Who invented the first micro-desktop computer

The first computers

The emergence of signs, scripts and mathematics

The first calculation aids

The first mechanical calculating machines

The way to automatic calculating machines

The first computers

Milestones in IBM history

1970-1974: First microcomputers

1975-1979 microcomputers become popular

1980-1984 IBM defines the "PC"

1985-1990 powerful home computer

1991-1995 Windows becomes the PC standard

1996-2000 World Wide Web - the Internet's killer application


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The First Computers

There is no unanimous opinion among computer historians as to which computer was "the first". The main reason is that the term computer has not yet been used for this type of calculating machine, and that from today's perspective these machines had little to do with modern computers from the 1950s onwards.

For the first time, at the "1st International Conference on the History of Computing" in Paderborn, around 70 historians from all nations who were involved in the development of the first computers attempted to understand what features a calculating machine had had to be called "computer". At the end there was a vote in which, however, some international guests had already left and the German participants predominated.

The first computer

The Zuse Z3 was chosen as the first computer at this conference. Regardless of this vote, the Z3 has actually been named more and more than the first computer since the late 1990s because it had some outstanding features of a modern computer that other machines of the time did not have. The Z3 was "only" the relay-based replica of the fully mechanical Z1. The Z1 was not practical, but already shows the ingenious concept that Konrad Zuse developed for his machine.

Due to the different interpretations of what a computer is as opposed to an automatic calculating machine, there is also the view today that there were several first computers:


First mechanical computer Z1 from Konrad Zuse

The 1st mechanical computer: Zuse Z1

In a completely mechanical design, without relays or tubes, Konrad Zuse developed the first program-controlled, freely programmable computer machine from 1936 to 1938. It is programmed with punched tape (35mm film), already uses the dual system (a x 2 ^ b) and masters floating point calculations. Numbers are entered and output in the decimal system. The computer was not fully operational due to mechanical defects. Due to its forward-looking logical concept, the Z1, together with the Z3, is often referred to in the professional world as the first, albeit very simple, computer.

A replica of the Z1 is in the Museum of Technology in Berlin. It was made with the help of Konrad Zuse and is mechanically much more stable than the original. more ...


Relay computer Z3 from Konrad Zuse

Photo: Replica with minor deviations, Deutsches Museum, Munich.

The Z3 is the electro-technical replica of the Z1, whereby the mechanical switching elements of the Z1 have been replaced by relays. As early as 1938, following Schreyer's advice, Zuse built an arithmetic unit using relay technology, the Z2. In the case of the Z3, 600 relays were used in the arithmetic unit and 1400 relays in the storage unit. It was mostly scrap material: the relay windings were inconsistent and they required different voltages.

As with the Z1, the program is read in via a perforated film strip. In May 1941, the Z3 was the first fully functional, freely programmable, program-controlled binary calculator. It was destroyed in the war.

Characteristics of the Z3:

  • dual
  • Floating point
  • Word length 22 bits (mantissa 14 bits, exponent 7 bits, sign of the mantissa 1 bit)
  • 64 words storage capacity
  • Control via 8-channel punched tape
  • Addition in parallel
  • Multiplication, division and square root in around 3 seconds
  • One-step transfer
  • Input via keyboard
  • Output via lamp field

Conditional commands are missing, the non-changeable program sequence does not allow jumps. This is the decisive function, which is why the Z3 is not yet a universal computer. With binary logic, however, it is conceptually superior to other computers that are yet to follow, such as the Eniac. more ...

Relay computer MARK I from Aiken (exhibit at the Heinz Nixdorf Museum Forum)


ENIAC - first "electronic brain"

1st generation data processing systems, based on tubes. First ENIAC tube computer from Eckert and Mauchly. Von Neumann developed the universal computer concept.


2nd generation data processing systems

Based on transistors. The development of higher programming languages ​​begins with Fortran and Algol.


3rd generation data processing systems

Based on integrated circuits. Computer families are created that are compatible with each other. The core functions of the computer are controlled by a microprogram. The virtual storage principle is introduced. So-called participant computing system.


4th generation data processing systems

Based on highly integrated circuits. Multiprocessor systems, fast storage concepts. Remote data processing (DF ). Database systems. Standardized operating systems.


5th generation data processing systems

Knowledge-based systems, expert systems, development of artificial intelligence.

Sources: i.a.:
Museum guide of the Heinz Nixdorf Museum Forum, Paderborn, 1997www.hnf.de
Text book Computertechnologie, IBM, 1988
Guide to the computer science exhibition, Deutsches Museum, Munich, 1996
Lexikon's History of Computing Encyclopedia on CD ROM, 2002