During This, Our Nation’s Celebration of Inventors, We Look Back at some of the Most Groundbreaking Advances in Computer Science

Are you curious about the most influential programming advancements, who first created computer code, which computer came first, and when the first computer languages appeared? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore the answers to these questions and delve further into the meaning of computer programming.

Every August, the United Inventors Association of the United States of America (UIA-USA), Inventors Digest and the Academy of Applied Sciences come together to recognise National Inventors Month. This tradition has been ongoing since 1998, providing an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of inventors and the impact they have had on society.

In recognition of National Inventors Month, we have created an overview of the most influential accomplishments in computer science. This article provides an in-depth exploration of the 10 most influential inventions in the field of computer programming, including the inventors who pioneered the technology and the reasons why these innovations are so critical.

Innovative computer programming’s greatest moments

The groundbreaking innovations of the past few decades have been fundamental in establishing the modern-day computers that we rely on today. From cutting-edge hardware and software to the various gadgets we utilise, these innovative developments have been crucial in allowing us to access the tools of the digital age. It is important, however, to pause and consider the impact of these innovations, as well as the people who pioneered them, as it is due to their advancements that we can reap the rewards of the digital era.

  • The Z3 computer, created by Konrad Zuse, was the world’s first programmable digital computer (1941)

    Konrad Zuse, a German engineer and computer scientist, is credited with the development of the mechanical computer Z1 in 1936. Through further refining of the architecture with Z2, Zuse was able to construct the first fully functional programmed computer, Z3, in 1941.

    Z3 was an impressive feat of engineering, being the world’s first fully autonomous digital computer. With a clock frequency of between 5 and 10 Hertz and containing 2600 relays, its construction was a remarkable achievement for the time. Programs could be stored on punched celluloid tapes, and the machine allowed for manual inputting of starting values.

    On December 21, 1943, the original Z3 computer was unfortunately destroyed due to Allied bombing of Berlin, rendering it unusable. Weighing almost one tonne, the Z3 had an impressive addition speed of 0.8 seconds, as well as a multiplication speed of 3 seconds.
  • The Atanasoff Berry Computer (ABC), developed by John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry, is often credited as the first electronic computer (1942)

    Iowa State University professor John Vincent Atanasoff and his graduate student Clifford Berry developed the first electrical digital computer, known as the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC). Although the ABC was not programmable and could not perform all computing tasks, its Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) was revolutionary for its time and can be considered the ancestor of the ALU in today’s processors.

    The ABC was the pioneering machine to feature the use of vacuum tubes, granting it the capacity for far more rapid calculations than its electro-mechanical counterparts. The primary focus of the ABC was its ability to handle linear equations. Additionally, it was outfitted with the fundamental components of modern computing, including binary arithmetic and electrical switches.
  • Colossus, by Tommy Flowers, was the first electronic computer that could be programmed (1943)

    Developed by the British engineer Thomas Harold Flowers in 1943, the Colossus was the world’s first programmable electronic computer. In 1965, it was brought into service and used to crack the Lorenz encryption which had been employed by the German military during World War II. This remarkable machine provided the British intelligence services with a considerable tactical advantage during the conflict.

    The use of thermionic valves (also known as vacuum tubes) in Colossus enabled the machine to perform Boolean arithmetic calculations. Electronic plugs and switches were utilised for programming Colossus, leading to an expedited decryption process that could be accomplished in hours instead of weeks.
  • The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENICA), developed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert in 1945, is widely acknowledged to be the first computer capable of performing a broad range of mathematical operations.

    In 1945, John Mauchly, an American scientist, and J. Presper Eckert, an electrical engineer, created the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. This remarkable invention was made possible through the generous funding of the United States Army to the Ballistic Research Facility for the development of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), which was designed to create artillery firing tables.

    The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was a revolutionary, modular computing system that was capable of branching and storing decimal numbers up to the tens place. In comparison to the electro-mechanical machines of the time, ENIAC was enormously faster, providing one hundred and one thousand times the speed; it was also programmable, offering an extra layer of functionality. Where a person would have taken twenty hours to complete a task, the ENIAC could calculate ballistic trajectories in just thirty seconds.
  • Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), the first stored-program computer created by Frederic C. Williams and Tom Kilburn (1948)

    In 1948, a pioneering team led by British engineer Sir Frederic C. Williams, English mathematician Tom Kilburn, and Australian electrical engineer Geoff Tootil created the Small Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), the world’s first computer with a stored software. The SSEM featured a revolutionary 32-switch design and was able to run binary applications, overcoming the limitations of delay-line memory through the Williams tube, the earliest known form of random-access digital storage device.

    The Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), also known as the Manchester Baby, was developed at the University of Manchester. To display its analog output, the machine was fitted with a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), which is a type of display device commonly used in early computers. With regards to the machine’s memory capacity, the Manchester Baby had a total of 1 kilobit, which is equivalent to 32 words (1024 bits).
  • When Simon the first personal computer was invented, it was said that Edmund Berkeley was using it (1950)

    Simon, the world’s first personal computer, was developed by American computer scientist Edmund Callis Berkeley and two graduate students from Columbia University. The Simon was capable of accepting input from either punched paper or from the five keys on the front panel, and results were displayed through five lights. Despite its minimal memory of two bits, the Simon was able to execute four operations, such as addition, negation, comparison and selection.

    It is possible that the memory of the early computers was stored on perforated paper, which was used in the relay logic architecture implemented by Simon for his paper-tape program. This machine was an effective instructional model for digital computers and served its purpose successfully.

This is all because to the development of programming languages.

  • FORTRAN, created by John Backus, was the first high-level programming language (1954)

    Fortran, developed by American computer scientist John Backus, was the world’s first high-level, general-purpose programming language. IBM initially created FORTRAN with the intention of creating a compiled, multi-paradigm, imperative programming language specifically for scientific and numerical calculations. To this day, FORTRAN remains the language of choice for such applications due to its unparalleled speed and accuracy.

    FORTRAN (which stands for “Formula Translation”) is a programming system that simplifies the process of creating programs by drastically reducing the number of programming statements needed. This system enables users to easily translate formulas into computer-readable code, thus making the development of programs much easier.
  • The first object-oriented programming language, Simula, was created by Ole-Johan Dahl (1967)

    In 1966, Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard developed Simula 67, which was a revision of the original Simula. This updated version was the first programming language to introduce the concepts of objects, classes, and subclasses. Further, Simula 67 also included a number of advanced features, such as inheritance, virtual procedures, coroutines, garbage collection, discrete event simulation, and subtyping. As such, Simula 67 was a groundbreaking development in the field of programming language design.

    Simula 1, the first version of the Simula programming language, was created with the sole purpose of running simulations. Subsequent versions, such as Simula 67, expanded upon this concept by making the language more flexible. Thanks to its versatile nature, Simula has had a profound impact on the development of virtually all modern programming languages. Even today, a wide range of applications, including VLSI design simulation, communication protocol modelling, process simulation, and algorithm simulation, are being implemented using Simula.
  • Bjarne Stroustrup, “Multi-paradigm Object-Oriented Programming in C++” (1985)

    Bjarne Stroustrup, a Danish computer scientist, is credited with the development of C++, a high-level, multi-paradigm, object-oriented programming language that is renowned for its emphasis on efficiency, flexibility, and performance. This language was specifically designed for use in embedded systems and system development.

    The sustained prevalence of C++ as a programming language is a testament to its versatility and utility. This powerful language is employed in a wide variety of applications, ranging from desktop software and servers to video games and even space exploration. Its remarkable flexibility makes C++ an invaluable tool for a broad range of disciplines.

    C++ is widely regarded for its vast range of features and capabilities. Specifically, it supports four distinct memory management strategies, such as polymorphism, encapsulation, operators, and operator overloading. This is only a small selection of the many features included in this widely popular programming language.

Development of microprocessors

  • To paraphrase Fredrico Faggin: “Intel 4004 – the first microprocessor” (1971)

    In 1971, Italian inventor Fredrico Faggin and his colleagues created the Intel 4004, the world’s first microprocessor. This remarkable feat of engineering packed 2300 transistors in a 12mm2 area, with a 10m distance between each one. The Intel 4004 was capable of a maximum frequency of 740 kilohertz.

    With a performance of up to sixty thousand operations per second, the Intel 4004 was a pioneering large-scale integration (LSI) device featuring metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) gates. The first calculator to make use of the Intel 4004’s capabilities was the Busicom 141-PF, an impressive example of the immense potential of this groundbreaking microprocessor.

How have advancements in programming language made possible the advent of today’s computing technology?

The advancements in computational power, efficiency, and performance of current technological devices can be attributed to the hard work of computer scientists. These gadgets, which are now commonplace, are the descendants of the pioneering developments in the field. Furthermore, modern programming languages have been developed from the early stages of computer science.

In celebration of National Inventors Month, Works is pleased to announce the unveiling of a set of resources designed to inspire current and aspiring software developers to become trailblazers in the tech industry. These resources serve as a reminder of the advancements in computing technology that have taken place over the years, ranging from early computing devices to today’s supercomputers and mobile phones. We hope that by examining the fascinating history and current state of technology, researchers, hardware developers, and software developers alike can be encouraged to push the boundaries of innovation and become industry leaders.

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  1. Which computer came first?

    The ENIAC, Colossus, SSEM, ABC, and Z3 were the first computers ever built, each in their own manner pioneered by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.
  2. Can you tell me about the earliest language used for computer programming?

    In the early twentieth century, Konrad Zuse pioneered the development of the first high-level programming language, known as Plankalk??l. Despite its innovative approach, it failed to gain the widespread recognition it deserved within the computer industry. By contrast, FORTRAN is credited with being the first commercially-available language to be widely adopted, and has thus become a landmark in the history of computer programming.
  3. Who first thought about making a computer?

    In 1822, Charles Babbage first conceptualised the computer, however, it was not until 1991 that it was entirely constructed. Several earlier computers were developed in the years leading up to this, such as the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) in 1945, the Colossus in 1943, the Manchester Baby in 1948 and the Micral N in 1950. The first widely available commercial computer was released in 1973.

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