What Happened to Grandpa’s Computers?

Computers have definitely come a long way from being huge machines that take up the space of whole rooms when they were first used in the 1960s to hand-held devices that can fit a shoulder bag or even be as small as a pocketbook. The computers of today have improved by leaps and bounds, with so many features and capacities, whereas even just fifteen years ago, you can’t even imagine how to use a lightning USB cable with it.

In the 1970’s computers started getting “personal,” meaning the machines began getting smaller and occupying smaller spaces. The functions of these machines were not very sophisticated though. The Kenbak-1, 1971 is considered by most experts the first PC, although it did not have a microprocessor. It only had computing power of 256 bytes and had blinking lights as its output. Five years later, the Cray-1 was released, selling well despite it $5 to $10 million price tag. It was touted as the world’s fastest machine specially designed for computation.     In the same year, Steve Wozniak also introduced the world’s first build-it-yourself kit computer, Apple I. At $666, it did not sell that well, although it marked the beginning of the more successful Apple II.

Computers in the 1980s moved miles ahead with the introduction of the Personal Computer by IBM in 1981. It featured a lone-standing printer, monitor and keyboard. This complete package attracted a lot of users, with its commercial success ushering a new era in computers. In the same year, the first portable computer was introduced to the market, the Osborne 1 Portable Computer. It weighed 24 lbs and had a less than $2,000 price tag, with an extensive software library. In 1983, the Hewlett-Packard 150 was the first computer commercially available that had touch screen technology. It had a 9-inch screen and used infrared transmitters and receivers to detect the finger of the user.

The 1990’s saw computers getting smaller with laptop computers gaining popularity. Laptops started being developed in the 1980s, but mass production of these units went full-blown in the mid-1990’s. In 1997, IBM introduced the Deep Blue project which was actually something the company started in the mid-1980’s. The project’s parallel processing attempted to beat the world’s best chess player Garry Kasparov. Kasparov eventually lost to Deep Blue, with one move he attributed to “the hand of God.”

The 2000’s saw laptop computers getting smaller anew with the introduction of notebook and tablet computers. In 2007, Apple introduced yet a revolutionary device, the iphone which brought together several capabilities of separate devices like a media player, a cellular phone, a camera and internet. Third party applications are what made these “android phones” a hit. Finally, in 2010, Apple introduced the ipad tablet, which only measures half an inch, weighs 1 ½ lbs. and has a 9.7 inch screen. With a battery life of 10 hours, users enjoy games, video, and other third-party applications.


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