In the process of beginning to teach my son about computer programming we came upon the topic of computer. An obvious requirement for learning to program. As an Apple family, we have only Macintosh computers. But my son asked who invented the computer.
No, it wasn’t Steve Jobs.
While Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs did lay the groundwork for the home computer revolution, they cannot be credited with the device itself.
Some people might say Alan Turing, the guy who, in the 1930s, laid the foundation for computational science.
Back in college I was a dual computer science and marine science major. I did actually take a rather dry course on the history of the computer. Going back into the early days of vacuum tubes and electro mechanical counting machines, even some discussion of the ancient abacus. But one name came up over and over. Charles Babbage.
Did an eccentric mathematician named Charles Babbage conceive of the first programmable computer in the 1830s, a hundred years before the idea was put forth in its modern form by Alan Turing?
Charles Babbage? Yeah it got me wondering too, and thinking… after all a small software retail chain was names after him until its demise in the 1990’s.
I wiki-ed the guy and here’s some fact about him:
He was born 1791 and died 79 years later. He was born in London into a quite well-off family. Smart but constantly plagued by health problem, he loved mathematics and was a member of the Ghost Club, a club concerned with investigating the supernatural.
In Babbage’s time, numerical tables were calculated by humans who were called ‘computers’, meaning “one who computes”. At Cambridge, he saw the high error-rate of this human-driven process and started his life’s work of trying to calculate the tables mechanically. He began in 1822 with what he called the difference engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions….. using the method of finite differences, it was possible to avoid the need for multiplication and division.— wikipedia.
Babbage, however, didn’t manage to build his machine due to cost overrun and political disagreements. He did, however, completed the plan of the machine, and the Science Museum in London actually built the machine in 1991, and guess what, it actually works.
So Babbage did came up with the concept of computer in 1800s. But he didn’t actually build it. So can he really be called the Father of Computer? I’ll leave it to you to decide.
I am quite certain Mr. Babbage did not imagine a world of iPhones and iPads, and wireless internet. But his early ideas did pave the way for these devices.