computing and information technology
By the end of the 19th cent. the use of computers for purely statistical purposes was well established. Their introduction to a wider public came essentially after the Second World War. At Bletchley Park, a high-powered British team succeeded in cracking the German Enigma code, with the assistance of Colossus, specially designed to analyse German messages at speed and identify correlations. Early mainframe computers were enormous monsters. IBM's Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC, 1944) was 51 feet long and weighed 5 tons. Not until the invention of the microchip (integrated circuit), which evolved in the late 1950s out of work on semiconductors and transistors, did the possibility of personal computers arrive, changing access to computing out of all recognition and liberating users from the domination of experts. Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its PDP-8 microcomputer in 1963 and was followed by a host of competitors. Even so, the first acquaintance of ordinary people with the new technology was likely to have been with pocket calculators (‘ready reckoners’), which led to a debate on whether they should be used in schools and universities and what effect they would have on mental arithmetic. But by the 1980s computers, long established in offices, turned up in stores, municipal administration, and libraries, and increasingly in spare bedrooms and basements. Babbage had been convinced that his work demonstrated the argument from design and that the world operated as a great calculating-machine, programmed by God. But, as with many discoveries, the excessive claims of pioneers and salesmen have become more sober. Computer manuals discuss chaos theory, expensive Ariane rockets blow up on launch (1996), and it is worth remembering that Babbage lost a great deal of money trying to invent an infallible scheme for winning on horses.
J. A. Cannon
"computing and information technology." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/computing-and-information-technology
"computing and information technology." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved August 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/computing-and-information-technology
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