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Only once in a lifetime will a new invention come about to touch every aspect of our lives Such a device that changes the way we work live and play is a special one indeed A machine that has done all this and more now exists in nearly every business in the US and one out of every two households This incredible invention is the computer The electronic computer has been around for over a half-century but its ancestors have been around for 2000 years However only in the last 40 years has it changed the American society From the first wooden abacus to the latest high-speed microprocessor the computer has changed nearly every aspect of peoples lives for the better The very earliest existence of the modern day computers ancestor is the abacus These date back to almost 2000 years ago It is simply a wooden rack holding parallel wires on which beads are strung When these beads are moved along the wire according to programming rules that the user must memorize all ordinary arithmetic operations can be performed The next innovation in computers took place in 1694 when Blaise Pascal invented the first digital calculating machine It could only add numbers and they had to be entered by turning dials It was designed to help Pascals father who was a tax collector In the early 1800s a mathematics professor named Charles Babbage designed an automatic calculation machine It was steam powered and could store up to 1000 50-digit numbers Built in to his machine were operations that included everything a modern general-purpose computer would need It was programmed by--and stored data on--cards with holes punched in them appropriately called punchcards His inventions were failures for the most part because of the lack of precision machining techniques used at the time and the lack of demand for such a device After Babbage people
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