Computer Technology and the Effect on Society

Computer technology has had a great effect on society as a whole throughout history. It has modified our behavior greatly as we have become accustomed to the technological advancements of yesterday. We are so dependent sometimes we do not even have a concept of what life would be like without computers. When we are forced to live life without computers we are left hopeless and disillusioned and simple everyday tasks become major chores.
Computers of the past were very primitive compared to the computers of today but extremely useful. One of the very first computers of major importance was the abacus that was developed by Chinese and later made more portable by the Greeks The Abacus was used for more than 2000 years and made life easier for many. It was used as a calculator, as today, to simplify computations of small or large figures. This gave many people increased free time while maintaining the current economic status within their society.
Another important device of this time was the astrolabe. The astrolabe was used for the navigation of ships and allowed sailors to draw maps based on astrological calculation. This helped many sailors and explorers find many new and uncharted lands, which eventually led to the European colonization of North America.
During the 1600′s there was a surge of inventors conjuring up many new ideas. In 1642, Blaise Pascal was accredited for inventing the first digital calculating machine which could only add. This invention was not for himself, but for his father, who worked hard as a tax collector. The first digital calculator started a whole new line of calculating devices that could not only add but divide, multiply, and subtract. This task was not accomplished until 1820 by Charles Xavier Thomas.
The introduction of punch cards, in the late 1800′s, automated data entry resulting in many jobs lost that would have been available to the average worker. Punch cards were first used in the 1890 census. This not only reduced the amount of workers but also the amount of human error that could have occurred in previous census.
The use of punch cards did not end there. Punch cards were greatly improved by IBM, that successfully provided mechanical automation of data entry. This was done by using spinning wheels to process 50 to 250 cards per a minute. This again sadly eliminated many jobs but continued the development of the computing industry. Though many jobs were lost, the automation of punch cards actually created new and different jobs that replaced the lost ones. People were needed for the factory assembly of the machines as well as operators. Many people had to be trained how to operate these computer controlled machines. This opened up a vast line of new jobs for many people.
During the 1950′s and 1960′s there were many new discoveries that revolutionized the computing industry. The first of many was the discovery of the transistor quickly replaced the tubes. This could have reduced the size of computers greatly but instead this was used to make computers more powerful. Another pertinent discovery of this time period was the magnetic-core memory. This helped computers increase the memory that was available for the use of computations. Even though these discoveries helped the computing industry, computers at that time were not used by the average person. This was due to the cost of running and maintaining these units. They were mostly used by industry, government, and private laboratories. This helped the industries to produce goods more efficiently, the government to keep track of information, and allowed laboratories to make many new discoveries.
The next advancement was the medium of storage. Magnetic drums, magnetic disk packs, and magnetic tapes also appeared for the first time allowing more convenient storage than before. Instead of having many stacks of cards vast amounts of information could now be stored on tapes. Even though this technology was introduced in the 50′s, it was not widely used until the 1970′s. This again was due to the cost of the technology.
Even though these advancements helped the computing industry move forward they also helped the job market, as well as keeping accurate records of information. Companies now needed a full time staff to run the computers as well as programmers to program them. The introduction of magnetic storage also helped many scientists organize their data, to make better and more concise evaluations, allowing them to make discoveries that they never previously thought possible. This began the rapid advancement towards computers as we know them today.
During the 1970′s and 1980′s no one could have imagined how fast the computing industry would begin evolving. This is when the computer started developing into the personal computer we know today. The large computers that filled an entire room became smaller and smaller. That is when personal computers began showing up in homes everywhere.
As time passed storage medium improvements were made. At first the personal computer used a disk to boot up. This was called a floppy disk. It was first develop in the 5 1/4″ form that could hold 360KB of information. This was later expanded and storage went from 360KB to 1228.8KB or 1.2 MB of information. Striving for more powerful and compact storage the 3 1/2″ disk slowly but surely replaced the 5 1/4″ disks. The formats did overlap for some time as the 720KB 3 1/2″ disk competed with the 5 1/4″ 360KB disk and the 1.2M 5 1/4″ Disk competed with the 1.44M 3 1/2″ disk. This increased amount of storage was considered a revolution. This development helped many companies keep track of increasing amounts of data which could easily be taken from one computer to another.
We didn’t begin seeing compact mass storage, until the internal hard drive was developed and set the standard. Eventually, increased storage capabilities, vast amounts of data helped businesses not only store information but analyze data to compete in the ever growing market. Hard drives were first used in large corporation servers but later on used in personal computers as today. This allowed computer users the advantage of not having to switch disk all the time. As the quantity of information grew so did the availability of new jobs. This also started many small local area networks or LANs for short, to share the vast amount of information.
CDROM technology was introduced in the early 1980′s with a never before heard of storage capacity and was available to the average computer user. Using CDROM technology software developers could store 650 MB or 665,600 KB of information. This was a huge break through for the computing industry. At the time of introduction, the largest removable storage available to the average user was only 1.2 MB.
Always seeking faster computing, the access times and transfer rates of the CDROM drives began to trail. The original transfer rate of a CDROM drive was only 150 KB/s but new multimedia software had much greater requirements. As time went on the speed panic decreased as CDROM drive speeds went gradually from 150KB/s to 3600 KB/s going well above the need. This allowed many people to access encyclopedias and large databases in the convenience of their home all on the size of a 5 1/4″ compact disc.

The next major development in the early 1970′s was the Internet. This was originally developed by the military giving access to data all over the country in real time. They never imagined that almost everyone would have access to the Internet in the convenience of their homes. The Internet has come a long way since the 70′s. From being all text based databases to streaming audio and video with mass amounts of information. This has attracted many people to it, slowly fading away the stereo typical view of the “nerdy” user.
The Internet is being used for many things today. You can trade stocks, write a friend email, or check out the local news. The possibilities are endless with technology advancing so rapidly. Just a few years ago a 2400BPS modem was considered prime. Now with digital phone network and satellite dishes, an average user can obtain speeds that were unheard of just months ago.
What the future holds, no one can imagine. What tomorrow brings no one can fathom. Computers have had a most profound effect on our society and have come a long way since the invention of the abacus. We can only hope our advancements will be use to better our life not destroy it.

Bibliography

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