Man’s need to find fast and effective methods to solve his calculations and his great inventiveness led him through the centuries to the development of what we know today as the computer. From the abacus to personal computers, these have had a great influence on different aspects of our daily lives, improving our quality of life and opening doors that were previously unknown to humanity.
500 BC: abacus
The first mechanical type calculator was devised in Babylon around 500 BC This mechanical device called abacus consisted of a system of bars and pulleys with which different types of arithmetic calculations could be made.
The word Abaco is derived from the Greek Abakos, which means flat surface. The Abaco consists of beads strung on wires, where seven beads slide, two above a central crosspiece and five below.
1622: Oughtred introduces the slide rule
Around 1622, the English mathematician William Oughtred used the newly invented logarithms to make a device that simplified multiplication and division. It consisted of two joined graduated rulers that slid one on top of the other.
1642: First adding machine
French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal was nineteen years old when he built the world’s first adding machine in 1642. It used gear wheels as counters. The device carried 1 automatically when reaching the tens and could also be used to subtract.
1834: First programmable digital computer
In 1834 the English scientist and inventor Charles Babbage made the schematics of a device which he called an analytical engine, which was actually a general purpose computer. This machine was programmed by a series of punched cards containing data or instructions which passed through a reading device, were stored in a memory and the results were reproduced by molds. This machine was far beyond the technology of its time and was never finished.
1850: First keyboard adder
The keyboard appeared on a machine invented in the United States in 1850. A sequence of digits could be added by pressing successive keys. Each key raised a vertical axis to a certain height and the sum was indicated by the total height.