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Timeline of the History of Computers

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c. 2500 BC – Sumerian Abacus

c. 700 BC – Scytale

c. 150 BC – Antikythera Mechanism

c. 60 – Programmable Robot

c. 850 – On Deciphering Cryptographic Messages

c. 1470 – Cipher Disk

1613 – First Recorded Use of the Word Computer

1621 – Slide Rule

1703 – Binary Arithmetic

1758 – Human Computers Predict Halley’s Comet

1770 – The “Mechanical Turk”

1792 – Optical Telegraph

1801 – The Jacquard Loom

1822 – The Difference Engine

1833 – Michael Faraday discovered silver sulfide became a better conductor when heated

1836 – Electrical Telegraph

1843 – Ada Lovelace Writes a Computer Program

1843 – Fax Machine Patented

1843 – Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug”

1849 to early 1900s – Silicon Valley After the Gold Rush

1851 – Thomas Arithmometer

1854 – Boolean Algebra

1864 – First Electromagnetic Spam Message

1870 – Mitsubishi founded

1874 – Baudot Code

1874 – Semiconductor Diode conceived of

1876 – Ericsson Corporation founded in Sweden

1885 – Stanford University

1885 – William Burroughs’ adding machine

1890 – Herman Hollerith Tabulating the US Census

1890 – Toshiba founded in Japan

1891 – Strowger Step-by-Step Switch

1898 – Nippon Electric Limited Partnership – NEC Corporation founded in Japan

1890s to 1930s – Radio Engineering

Early 1900s – Electrical Engineering

1904 – “Diode” or Two-Element Amplifier actually invented

1904 – Three-Element Amplifier or “Triode”

1906 – Vacuum Tube or “Audion”

1907 – Lee DeForest coins the term “radio” to refer to wireless transmission when he formed his DeForest Radio Telephone Company

1909 – Charles Herrold in San Jose started first radio station in USA with regularly scheduled programming, including songs, using an arc transmitter of his own design. Herrold was one of Stanford’s earliest students and founded his own College of Wireless and Engineering in San Jose

1910 – Radio Broadcasting business pioneered by Lee DeForest with broadcast from New York of a live performance by Italian tenor Enrico Caruso

1910 – Hitachi founded in Japan

1912 – Sharp Corporation founded in Japan and takes its name from one of its founder’s first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil

1914 – Floating-Point Numbers

1917 – Vernam Cipher

1918 – Panasonic, then Matsushita Electric, founded in Japan

1920 – Rossum’s Universal Robots

1927 – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

1927 – First LED

1928 – Electronic Speech Synthesis

1930 – The Enigma Machine

1931 – Differential Analyzer

1935 – Fujitsu founded as Fuji Telecommunications Equipment Manufacturing in Japan. Fujitsu is the second oldest IT company after IBM and before Hewlett-Packard

1936 – Church-Turing Thesis

1939 – Hewlett-Packard founded in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, California by Bill Hewlett and David Packard

1939 – Toshiba founded in Japan

1941Z3 Computer

1942Atanasoff-Berry Computer

1942 – Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

1942Seiko Corporation founded in Japan



1944Delay Line Memory

1944Binary-Coded Decimal

1945Vannevar Bush‘s “As We May Think

1945EDVAC First Draft Report – The von Neumann architecture

1946 – Trackball

1946 – Williams Tube Random Access Memory

1947 – Actual Bug Found – First “debugging”

1947 – William Shockley’s Silicon Transistor

1948 – The Bit – Binary Digit 0 or 1

1948 – Curta Calculator

1948 – Manchester SSEM

1949 – Whirlwind Computer

1950 – Error-Correcting Codes (ECC)

1951 – Turing Test of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

1951 – Magnetic Tape Used for Computers

1951 – Core Memory

1951 – Microprogramming

1952 – Computer Speech Recognition

1953 – First Transistorized Computer

1955 – Artificial Intelligence (AI) Coined

1955 – Computer Proves Mathematical Theorem

1956 – First Disk Storage Unit

1956 – The Byte

1956 – Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet

1957 – FORTRAN Programming Language

1957 – First Digital Image

1958 – The Bell 101 Modem

1958 – SAGE Computer Operational

1959 – IBM 1401 Computer

1959 – DEC PDP-1

1959 – Quicksort Algorithm

1959 – SABRE Airline Reservation System

1960 – COBOL Programming Language

1960 – Recommended Standard 232 (RS-232)

1961 – ANITA Electronic Calculator

1961 – Unimate – First Mass-Produced Robot

1961 – Time-Sharing – The Original “Cloud Computing

1961 – Shinshu Seiki Company founded in Japan (now called Seiko Epson Corporation) as a subsidiary of Seiko to supply precision parts for Seiko watches.

1962 – Spacewar! Video Game

1962 – Virtual Memory

1962 – Digital Long Distance Telephone Calls

1963 – Sketchpad Interactive Computer Graphics

1963 – ASCII Character Encoding

1963 – Seiko Corporation in Japan developed world’s first portable quartz timer (Seiko QC-951)

1964 – RAND Tablet Computer

1964 – Teletype Model 33 ASR

1964 – IBM System/360 Mainframe Computer

1964 – BASIC Programming Language

1965 – First Liquid-Crystal Display (LCD)

1965 – Fiber Optics – Optical-Fiber

1965 – DENDRAL Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Project

1965 – ELIZA – The First “Chatbot” – 1965

1965 – Touchscreen

1966 – Star Trek Premieres

1966 – Dynamic RAM

1966 – Linear predictive coding (LPC) proposed by Fumitada Itakura of Nagoya University and Shuzo Saito of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT).[71]

1967 – Object-Oriented Programming

1967 – First ATM Machine

1967 – Head-Mounted Display

1967 – Programming for Children

1967 – The Mouse

1968 – Carterfone Decision

1968 – Software Engineering

1968 – HAL 9000 Computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 – First “Spacecraft” “Guided by Computer”

1968 – Cyberspace Coined—and Re-Coined

1968 – Mother of All Demos

1968 – Dot Matrix Printer – Shinshu Seiki (now called Seiko Epson Corporation) launched the world’s first mini-printer, the EP-101 (“EP” for Electronic Printer,) which was soon incorporated into many calculators

1968 – Interface Message Processor (IMP)

1969 – ARPANET / Internet

1969 – Digital Imaging

1969 – Network Working Group Request for Comments (RFC): 1

1969 – Utility Computing – Early “Cloud Computing

1969 – Perceptrons Book – Dark Ages of Neural Networks Artificial Intelligence (AI)

1969 – UNIX Operating System

1969 – Seiko Epson Corporation in Japan developed world’s first quartz watch timepiece (Seiko Quartz Astron 35SQ)

1970 – Fair Credit Reporting Act

1970 – Relational Databases

1970 – Floppy Disk

1971 – Laser Printer

1971 – NP-Completeness

1971 – @Mail Electronic Mail

1971 – First Microprocessor – General-Purpose CPU – “Computer on a Chip”

1971 – First Wireless Network

1972 – C Programming Language

1972 – Cray Research Supercomputers – High-Performance Computing (HPC)

1972 – Game of Life – Early Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research

1972 – HP-35 Calculator

1972 – Pong Game from Atari – Nolan Bushnell

1973 – First Cell Phone Call

1973 – Danny Cohen first demonstrated a form of packet voice as part of a flight simulator application, which operated across the early ARPANET.[69][70]

1973 – Xerox Alto from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

1973 – Sharp Corporation produced the first LCD calculator

1974 – Data Encryption Standard (DES)

1974 – The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) publishes a paper entitled “A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection”.[82]

1974 – Network Voice Protocol (NVP) tested over ARPANET in August 1974, carrying barely audible 16 kpbs CVSD encoded voice.[71]

1974 – The first successful real-time conversation over ARPANET achieved using 2.4 kpbs LPC, between Culler-Harrison Incorporated in Goleta, California, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts.[71]

1974 – First Personal Computer: The Altair 8800 Invented by MITS in Albuquerque, New Mexico

1975 – Colossal Cave Adventure – Text-based “Video” Game

1975 – The Shockwave Rider SciFi Book – A Prelude of the 21st Century Big Tech Police State

1975 – AI Medical Diagnosis – Artificial Intelligence in Medicine

1975 – BYTE Magazine

1975 – Homebrew Computer Club

1975 – The Mythical Man-Month

1975 – The name Epson was coined for the next generation of printers based on the EP-101 which was released to the public. (EPSON:E-P-SON: SON of Electronic Printer).[7] Epson America Inc. was established to sell printers for Shinshu Seiki Co.

1976 – Public Key Cryptography

1976 – Acer founded

1976 – Tandem NonStop

1976 – Dr. Dobb’s Journal

1977 – RSA Encryption

1977 – Apple II Computer

The TRS-80 Model I pictured alongside the Apple II and the Commodore PET 2001-8. These three computers constitute what Byte Magazine called the “1977 Trinity” of home computing.

1977 – Danny Cohen and Jon Postel of the USC Information Sciences Institute, and Vint Cerf of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), agree to separate IP from TCP, and create UDP for carrying real-time traffic.

1978 – First Internet Spam Message

1978 – France’s Minitel Videotext

1979 – Secret Sharing for Encryption

1979 – Dan Bricklin Invents VisiCalc Spreadsheet

1980 – Timex Sinclair ZX80 Computer

1980 – Flash Memory

1980 – RISC Microprocessors – Reduced Instruction Set Computer CPUs

1980 – Commercially Available Ethernet Invented by Robert Metcalfe of 3Com

1980 – Usenet

1981 – IBM Personal Computer – IBM PC

1981 – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Email

1981 – Japan’s Fifth Generation Computer SystemsJapan

1982 – Sun Microsystems was founded on February 24, 1982.[2]

1982 – AutoCAD

1982 – First Commercial UNIX Workstation

1982 – PostScript

1982 – Microsoft and the IBM PC Clones

1982 – First CGI Sequence in Feature Film – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

1982 – National Geographic Moves the Pyramids – Precursor to Photoshop

1982 – Secure Multi-Party Computation

1982 – TRON Movie

1982 – Home Computer Named Machine of the Year by Time Magazine

1983 – The Qubit – Quantum Computers

1983 – WarGames

1983 – 3-D Printing

1983 – Computerization of the Local Telephone Network

1983 – First Laptop

1983 – MIDI Computer Music Interface

1983 – Microsoft Word

1983 – Nintendo Entertainment System – Video Games

1983 – Domain Name System (DNS)

1983 – IPv4 Flag Day – TCP/IP

1984 – Text-to-Speech (TTS)

1984 – Apple Macintosh

1984 – VPL Research, Inc. – Virtual Reality (VR)

1984 – Quantum Cryptography

1984 – Telebit TrailBlazer Modems Break 9600 bps

1984 – Verilog Language

1984 – Dell founded by Michael Dell

1984 – Cisco Systems was founded in December 1984

1985 – Connection Machine – Parallelization

1985 – First Computer-Generated TV Host – Max HeadroomCGI

1985 – Zero-Knowledge Mathematical Proofs

1985 – FCC Approves Unlicensed Wireless Spread Spectrum

1985 – NSFNET National Science Foundation “Internet”

1985 – Desktop Publishing – with Macintosh, Aldus PageMaker, LaserJet, LaserWriter and PostScript

1985 – Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)

1985 – GNU Manifesto from Richard Stallman

1985 – AFIS Stops a Serial Killer – Automated Fingerprint Identification System

1986 – Software Bug Fatalities

1986 – Pixar Animation Studios

1986 – D-Link Corporation founded in Taipei, Taiwan

1987 – Digital Video Editing

1987 – GIF – Graphics Interchange Format

1988 – MPEG – Moving Picture Experts Group – Coding-Compressing Audio-Video

1988 – CD-ROM

1988 – Morris Worm Internet Computer Virus

1988 – Linksys founded

1989 – World Wide Web-HTML-HTTP Invented by Tim Berners-Lee

1989 – Asus was founded in Taipei, Taiwan

1989 – SimCity Video Game

1989 – ISP Provides Internet Access to the Public

1990 – GPS Is Operational – Global Positioning System

1990 – Digital Money is Invented – DigiCash – Precursor to Bitcoin

1991 – Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)

1991 – DARPA’s Report “Computers at Risk: Safe Computing in the Information Age

1991 – Linux Kernel Operating System Invented by Linus Torvalds

1992 – Boston Dynamics Robotics Company Founded

1992 – JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group

1992 – First Mass-Market Web Browser NCSA Mosaic Invented by Marc Andreessen

1992 – Unicode Character Encoding

1993 – Apple Newton

1994 – First Banner Ad – Wired Magazine

1994 – RSA-129 Encryption Cracked

1995 – DVD

1995 – E-Commerce Startups – eBay, Amazon and DoubleClick Launched

1995 – AltaVista Web Search Engine

1995 – Gartner Hype Cycle

1996 – Universal Serial Bus (USB)

1996 – Juniper Networks founded

1997 – IBM Computer Is World Chess Champion

1997 – PalmPilot

1997 – E Ink

1998 – Diamond Rio MP3 Player

1998 – Google

1999 – Collaborative Software Development

1999 – Blog Is Coined

1999 – Napster P2P Music and File Sharing

2000 – USB Flash Drive

2000 – Sharp Corporation’s Mobile Communications Division created the world’s first commercial camera phone, the J-SH04, in Japan

2000 – Fortinet founded

2001 – Wikipedia

2001 – Apple iTunes

2001 – Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

2001 – Quantum Computer Factors “15”

2002 – Home-Cleaning Robot

2003 – CAPTCHA

2004 – Product Tracking

2004 – Facebook

2004 – First International Meeting on Synthetic Biology

2005 – Video Game Enables Research into Real-World Pandemics

2006 – Apache Hadoop Makes Big Data Possible

2006 – Differential Privacy

2007 – Apple iPhone

2008 – Bitcoin

2010 – Air Force Builds Supercomputer with Gaming Consoles

2010 – Cyber Weapons

2011 – Smart Homes via the Internet of Things (IoT)

2011 – IBM Watson Wins Jeopardy!

2011 – World IPv6 Day

2011 – Social Media Enables the Arab Spring

2012 – DNA Data Storage

2013 – Algorithm Influences Prison Sentence

2013 – Subscription Software “Popularized”

2014 – Data Breaches

2014 – Over-the-Air Vehicle Software Updates

2015 – Google Releases TensorFlow

2016 – Augmented Reality Goes Mainstream

2016 – Computer Beats Master at Game of Go

~2050 -Hahahaha! – Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

~9999 – The Limits of Computation?


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Thomas Jefferson – Founding Father – The Sage of Monticello – 1743 AD – July 4, 1826

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“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.” — Thomas Jefferson

“The most effectual means of preventing the perversion of power into tyranny are to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1779.

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800)(cropped).jpg

3rd President of the United States – Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800)

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743[a] – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second vice president of the United States between 1797 and 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national levels.

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History Software Engineering

The Jacquard Loom – 1801 AD

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The Jacquard Loom

Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752–1834)

“In 1801, French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a way to accelerate and simplify the time-consuming, complex task of weaving fabric. His technique was the conceptual precursor to binary logic and programming that exists today.

While looms of the 18th century could create complex patterns, doing so was an entirely manual affair, requiring an extraordinary amount of time, constant vigilance to avoid mistakes, and skilled hands—especially with intricate fabric patterns such as damask and brocade. Jacquard realized that despite the complexity of a pattern, the act of weaving was a repetitive process that could be carried out mechanically. His invention used a series of cards laced together in a continuous chain, with a row on each card where holes could be punched, corresponding with one row of the fabric pattern. Some cards had holes in the specified position, while others did not. Essentially, the punched cards were a control mechanism that contained data—like binary 0s and 1s—that directed a sequence of actions, in this case how a loom could be mechanized to weave a repeating pattern. A hole would cause a corresponding thread to be raised, while no hole would cause the thread to be lowered. The actual mechanism involved a rod that would either travel through the hole or be stopped by the card; each rod was linked to a hook, and together they formed the harness that controlled the position of the threads. After the threads were raised or lowered, the shuttle holding another roll of thread would zip from one side of the loom to the other, completing the weave. Then the rods in the holes would retract, the card would advance, and the process would start over again.

Jacquard’s invention evolved from earlier ideas by Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–1782), Jean-Baptiste Falcon, and Basile Bouchon, the last of whom invented a way to control a loom using perforated tape in 1725. Later inventors would take that concept and use punched cards to represent numerical data and other types of information.”

SEE ALSO: Tabulating the US Census (1890)

A jacquard loom in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Pins either are stopped by the card or poke through the holes, determining the pattern woven by the loom.”

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Optical Telegraph – 1792 A.D.

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Optical Telegraph

Claude Chappe (1763–1805)

“People had used signal fires, torches, and smoke signals since ancient times to send messages rapidly over long distances. The ancient Athenians used flashes of sunlight from their shields to send messages from ship to shore. The Romans coded flags to send messages over a distance—a practice that the British Navy also employed as early as the 14th century.

In 1790, an out-of-work French engineer named Claude Chappe started a project with his brothers to develop a practical system for sending messages quickly over the French countryside. The idea was to set up a series of towers constructed on hills, with each tower in view of the next. Each tower would be equipped with a device that had big, movable arms and a telescope, so that the position of the arms could be determined and then relayed to the next tower. An operator in the first tower would move the arms into different positions, each position signaling a letter, and the operator in the second tower would write it down—essentially sending letters over distance (tele-graph) with light. A second telescope would allow for messages to be conveyed in the opposite direction.

After successfully sending a message nearly 9 miles (14 kilometers) on March 2, 1791, Claude and his younger brothers, Pierre François (1765–1834), René (1769–1854), and Abraham (1773–1849), moved to Paris to continue the experiments and drum up support from the new government. Their older brother, Ignace Chappe (1760–1829), was a member of the revolutionary Legislative Assembly, which probably helped somewhat. Soon the brothers were authorized by the Assembly to construct three stations as a test. That test went well, and in 1793 the Assembly decided to replace its system of couriers with optical telegraph lines. Claude Chappe was appointed lieutenant of engineering for the construction of a telegraph line between Paris and Lille, under the control of the Ministry of War.

The first practical demonstration of the telegraph came on August 30, 1794, when the Assembly learned that its army in Condé-sur-l’Escaut had been victorious. That message was transmitted in about half an hour. In the following years, telegraph lines were built across France, connecting all of the major cities. At its height, the system had 534 stations covering more than 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers). Not surprisingly, Napoléon Bonaparte made heavy use of the technology during his conquest of Europe.”

SEE ALSO Fax Machine Patented (1843)

An artist’s impression of Claude Chappe, demonstrating his aerial telegraph semaphore system, from the Paris newspaper Le Petit Journal, 1901.”

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Artificial Intelligence History

The “Mechanical Turk” – 1770 A.D.

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The “Mechanical Turk”

Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804)

“After seeing an illusionist perform at Austria’s Schönbrunn Palace in 1770, Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen told the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria that he could create something even better. The empress gave Kempelen six months to top the illusionist’s act.

The Industrial Revolution was well underway in 1770, and it was in this environment that Kempelen created an elaborate hoax that alleged to be a “thinking” machine. With expertise in hydraulics, physics, and mechanics, Kempelen returned to the court with an automaton that he claimed could best human chess masters and complete a complex puzzle called the Knights Tour.

Kempelen’s “Mechanical Turk,” as it came to be known, was a life-size model of a man’s upper half. Dressed in Ottoman robes with a turban and black beard, a smoking pipe in its left hand, the Turk sat at a cabinet with three doors and a chessboard on top. The doors opened to show an intricate set of gears and levers designed to give the audience the illusion of an advanced contraption worthy of the owner’s claims. What remained hidden was a sliding seat behind the gears that enabled a small human chess player to move around as Kempelen showed suspicious spectators the cabinet’s inside, and then to manipulate the contraption once the game began.

The Turk beat almost everyone it played against, including Benjamin Franklin, who was the US ambassador to France at the time. It also beat the novelist Edgar Allan Poe, as well as Napoléon Bonaparte, whose strategy to beat the Turk was to make a series of deliberately illegal moves. The Turk replaced Napoléon’s piece after the first two moves, and then, after the third, swept its arm across the chessboard, knocking over all of the pieces and ending the game. Napoléon reportedly was amused.

Real or not, the Turk started new dialogue among those who had never considered the potential of mechanized intelligence. Among those was Charles Babbage, whom the Turk beat twice, and who, despite correctly concluding the device was a hoax, drew inspiration from the experience and went on to build the difference engine, the first mechanical computer. The Turk was destroyed in a fire in Philadelphia on July 5, 1854.”

SEE ALSO The Difference Engine (1822), Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug” (1843), Computer Is World Chess Champion (1997)

Instead of a machine, a small chess master hid inside the cabinet that held the “Mechanical Turk.” To conceal his presence, the person moved from side to side as the different panel doors were opened.”

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Human Computers Predict Halley’s Comet – 1758 A.D.

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Human Computers Predict Halley’s Comet

Edmond Halley (1656–1742), Alexis-Claude Clairaut (1713–1765), Joseph Jérôme Lalande (1732–1807), Nicole-Reine Lepaute (1723–1788)

“The discovery of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and Isaac Newton’s more general laws of motion and gravity encouraged scientists to seek elegant mathematical models to describe the world around them. Edmond Halley, the editor of Newton’s Principia (1687), used Newton’s calculus and laws to show that a comet seen in the night sky in 1531 and 1682 must be the same object. Halley’s work depended on the fact that the comet’s orbit was influenced not just by the sun, but also by the other planets in the solar system—especially Jupiter and Saturn. But Halley could not come up with an exact set of equations to describe the comet’s trajectory.

Alexis-Claude Clairaut was a French mathematician who devised a clever solution to the problem. But it wasn’t mathematically elegant: instead of solving the problem symbolically, his method solved the problem numerically—that is, with a series of arithmetic calculations. He worked with two friends, Joseph Jérôme Lalande and Nicole-Reine Lepaute, during the summer of 1758, and the three systematically plotted the course of the comet, calculating the wanderer’s return to within 31 days.

This approach of using numerical calculations to solve hard science problems quickly caught on. In 1759, Lalande and Lepaute were hired by the French Académie des Sciences to contribute computations to the Connaissance des Temps, the official French almanac; five years later, the English government hired six human computers to create its own almanac. These printed tables charted the anticipated positions of the stars and planets and were the basis of celestial navigation, allowing the European powers to build out their colonies.

In 1791, Gaspard Clair François Marie Riche de Prony (1755–1839) embarked on the largest human computation project to that date: to create a 19-volume set of trigonometric and logarithmic tables for the French government. The project took six years and required 96 human computers.”

SEE ALSO First Recorded Use of the Word Computer (1613)

The course of Halley’s Comet across the night sky from April through May of 1910.

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History Software Engineering

Binary Arithmetic – 1703 A.D.

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Binary Arithmetic

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716)

“All information inside a computer is represented as a series of binary digits—0s and 1s—better known as bits. To represent larger numbers—or characters—requires combining multiple binary digits together into binary numbers, also called binary words.

We write decimal numbers with the least significant digit on the right-hand side; each successive digit to the left represents 10 times as much as the previous digit, so the number 123 can be explained as:

123 = 1 × 100 + 2 × 10 + 3 × 1

Which is also equal to:

123 = 1 × 102 + 2 × 101 + 3 × 100

Binary numbers work the same way, except that the multiplier is 2, rather than 10. So the number one hundred and twenty three would be written:

1111011 = 1 × 26 + 1 × 25 + 1 × 24 + 1 × 23 + 0 × 22 + 1 × 21 +1 × 20

Although forms of binary number systems can be traced back to ancient China, Egypt, and India, it was German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who worked out the rules for binary addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and then published them in his essay, “Explication de l’arithmétique binaire, qui se sert des seuls caractères 0 & 1; avec des remarques sur son utilité, et sur ce qu’elle donne le sens des anciennes figuers chinoises de Fohy” (“Explanation of binary arithmetic, which uses only characters 0 & 1; with remarks about its utility and the meaning it gives to the ancient Chinese figures of Fuxi”).

One of the advantages of binary arithmetic, he wrote, is that there is no need to memorize multiplication tables or to perform trial multiplications to compute divisions: all one needs to do is apply a small set of straightforward rules.

All modern computers use binary notation and perform arithmetic using the same laws that Leibniz first devised.

SEE ALSO Floating-Point Numbers (1914), Binary-Coded Decimal (1944), The Bit (1948)

A table from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s essay “Explanation of Binary Arithmetic,” published in the Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences in 1703, shows the rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing binary numbers.”

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