, an invaluable contribution to the computer as we know it.
Can you imagine how difficult it would be to operate a computer without a mouse? Well, thanks to the effort of Mr. Engelbart we no longer have to imagine such a possibility! The mouse allows you to interact with the computer easily by pointing towards actions. Before the invention of the mouse, all commands had to be entered using the keyboard alone, while today all you have to do is guide your mouse and click!
Yes, there was no WWW 25 years ago. The internet was developed in the 1960s to transfer information between computers. However, Tim Berners Lee decided to make it more user-friendly for people. He did so by inventing the World Wide Web.
In one of his interviews, this British computer scientist also mentioned that all the technology involved in the web had already been developed, and his contribution was to put them all together! That’s modest!
While, there are so many scientists and computer engineers responsible for the computer as you know it, these are five of them, whose vision and work have made modern computing possible.