Evolution of Computers: History, Timeline, Ancient & Modern Computing devices

Here in this chapter, we will cover the Brief history of computers, the Evolution of computers from ancient computing devices to modern handheld computers, different generations, and what they were capable of.

Evolution of Computers: Brief History of Computers

Computers aren’t new, they existed for a very long time.

A computer as per etymology is something that does computation.

Those devices get the data as input, process it, and provide output to its user.

Computers perform any kind of arithmetic and logical operation based on the set of instructions provided by the user.

Before the 20th century, the term “Computer” referred to the person who carried out calculations or computations.

Evolution of modern computers Timeline

Here is the timeline of modern computers:

  • The year 1936: Konrad Zuse – Developed the Z1 computer which was the first freely programmable computer.
  • The year 1942: John Atanasoff & Clifford Berry – Tested ABC Computer which was the first automatic electronic digital computer.
  • The year 1944: Howard Aiken & Grace Hopper – Harvard Mark 1 was built.
  • The year 1951: John Presper Eckert & John W. Mauchly – Presents the First commercial computer UNIVAC. It was able to pick presidential winners.
  • The year 1969: The original internet ARPnet launched.
  • The year 1971: Faggin, Hoff & Mazor – made the first microprocessor Intel 4004 Computer Microprocessor which made smaller and less expensive computers possible.
  • The year 1973: Robert Metcalfe & Xerox – build The Ethernet Computer Network.
  • The year 1974: The first consumer computers Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair & IBM 5100 Computers were released.
  • 1981: IBM launched the first personal home computer The IBM PC.
  • 1981: Microsoft MS-DOS Operating system has been launched.
  • 1983: Apple launched the apple Lisa computer which was the first home computer with GUI.
  • 1984: With the Launch of the Apple Macintosh Computer era of affordable GUI home computers begin.
  • 1985: Microsoft launched windows.

Ancient Computing devices

The concept of using devices to compute numbers and other data isn’t new, this existed for a very very long time.


Abacus was considered the first device that helped in computation for thousands of years.

The primary use of the Abacus was to perform arithmetic tasks the first Abacus was developed by Romans from the devices that were used in Babylonia in early 2400 BC.

Napier’s Bones

Napier’s bone was created by John Napier of Merchiston, and published in the year 1617.

This is a small calculating device that is operated manually.

The concept behind the creation of this device was for the calculation of products and the quotients of numbers.


Pascaline was created by French mathematician-philosopher Blaise Pascal between 1642 and 1644.

It was the first mechanical calculator.

However, it could only do addition and subtraction.

Leibnitz wheel or Stepped Reckoner

Leibnitz wheel was a calculating machine that could perform multiplication.

It was designed in the year 1971 and built in the year 1973 by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.

Evolution of Modern Computers

The creation of the Difference engine by Charles Babbage in 1820 create a pathway for the modern age computers that we use and know today.

Difference engine

Difference Engine was developed in 1820 by Charles Babbage who is knowns as the “Father of modern-day computers”.

The Difference Engine was a mechanical computer which is able to perform simple calculations.

Like the most mechanical devices of that age, this was also driven by steam.

It was designed to solve tables of numbers like logarithm tables.

Analytical engine

After ten years from Difference Engine, Charles Babbage developed Analytical Engine in the year 1930.

This was also a mechanical computer that takes punch cards as input.

Unlike Difference Engine, this one was not only able to solve Mathematical problems but also stored that data in storage.

Tabulating Machine

Invented by Herman Hollerith in the year 1890 Tabulating Machine was created to tabulating statistics, records, or information.

Differential Analyzer

Differential Analyzer was the first electronic computer that was introduced in the year 1930.

This computer was invented by Vannevar Bush and it was capable to do 25 calculations in minutes.

Mark 1

Development of Mark I was started with the concept to develop a machine that is able to perform heavy calculations in the year 1937.

This was built in the year 1944 in partnership between IBM and Harvard.

Baby Computer & William Tube

Manchester Baby Computer also called the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSM) was the first electronic stored-program computer.

It was built at the University of Manchester by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948.

This computer wasn’t intended as a practical machine but to testbed for Willium Tube which was an early form of Random access memory.


UNIVAC which stands for Universal Automatic Computer was a series of computers that is built by Eckert–Mauchly computer corporation.

This was one of the earliest commercial computers as it was designed for commercial data processing machines.

The inventors of UNIVAC intended this to replace the punch-card computers of that time.

5100 Computers

IBM 5100 computer is one of the first portable computers.

It was introduced in the year 1975.

IBM Home Computers

The invention of the microprocessor made the personal and the portable computer and with that IBM Personal computer 5150 has been launched in the year 1981, 6 years after IBM 5100.

This was considered as first PC (Personal computer).

Apple Lisa Computer

Lisa was the first personal computer to present a graphical user interface (GUI) in a machine aimed at individuals.

It was launched on January 19, 1983.

Even tho it was a commercial failure, the features that this introduced in letter much popular product Apple macintosh computer.

Apple Macintosh Computer

Macintosh 128K, which is generally known as Apple Macintosh on January 24, 1984.

This Computer came with a CRT monitor and came with a keyboard and mouse.

The operating system of this computer was system software 1.0 and came with 128kb RAM, Motorola 68000 7.8336 MHz processors.

Microsoft Windows

On 20 November 1985 Microsoft launches its first Graphical operating system Windows 1.

In the beginning, it was simply an extension of Microsoft’s existing operating system DOS.

I'm Rahul Bodana, Writer by day, YouTuber by night, coder when the coffee kicks in, and trader when I want to test the limits of my stress tolerance.

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