Our jobs, communications, and access to information rely heavily on technology these days. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that we’re living in the Era of Technology. But this wasn’t always true. We used to flip through encyclopedias when we wanted to answer a question, and we used to do all of our work on paper, stored in giant filing cabinets. So when did the technology era really start?
Well, that’s debatable, but let’s talk about a few different defining moments in the history of technology that helped shape the technical world we live in today. Before we dive into history, we need to define a “computer.” Technically, regardless of the context we usually use it in, the term “computer” refers to a machine that can be programmed to carry out logical operations automatically. Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about the history of the computer.
Computer History Timeline
1820s: Charles Babbage designed the Difference Engine, a machine regarded as one of the first-ever computing machines. The Difference Engine was programmed to calculate polynomial functions. Although the machine functioned very differently than modern computers, it earned its place in the history of technology.
1936: Konrad Zuse built the first glimpse of modern computers, called the Z1. Its functions and programmability were limited, but it was the first mechano-electrical computing machine that processed binary, making it a very primitive version of modern computers.
1940s: The first completely programmable, digital, and electronic computer—Colossus—was built by British codebreakers. Colossus was built during the Second World War as a way to indirectly decipher enemy codes.
1953: IBM entered the computer world, producing the 701.
1954: IBM produced the 650, a cheaper and smaller version of the 701 which sold better than IBM ever expected. The 650 solidified IBM’s leading presence in the world of computers.
1981: By 1981, IBM had built and sold the first personal computers, the IBM PC model 5150, putting powerful technology in the hands of anyone with access to a PC.
And so began the era of technology. Each of these milestones in technology history, even dating back to the 1820s, played a part in building the world of iPhones and laptops we now have.