The concept of a computer has evolved over time, and different devices and machines contributed to its development. The term “computer” can refer to a broad range of devices used for computation. Here are some key milestones in the invention and development of computers:
- Ancient Devices (c. 100 BC): The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek analog device, is one of the earliest examples of a mechanical device used for specific computational purposes, such as predicting astronomical positions.
- Analytical Engine (1837-1842): Charles Babbage designed the Analytical Engine during the 19th century. While it was never completed, it is often considered the first design for a general-purpose mechanical computer.
- ENIAC (1946): The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) is often regarded as the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was completed in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania and was used for complex numerical calculations.
- EDVAC (1949): The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC) is another early electronic computer and implemented the stored-program concept, where both instructions and data were stored in the computer’s memory.
The definition of the “first computer” can vary based on specific criteria, such as being electronic, general-purpose, programmable, or commercially available. ENIAC is often credited as the first electronic general-purpose computer, but the history of computing is a progression involving various inventions and innovations over time.