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Descend From a Countess

Man has always needed to make computations. Not many years ago tablets were found in Babylonia containing multiplication tables. These tables were writtenalmost 4,000 years ago and were based on the number sixty. Have you ever wondered why there are sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour? These numbers are derived from the ancient Babylonian system.

Our own numbering system is based in the number tan, which is probably derived from an even older counting system –the number of fingers on our two hands. But modern computers, which canmake innumerable calculations every second, are based on perhaps the simplest system of all. This is the base two, or binary, system and only two numbers (zero and one) are involved.

The binary system was not employed, however. By the man who is generally regarded as the “father of the computer”. That man was Charles Babbage, an Englishman, whose “analytical engine”, based on rotating wheels,was designed in 1833. Unfortunately, like Leonardo da Vinci`s, Babbage`s ideas were too advanced for the technology of his day and his “engine” was never built.

It was not until a century later, in the late 1930s, that Stibitz built his Bell relay computers in which electro-mechanical relays were used to give much greater calculating efficiency tan rotating wheels. This system was, however, sonreplaced by ENIAC`s electronic vacuum tubes. ENIAC, built at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, is often considered to be the first “real” computer and was one thousand times faster than its predecessors. It was not quite like today`s ATARY home computers, though, as it weighed 30,000 kilograms! Its designers went on to create UNIVAC I, in which crystal diodes were used to give even greatspeed. In 1951, one of these machines was installed in the General Electric plant in Louisville, Kentucky –the first commercial installation.

The next breakthrough, and the one which really brought computers into the modern age, was transistors. These were introduced in the IBM 7090, which was sold for the first time in 1959. Since that time, developments have been made so frequently that it isalmost impossible to follow them, and the computer has become par tour everyday lives.

Computers are wonderful machines, but programs (instructions) are required to make them work. We cannot really say who the first computer was invented by, but we do know that the first computer program was written about a century before computers went into operation. It was written in 1842 by an extraordinarywoman, Countess Lovelace, a daughter of Lord Byron, for computing Bernoulli`s numbers on Babbage`s “analytical engine.” And, in a warning to all later computer programmers, the Countess said that computers “… do what they are told to do, not we want them to do.”

El hombre siempre necesito inventar la computación. No hace muchos años fueron encontradas en Babilonia tablas de multiplicación. Estastablas fueron escritas alrededor de hace 4,000 años y se basaban en el numero sesenta. ¿Te habías preguntado porque los minutos tienen sesenta segundos y porque las horas tienen sesenta minutos? Estos números se derivan del sistema de los antiguos Babilonios.

Nuestro propio sistema numérico está basado en el número diez, el cual probablemente se deriva inclusive de un viejo sistema deconteo—el número de los dedos en nuestras dos manos. Pero las computadoras modernas, las cuales pueden realizar cálculos innumerables a cada segundo, se basan en, quizá, el sistema más simple de todos. Este es el sistema de base dos, o binario, y solo dos números (cero y uno) están involucrados.

Sin embargo, el sistema binario no fue utilizado por el hombre que es generalmente llamado “el padre de...
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