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I Compute There Forth I Think What was the first computer and who built it It turns out that this is more a question of definition than a question of fact The computer as we now understand the word was very much an evolutionary development rather than a simple invention This article traces the sequence of the most important steps in that development and in the earlier development of digital calculators without programmability It may help you to decide for yourself whether you think the first computer was the ABC the V3 aka Z3 the ENIAC the SSEC the Manchester Mark I the EDSAC or perhaps yet another machine -- and how to apportion the honor of invention among John Atanasoff Charles Babbage Presper Eckert John Mauchly Alan Turing John von Neumann Konrad Zuse and others 1623 Wilhelm Schickard 1592-1635 of Tubingen Wurttemberg now in Germany makes his Calculating Clock This is a 6-digit machine that can add and subtract and indicates overflow by ringing a bell Mounted on the machine is a set of Napiers Rods or Bones a memory aid facilitating multiplications The machine and plans are lost and forgotten in the war that is going on The plans will finally be rediscovered in 1935 only to be lost in war again and then re-rediscovered in 1956 by the same man The machine will be reconstructed in 1960 and found to be workable Schickard is a friend of the astronomer Kepler According to an informal communication Schickard sometimes uses the device for 7-digit calculations counting rings of the overflow bell by putting rings on one of his uh personal digits 1644-5 Blaise Pascal 1623-1662 of Paris makes his Pascaline This 5-digit machine uses a different carry mechanism from Schickards with rising and falling weights instead of a direct gear drive it can be extended better to support more digits but it cannot subtract and probably is less reliable than Schickards simpler method Where
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