History of Technology 6: Introduction to Computers

What is a computer? A wonderful machine full of cat videos? Well...yes, but it's way more than that. Hit play to find out.

AP Computer ScienceStandard Algorithms
LanguageEnglish Language
TechnologyHistory of Technology

Transcript

00:16

We've covered cars, airplanes, fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, nuclear weapons, telegraphs, [Pictures of cars, airplanes etc... in a tornado]

00:23

telephones, televisions, and modern medicine.

00:26

We've even covered microwaves, which made us crave massive amounts of popcorn. [Popcorn flies out of a microwave]

00:31

But there's one technology that defines our modern lives, perhaps more than all the others combined. [Mac computer starts up]

00:36

It's the reason we call this the Information Age, and the reason people watch about 500 [Cat video playing from YouTube]

00:42

years of YouTube videos on Facebook every day.

00:45

We’re not even exaggerated that math.

00:47

Seriously 500 years worth of hours are watched every day, and that number is only growing

00:53

bigger and bigger.

00:54

We're talking, of course, about computers. [Person using a MacBook]

00:55

Y'know…those little machines that let us do everything from typing up our homework

01:00

to watching GIFS of disgustingly cute dogs to watching Shmoop videos about computers. [Loop of a dog on a computer]

01:06

Whoa.

01:08

Computerception there huh?

01:09

But computers haven't always been the all-consuming must-have technology of their time. [A sledge hammer hits a computer monitor]

01:14

In their early history, computers were just giant, slow calculators, used only by governments [Calculator with legs]

01:19

and very patient researchers.

01:20

In 1946, the head of IBM predicted that the world would probably need about six computers [6 computers appear on the world]

01:28

Lucky for IBM that that didn’t prove to be the case.

01:31

For the record, at least 2 billion computers have been sold. [IBM stock chart goes up]

01:35

In this lesson, we're going to figure out how we went from computers the size of houses [Picture of an old computer]

01:40

to computers the size of our hand. [Someone holding a smartphone]

01:43

And then, perhaps even more importantly, we'll find out why computers have become the defining

01:47

technology of the twenty-first century.

01:49

Y'know. [Computer crying]

01:50

As of now.

01:51

Still waiting on those hoverboards…

01:52

Most inventions are the product of lots of people working on different ideas over a long [Pictures of people working in labs]

01:58

period of time…

02:00

But nobody could ever simplify computer history enough to give the credit to one person… [People appearing and holding on to one trophy]

02:04

Or even ten people.

02:06

Computers have a century-long history, and involve hundreds of researchers, engineers,

02:10

and mathematicians working independently.

02:13

It's even difficult to define what a computer is. [Kid scratching his head]

02:16

Seriously, go ahead and try it.

02:18

A computer is…

02:19

Um…a machine…full of cat videos?

02:21

And…celebrity tweets…?

02:22

Yeah it's hard right?

02:24

In the beginning of the nineteenth century…computers….were just people who worked computing numbers. [Man working in front of a computer]

02:28

Yup, anybody who did math all day was technically a computer.

02:32

Charles Babbage's "difference engine" was a calculator that could perform polynomial [Babbage stood next to his machine]

02:39

math, which sounds very impressive.

02:41

Alan Turing's machine was a device that printed symbols on paper according to the directions

02:46

it was given.

02:48

These days, we expect a computer to have a central processing unit, plenty of memory, [Man sat at a desk and the different components of a computer appear]

02:52

and the ability to stream whatever we want, whenever we want it…or else. [Man holds a gun to the computer]

02:57

For the purposes of this lesson, we're going to call all of that a computer….

03:01

A programmable, usually electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data.

03:06

We’re also going to call it our friend because it will let us binge watch Parks and Recreation [Thought bubble appears above a man saying that he loves his computer]

03:11

after we’re done making this video without complaining.

03:14

And that's what real friends do.