computers are 60 years old

15 02 2006

The ENIAC, the first useful computer, debuted 60 years ago. It could solve 5,000 addition problems per second. Compared to today’s PCs, that’s nothing — some chips can process over 21 billion operations per second. But back then, that was incredible. One professor speculated that during the 80,223 hours it operated, it crunched more calculations than had been performed by humanity since time began.

The computer weighed 28 tons, consumed 170,000 watts, and cost $487,000. It was 80 feet wide by 8 feet tall. Now you can have over 4 million times that much processing power in a tiny chip that fits in the palm of your hand and costs only $600.

The ENIAC was very important in military usage, being used to calculate trajectories (which could take around 40 hours with a hand calculator of that time), and it was used in developing the hydrogen bomb. It revolutionized computing… which eventually revolutionized our lifestyle. Now we have computers everywhere, in all kinds of stuff (like cars, cell phones, CDs & DVDs, etc.).

For more, click here.

A random trivia note about the ENIAC — the scientists knew they had developed something special, but they didn’t know how to convey their breakthrough to the public (which had no concept of computers). So they added light bulbs to it and had them flash, to make it more showy. This is why many of the older movies show big computers with lots of flashing lights that seem to have no meaning whatsoever.

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2 responses

15 02 2006
Fab

Interesting, but geeky. I like it. Speaking of useless geeky trivia, do you know how large a number one billion is? If you had endless paper and ink pens and sat and made dots on the paper at a rate of one per second, 24/7, it would take nearly 32 years to make one billion dots. When do you wanna start?

17 02 2006
Beppo

I agree that we can’t really grasp the difference between a million and a billion. Just looking at the number of seconds (where did the pen & paper idea come from?), it takes about 11.5 days for a million seconds to pass, but about 32 years for a billion seconds. Quite a difference!

Or we can put it into another hypothetical situation that might be easier to grasp — dollars. If you were to spend $1 per second, that would be $86,400 a day. (Quite a bit, huh?) That would be $31,557,600 a year. It would be kinda tough to spend that much without going crazy in what you get… although it wouldn’t be so hard to give that much away. But I digress… To get to a billion, you’d have to spend that much each year for 32 years.

Now try to fathom how Bill Gates is worth somewhere around $47 billion… Even if he were to spend $1,000,000 a day, it would take 128 years to spend his complete net worth!

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