The History and Future of Computers and Laptops

The early computer

The idea of the modern day computer was first said to be able to perform any conceivable mathematical computation represented as an algorithm. Mathematician and pioneering computer scientist, Alan Turing said the idea of the computer was to perform tasks capable of computing anything that is computable by executing a program stored on tape which would allow the machine to be programmed.


Computers were general purpose devices programmed to carry out arithmetic and logical operations automatically. They were designed to solve more than one kind of problem at a time. The basic computer consists of CPU (central processing unit) and some form of memory. The processor performs the arithmetic and logic operations while the sequencing and control unit can change the order of operations. An external device allows retrieval of the information where it can be saved.


Around the first century mechanical analog computers began to appear and were later used for astronomical calculations. During World War II the mechanical analog computer was used for specialized military operations. One particular application they were used for was to aim torpedoes. During this same time frame the electronic digital computer was developed. They started out being the size of a room and consumed as much energy as several hundred personal computers of today would use.


The modern computer is now designed on integrated circuits. my friend John fromĀ says that the computer today is billion of times more productive than the early computer and only takes up a fraction of the space. The computer of today is small enough to fit into mobile devices and is powered by very small batteries. When one looks at the computer of today they can still a remnant of the large sized computer of 20 years ago. The personal computer has remained a lot like the space-eating computer of before on the outside- a display monitor, keyboard and a “box” that holds the integral insides.



The birth of the laptop

In 1970, Alan Kay developed the Dynabook at Xerox in Paris and is considered to be the first portable computer. The first massed produced portable computer was the Osborne in 1981 and was very heavy compared to today’s portable computers. It was considered revolutionary; however as professionals were able to take their work and data anywhere

In 1982 a more successful version was introduced with the Compaq Portable; however it was not much more portable than the Osborne machine. The first true laptop was released in 1983 with a magnesium clam-shell case where the flat display folded shut against the keyboard. This was the first a computer that could run on a battery versus the AC current required of those earlier. Its drawback was that it was not IBM compatible and was used mainly by the military.


Another break-through in 1982 but not sold until 1984 was the Gavilan; which was notably the first computer to be marketed as a “laptop”. It contained a touch-pad like pointing device and could be connected to external devices such as printers. By the end of the 1980s laptops were very popular among business people. The first battery-powered laptop with an external hard drive and LCD screen was introduced in 1988 and only weighed 14 pounds.


Technology in the computer and laptop world has made incredible leaps. Where that technology will go has many scientists differing in opinions. Some feel technology has hit a stagnant era while others feel it still has leaps to accomplish. Ray Kurzweil, futurist believes that by 2040 artificial intelligence will have increased to the level that humans will be fully immersed in virtual reality. Another futurist, Keven Kelly believes it will advance so incredibly that the next 20 years will make the past 20 “pale” in comparison.




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