History of Computers - Excercises

Comprehension questions

  1. Why was Pascal honored with a computer language named after him?
    • This programming language was named as a tribute to Blaise Pascal because of his contribution to computer development. He was the first to build a precursor of the modern computer - an adding and subtraction machine that could assist in tedious and time-consuming computational processes.
  2. Who was the first to invent a machine whose operating principle is very similar to present-day computers? Describe these similarities.
    • Charles Babbage, whose idea was remarkably similar to the way modern computers work: read program from punched cards (input), figure and store the answers to different problems, and print the answer on paper (output)
  3. In which process was Hollerith’s machine involved and what was its role?
    • Hollerith’s machine helped with the counting of census information. Instead of taking seven and a half years to count the census information it only took three years, even with 13 million more people since the last census. The machine read and sorted data from punched cards. The holes punched in the cards matched each person’s answers to questions. For example, married, single, and divorced were answers on the cards. The Tabulator read the punched cards as they passed over tiny brushes. Each time a brush found a hole, it completed an electrical circuit. This caused special counting dials to increase the data for that answer.
  4. Describe all the technical parameters of the first electric powered computer.
    • 50 feet long, 8 feet tall, electrical circuits opened and closed by mechanical switches, containing 500 miles of wire and 750 000 parts
  5. What were the differences between the Mark I and the ENIAC?
    • Mark I - electric powered, 50 feet long and 8 tall, used mechanical switches to open/close electrical circuits
    • ENIAC - all electronic computer, used 18,000 vacuum tubes instead of mechanical switches, 1000 times faster than Mark I, 100 feet long and 10 feet tall
  6. What is the main advantage of using binary code in storing data and instructions?
    • The first computers, like the ENIAC, could only do one task, then they had to be rewired to perform a different task or program. The binary code concept of storing different programs on punched cards instead of rewiring computers led to the computers that we know today.

Possible topics for discussion

  1. Future of computers.

Possible difficulties

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