A study of the history of computers will reveal there is no single inventor. Because it’s made of different components, no single date can be given for its invention either. Instead a chronology will make things clearer.
1830s to 1900s
As early as 1833, Charles Babbage had already designed an apparatus capable of performing automated calculations. His invention was primarily an analytical engine. Although it had problems functioning, it was in every real sense a computer. Other notable inventors and pioneers of the period were Percy Ludgate and Herman Hollerith.
1930s and World War II
1936 saw the emergence of the Z1 computer, the first one that could be programmed. This was followed by the Mark I in late 1944. However it was World War II that led to greater development.
The history of computers would be influenced by war needs like calculating data, breaking codes and encrypting information. This would lead to the invention of large mainframe computers. From the 1950s onwards, businesses would see its potential for making work easier. One of the pioneers would be International Business Machines (IBM).
The 1980s: Rise of the PC
During the late 1970s, the idea of having these machines in offices became popular. Several companies like Hewlett Packard, Apple and Radio Shack started manufacturing these.
IBM decided to create an open bus / architecture system. This would encourage third party vendors to come out with applications to support it. The history of computers would be changed by the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981.
The IBM PC
This system used the Intel 8088 microprocessor and came with 16 K of RAM (random access memory). It had a monochrome screen and could not display graphics. Its disk drive could hold 160 K of data. This was double what most disks could carry at the time.
IBM did not make an operating system for its PC. Instead it hired a company called Microsoft to develop one. It came up with MS DOS. As the amount of software grew, it became clear that a new operating system was needed. While IBM was developing OS2 which would replace MS DOS, Microsoft released Windows. The history of computers would be changed forever. Windows 3.0 and its successor, Windows 3.1 sold millions of copies.
The new user interface made the PC accessible to non technical users. With the pull down menus, people could now use the PC without having to learn complex command line syntax. The creation of the WYSIWYG technology made word processing easier. Now one could print out what was on screen. Eventually it led to the development of paint and spreadsheet programs too.
The increase in CPU speed have grown rapidly as have the RAM and disk space. From the 16K of RAM and 160 K disk, now computers come with at least 512 MB of RAM and gigabytes of disk space.
The succeeding years has seen technology grow by leaps and bounds. The hardware and software continue to develop. The history of computers shows just how rapid the innovations have come and doubtless more are being done at this very moment.