Thursday, June 14, 2007

Today In History

And it was on this day in 1951 that the world's first commercially produced electronic digital computer was unveiled, known as the UNIVAC. It weighed eight tons, used 5,000 vacuum tubes and cost a quarter-million dollars. But it could perform a thousand calculations per second, the fastest rate in the world at the time. The first one was bought by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The president of IBM thought that computers were far too complex and would never sell, but with the invention of the microchip in 1971, all the processing power of those thousands of vacuum tubes could be crammed into a tiny space.

In 1975, an engineer named Ed Roberts was one of the first people to try to market a computer to ordinary people. It didn't sell very well. You had to know how to turn hundreds of little switches. But it was an inspiration to Stephen Wozniak – who went on to found Apple – and also to a young Harvard student named Bill Gates.

** Quoted directly from Writers Almanac daily email newsletter.

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