Charles Babbage, a mathematician and philosopher born in 1791, attempted to build a machine that he called the ‘differential engine’ in the first half of the 19th century. It consisted of large mechanical parts that would perform calculations on sets of numbers. And even though Charles could never build the machine successfully, his idea of using a mechanical process for computation became the fundamental part  of modern day computing.





















The credit for designing the first programmable computer goes to Konrad Zuse, a German scientist. He designed the first programmable computer known as ‘Z1’ in 1936-98, and later went on to build the first commercial computer, known as ‘Z4’, as well in the year 1942. Also, the idea of ‘The Turing Machine’, given by Alan Turing in 1936 also proved to be a milestone on the journey towards modern day computing.

The present day

There was a time when we had no computers. And a time when computers used to be as big as an apartment. It is amazing to see how the world of computers have evolved. From differential engines to machines that used to fill large rooms, to the computers that we have at workplace and to the one that we use at home – computers have just evolved into being better, smaller and more efficient versions of what were called the ‘first generation’ computers.

And since the advent of computers, we have been able to design different types and sizes of computers depending on the services needed from them. They can be as large as a house, or as small as an embedded micro-controller. There are four basic types of computers :

  • Supercomputer : Supercomputers have the most powerful computational capabilities and can perform hundreds of high performance and data processing tasks at once. These are specifically designed to perform special tasks and are mostly used by large organizations for research and exploration operations like controlling space shuttles, computing satellite data etc. Moreover, they are expensive and large in size, and may even span buildings.

Exascale super computers came into picture when President of the U.S. approved their development in the year 2015. Exascale supercomputers will be 30 times more powerful than supercomputers existing today.

Some popular supercomputers include IBM’s Sequoia, and Mira in the United States, China’s BUDT Tianhe 1A, and K Computer by Fujitsu in Japan.

  • Mainframe computers : Although not as powerful as supercomputers, mainframe computers are still very expensive, and are used by many large businesses to run operations. They can be accommodate in air conditioned rooms. Popular mainframe computers include Z800 by Hitachi, and ICL VME by Fujitsu.
  • Minicomputers : Minicomputers, also known as mid- range computers are used by small organization and firms. They do not have the large processing power of supercomputers and can be accommodated even on a disk. Some popular minicomputers include HP 3000 series, Honeywell Bull DPS 6000 series, SDS 92 and IBM mid- range computers.
  • Microcomputers : Microcomputers are the most widely used type of computers. In fact, desktop computer, PDAs, smartphones and tablets are all types of microcomputers. These are especially designed to suit entertainment, work based or educational needs of consumers. Popular manufacturers designing microcomputers include Apple, Dell, Toshiba and Sony.