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Electro-mechanical Counting Devices

JOSEPH JACQUARD’S LOOM

The Jacquard machine is a device fitted to a power loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. It was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. The loom was controlled by a chain of cards, a number of punched cards, laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design. The Jacquard loom was the first machine to use punch cards to control a sequence of operations.

CHARLES BABBAGE’S MACHINES

Charles Babbage (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath, a mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer. Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex electronic designs, though all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage’s analytical engine. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as “pre-eminent” among the many polymaths of his century.

He was the first person to design a computer that is different from a calculator. Charles Babbage is referred to as the father of modern day computers because all his ideas are contained in modern computers.

1. DIFFERENCE MACHINE

In 1822, Charles Babbage developed the difference machine that could perform intricate calculations correctly and rapidly on the principle that anticipated the modern electronic computer. A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The name derives from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, including logarithmic and trigonometric functions, can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful tables of numbers.

2. ANALYTICAL ENGINE

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In 1837, the Analytical Engine was developed and it could be programmed. That means it can receive instructions and solve problems given to it. The Analytical Engine was a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer designed by English mathematician and computer pioneer Charles Babbage. It was first described in 1837 as the successor to Babbage’s difference engine, a design for a mechanical computer. The Analytical Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory, making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in modern terms as Turing-complete. In other words, the logical structure of the Analytical Engine was essentially the same as that which has dominated computer design in the electronic era.

The Analytical Engine had the following parts:

  1. A mill for calculation
  2. A store for holding instructions, intermediate and final results
  3. An operator (or system) for carrying out instruction
  4. A device for ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ data on punched card

 

EVALUATION

  1. Mention the two (2) machines invented by Charles Babbage and their years of invention
  2. Mention at least four (4) parts that make up an analytical engine
  3. Briefly describe the following (i) Jacquard loom (ii) Stepped Reckoner

 

HOLLERITH CENSUS MACHINE

Herman Hollerith (February 29, 1860 – November 17, 1929) was an American statistician and inventor who developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards to rapidly tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data. He was the founder of the Tabulating Machine Company that later merged to become IBM. Hollerith is widely regarded as the father of modern automatic computation. The machine was used to process the information obtained in the census of the population carried out in the United State in 1890. With this machine, he was able to achieve in three years what would take seven years to do manually.

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PHILIP EMEAGWALI

Dr. Philip Emeagwali, who had been called the Bill Gates of Africa, was born in Akure, Nigeria on 23 August 1954, invented one of the world’s fastest computers. He dropped out of school in 1967 because of the Nigerian-Biafran war.

Dr. Philip Emeagwali first hit the limelight in 1989 when he won the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for his work with massively parallel computers. He programmed the connection machine to compute a world record 3.1 billion calculations per second using 65,536 processors to simulate oil reservoirs. With over 41 inventions, Philip Emeagwali is making big waves in the super computer industry.

 

EVALUATION

  1. What was the major contribution of Dr. Philip Emeagwali to the development of computers
  2. List three people who were inventors of electro-mechanical devices and the machine they invented.
  3. Why is Charles Babbage referred to as the father of Computer?

 

See also

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTERS

MECHANICAL COUNTING AND CALCULATING DEVICES

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTERS

MODERN METHODS OF TRANSMITTING INFORMATION

ANCIENT METHODS OF TRANSMITTING INFORMATION

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