Who Invented the First Computer and Where Did Computers Come From?

The answer to the question depends on your definition of a computer.

ENIAC built in 1943

The first known counting devices or tools were Tally Sticks from about 35,000 BC.

The Abacus was then invented by the Babylonians in 2400 BC.

Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine

In 1837, Charles Babbage, a British professor of mathematics described his idea for the Analytical Engine, the first stored-program mechanical computer. The Analytical Engine was designed to be powered by a steam engine and was to use Punched Cards, which was used to program mechanical looms at the time.

What made the Analytical Engine unique was that it was designed to be programmed.

It was because of this and the fact that it would be more than 100 years that any similar devices would be constructed, Charles Babbage, would be considered by many as the “father of computing”.

Because of legal, financial, and political obstacles, the Analytical Machine would never be completed. Charles Babbage was also difficult to work with and alienated the supporters of his work.

The first automatic electronic digital computer

In 1939, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry developed the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) at Iowa State University, which was regarded as the first electronic digital computer. The ABC was built by hand and the design used over 300 Vacuum Tubes and had capacitors fixed in a mechanically rotating drum for memory.

ENIAC data register unit

ENIAC

The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), constructed in the US in 1943, is widely regarded as the first functional programmable electronic computer.

John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert are both credited as inventors of the ENIAC.

Influenced by the ABC, it was a turning point in the history of computing and was used to perform ballistics trajectory calculations and used 160 kW of power. World War II is known to be the driving force of computing hardware development and one of such use of computers was in communications encryption and decryption.

UNIVAC I

The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer) was the first commercially available, “mass produced” electronic computer manufactured by Remington Rand in the USA and was delivered to the US Census Bureau in June 1951. It used 5,200 vacuum tubes and consumed 125 kW of power.

46 machines were sold at more than $1 million each.

The microprocessor eventually led to the development of the microcomputer, small, low-cost computers that individuals and small businesses could afford.

By the 1990s, the microcomputer or Personal Computer (PC) became a common household appliance, and became even more widespread with the advent of the Internet.

Timeline of computer devices

80000 BC – Two notched rib bones may have been used for counting but they could have been merely decorative.

2400 BC – The abacus is the first known calculator, was probably invented by the Babylonians, and is still widely used by merchants, traders and clerks in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.

1000 AD – The Planisphere was a mechanical computing device invented by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.

1622 – Slide rules based on natural logarithms by John Napier were developed by William Oughtred.

1623 – A mechanical calculating machine was invented by Wilhelm Schickard from Germany.

1820 – Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar created what would become the first mass-produced mechanical calculator called the Arithmometer.

1890 – Herman Hollerith a U.S. Census Department employee invented data storage on machine readable punched cards. He founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which later became IBM (International Business Machines).

1901 – The first 10-key adding machine was released for sale by the Standard Adding Machine Company in St. Louis, Missouri. A breakthrough for its time, the invention won an international grand prize during the 1904 World’s Fair.

1938 – Konrad Zuse from Germany built the first mechanical binary programmable computer called the Z1. It was based on Boolean Algebra and used floating-point arithmetic.

1946 – The ENIAC was unveiled. It could do 50,000 basic calculations a second and had 18,000 electronic valves.

1948 – The Curta was a small, hand-cranked mechanical calculator introduced by Austrian inventor, Curt Herzstark. It was a descendant of Gottfried Leibniz’s Stepped Reckoner and Thomas’s Arithmometer.

1951 – The Ferranti Mark 1 was the first commercial computer and was delivered to the University of Manchester. It was based on the Manchester Mark 1.

1951 – The first “mass produced” computer, the UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer) was delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau.

1952 – IBM publicly announced its first mainframe computer, the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine.

1953 – The first computer built with transistors was designed and completed at the University of Manchester.

1961 – The British Bell Punch ANITA was the first all-electronic desktop calculator. It was silent and quick, and used vacuum tubes, 12 cold-cathode “Nixie” tubes for its display, and Dekatrons.

1964 – The first supercomputer, the CDC 6600, was released. With performance of about 1 megaFLOPS, it outperformed its predecessor, the IBM 7030 Stretch, by about a factor of three.

1965 – The first minicomputer, built by Digital Equipment (DEC) was made available to the public. The DEC PDP-8 Mini Computer cost US$16,000.

1969 – ARPANET developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for research became the technical foundation of the Internet.

1971 – The first single-chip microprocessor, the 4004, was designed by Ted Hoff, Federico Faggin, and Stanley Mazor at Intel.

1975 – The world’s first complete, pre-assembled personal computer system, the P6060, was unveiled by Olivetti at the Hannover Fair. It had 8″ floppy disk drives, a 32-character plasma display, 48 Kbytes of RAM, and weighed 40 kg (88 lb).

1977 – The Apple II computer was introduced based on an 8-bit microprocessor running at 1 MHz with 4 KB of RAM. It had color graphics, and an audio cassette interface for loading programs and data storage.

1980 – Tandy released the TRS-80 Color Computer, which used Microsoft Basic as its programming language. It supported cartridge programs and games, attempting to bridge both the home computing and video gaming markets.

1981 – IBM announced their IBM Personal Computer (PC) running MS-DOS 1.0.

1994 – IBM introduced the first PDA with full mobile phone functionality, the IBM Simon, which can also be considered the first smartphone.

1997 – PDAs (Personal digital assistant) gained widespread popularity. Manufacturers included HP, Nokia, Palm, Inc. (Palm Pilot)

2007 – The iPhone was introduced by Apple. One of the first full-featured smartphones, it had a touchscreen, a full-featured web browser to access the World Wide Web (WWW).

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_computing_hardware

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

40 thoughts on “Who Invented the First Computer and Where Did Computers Come From?”

  1. you people have like anger manegment problems…calm down. it’s just about stupid computers its not that big of a deal VVVV

  2. This article which you called “crap” is helpful to those who were looking for such information, what you all should have done, was to check out another article on another site to find EXACTLY what you were looking for.

  3. Charles Babbage DID NOT invent the first computer… pay more attn. to the reading…

    it clearly states that charles babbage only came up with and developed the schematics for the first computer… not the computer itself…

    DOWN at the next paragraph is clearly stated that the FIRST computer was developed, known as the ENIAC

    PAY SOME ATTENTION

  4. im sorry but a guy named konrad zuse created the first computer. bill gates just made it better

  5. it was Konrad Zuse who invented the first computer and most people wanna know tbhis stuff for their projects or hw or whatever so you guys need to chillax and stop calling everyone geeks id rather be a nerd than be some poor guy on the street dont you think? so keep you’re mouths shut

  6. Charles Babbage had an assistant. A computor language
    was named after her ADA The daughter of Lord Byron
    She was a mathmatical genius I believe . It did in fact work
    but Babbage naturally wanted improvements the problem being
    the lack of fine quality engineering needed. And its cost
    I doubt the americans had a computer in ww2 because in the
    book COLLOSUS , Americans were invited to Bletchley Park
    to learn how it was done.

  7. its not just kids or geeks who wonder about this stuff, its people who have a brain and know how to expand it without fear of being ridiculed for wanted to explore things that arnt everyday questions. i mean come on i was hanging out with some friends tonight just having a good time and having conversations, and we got curious i cant tell you how much i learned in the last 12.5 hours…yea we have been up all night searching stuff that lead us to the question who invented toliet paper…i have never even cared about what brand i used but now you guys better believe i will be reading the labels of all the brands on the shelf… but i gtg for now ill be on different topics all the time… so to all the haters out there for wondering about something, you guys are the losers, that are obviously not gonna be anybody to remember in this world, give people credit…

  8. The Yankee hater was right the first computer was invented by the Brits during WWII to be able to decode german orders

  9. Charles Babbage did not steal John atanasoffs idea because john was born in 1903 and charles died in 1871…

  10. Lets clear this up once and for all.

    Babbage NEVER actually made his computer he only came up with the idea.

    ENIAC, give me a break, in 1943 Britain had invented Colossus which was used to break the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park, England. Colossus is the first known computer, however due to the nature of its use it was kept secret at the time and infact at the end of the war all 10 of the machines were destroyed and the staff sworn to secrecy over their role in the breaking of the codes.

  11. All you people are so STUPID! John Atanasoff was the king inventor of the computer, along with his student Berry. Atanasoff is a US citizen, but his parents are BULGARIAN, and he came to BULGARIA and he was given a king MEDAL for his invention. HE IS THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE NAME IN BULGARIA OKAY?! ALSO GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH GAVE HIM A KING MEDAL, AND I’M TALKING ABOUT W’S FATHER BACK IN 1990. NOW ALL OF YOU IDIOTAS AND PUTAS SHUT THE K UP AND LEARN SOMETHING FOR A CHANGE!!!!!

  12. I heard once that the computer was invented by someone in the u.s in the twenties some time before the great depression but the government confiscated it thinking that the inventor was a threat to them and he was never seen again?

  13. Can anyone tell me who the true inventor of computer is?
    I did my own search and i saw it all started In 1837, by Charles Babbage, a British professor of mathematics.

    And when i went down i saw 1935-1938: Konrad Zuse builds Z1, world’s first program-controlled computer. Inventor of first working programmable computer.

    And when i went deep down in my search…this is what i saw:

    Note: Babbage (UK, around 1840) planned but was unable to build a non-binary, decimal, programmable machine. The binary ABC (US, 1942) of Atanasoff (of Bulgarian origin) and Eckert and Mauchly’s decimal ENIAC (US, 1945/46) were special purpose calculators, in principle like those of Schickard, (1623), Pascal (1640) and Leibniz (1670), though faster (with tubes instead of gears; today we use transistors). None of these machines was freely programmable. Neither was Turing et al.’s Colossus (UK, 1943-45) used to break the Nazi code. The first programmable machine built by someone other than Zuse was Aiken’s MARK I (US, 1944) which was still decimal, without separation of storage and control.

    So i am confused and dont know who is who.

  14. The really first programable computer invented is the Mark1/Z1 Computer by Konrad Zuse in the year 1936. I know it because i have studied it.

  15. hello!! im regine from bacoor cavite..
    the realhitory of computers starts out about 5000 years ago BC, at the birth of the abacus, a woowden rack holding two horizontal wires with beads strung on them and develop by the chinese!!!

  16. bill gates was the inventor of MICROSOFT!!!!! get your facts straight there is NO TRUE INVENTOR! People have been taking diff. machines and systems while slowly evolving them into what we have today. Can we at least all agree on that?!

  17. You must qualify your question. computers can be mechanical, human and electronic. Mechanical see the abacus or ada, Human see how canon shot found its target. (it can be calculated in advance by having a room of Calculators as they called them – ie people sitting at desk working the formulas out by hand) and the Electronic calculator – IBM again! They once made a machine that they called a “time machine” but it was actually a “Time Clock” but an early one and thats how it all began.
    Bill Gates was only lucky very lucky. What he did was to take a computer language called CPM and made some simple changes.

  18. the creator of the first working electronic computer was John Vincent Atanasov and Clifford Berry the computer was called Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC). The ENIAC was built first but was invalidated due to not working as supposed to, so the ABC was considered the first electronic computer ever made. Heh i am proud of John Atanasov his family comes from bulgaria ! :D

  19. Alan Turing invented the worlds first programmable computer, in england, not USA, read your history folks

  20. No, it was Charles Babbage who actually created the first mechanical computer. It wasn’t much but it was the start of everything. That was in 1837.

  21. The first electronic computer was invented by Mauchly and Eckert and it was called the Eniac.It was NOT derived from the ABC. The trial which made this decision was corrupted by money and liars. People were paid money to give evidence. Judge was incompetent and ignorant of computers.
    The ABC was not a working computer and this is why it was never patented. It was a electro-mechanical computer and not a mechanical computer which is why it was too slow to be useful.

  22. I Would like to specify tht it aint ask here that which type of computer were first prepare if they asked then Charles Babbage is obviously the inventor but if its electronic pc then it has to be smbody else…

  23. my name is tommy flowers. i was born 1903 in london, during the war i built a computing machine to decifer german code. this was THE 1st modern computer which used techniques associated with what you now call a PC ! for example, bit stream mapping, something that is fundamental to modern computers. i know im quite old now + losing my memory but i dont recall any americans being around when this happened. all the best tommy. age 109.

  24. The ABC,ladies and gentlemen is virtually the 1st Computer. It differs from the Z3,with the fact that it is a digital electronic computer,not mechanical.As you should have seen,the IUVAC,which is where modern day PCs evolve from,is based on the ABC’s digital technology. The inventor of the ABC is John Vincent Atanasoff.
    Although the digital technology he used,was not his own creeation,he was the first man to apply it to an electrical automatic computer. In 1990,George Bush senior,awarded him for best achievement in the technology sphere.In 2003 Bill Gates sent a letter to the bulgarian president George Parvanov(because although Atanasoff is American,his ancestry is bulgarian) saying that he confirms the fact that ”John Atanasoff is the father of the computer”.

  25. ok so the eniac came after the colossus, and that came after abunch of others then theres the abbicus, then theres fingers and toes come on people, pick one and get over it… if you have this hard a time figuring it out, your teacher will to so its not like it matters. and if you really want to know, the first electronic programmable computer was the colossus, the came the eniac then the other stuff so get over it.

  26. All i wanted was to know who created the first computer and when but nooo it had to be complicated.

  27. The USA actually had the first patent for a working electrical computer, for our military, eniac. So Cabbage may have had an idea for an analytical machine which was non electric he never made one, so the credit goes to USA, patented in 1946, by two American brothers.

  28. I hate to burst your bubble, but come on – please. ENIAC was not the first computer. AMERICANS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FIRST FULLY PROGRAMMANMBLE COMPUTER!!!! The first computer was made in secret at the British Codebreaking HQ at Bletchley Park (where BRITISH mathmaticians etc. won the war for the allies by breaking the TWO main german codes – giving them access directly to the german high command.) To solve one of these codes the BRITISH built the first computer (tommy flowers to be precise) it was called colossus and Bletchley had multiple units. Due to the nature of the work done at Bletchley many details were not revealed until more than 60 years later. THE BRITISH continued to use variants of colossus for soviet codebreaking at Bletchley until the 1970’s ( it was still one of the most advanced computers then too.) So to conclude the BRITISH,BRITISH,BRITISH BUILT THE FIRST COMPUTER! NOT THE AMERICANS.
    and if you dont believe me you can even visit the rebuild of colossus at bletchley park near milton keynes.

  29. I didn’t invent the computer. I co-invented the Internet in 1983 with Hiatt.
    We used touch-tone telephone modems and could only get 3Kbs bandwidth but it worked.
    We could send ASCII keyboard text. It was painfully slow.

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