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  6. History

The introduction of agriculture revolutionized ancient man’s social, economic, and cultural potential. This was the first great step in the evolution of civilization. The more recent Industrial Revolution, vastly increasing man’s productive capabilities, was the next great step and brought forth our present highly mechanized economic and interdependent social civilization.

Nowadays we have another new kind of revolution, based on machines that greatly increase man’s thinking capabilities of planning, analyzing, computing, and controlling. Hundreds of millions of computers are already in daily use penetrating almost all spheres of our modern society, from nuclear energy production and missile design to the processing of bank checks and medical diagnoses.

The development of mechanical calculating machines made the digital computers necessary. An ordinary arithmometer and a desk key calculator have given rise to electronic digital computers. Digital computers came into being in the first half of the 17th century. Many outstanding Russian and foreign mathematicians of that time created mechanical calculating devices.

The famous Russian scientist M.V. Lomonosov compiled a lot of calculating tables and several computing devices concerning different fields of science and engineering.

In 1874 the Russian engineer V.T. Odner invented a special counter wheel¹ named after him the Odner’s wheel, which is used in modern arithmometers and calculators.

P.L. Chebyshev, academician, made a valuable contribution to the field of computing machines. He is known² to have many good ideas in mathematics, some of which have been named after him. For example, the Chebyshev’s polynomials play a unique role in the field of orthogonal functions. In 1878 he constructed an original computing machine, which was exhibited in Paris. In 1882 P.L. Chebyshev invented an arithmometer performing automatically multiplication and division. The automation principle put into this computing machine is still widely used all over the world for developing modern computers.

In 1884 Russia began manufacturing computing machines. During World War I the output of computing machines was stopped but soon it continued.

At the end of the 1930s computing engineering began the new era. There appeared computers operating at high speed. The rapid advance of computers resulted from the success achieved by electronics. There appeared a possibility to solve complex mathematical problems within an unusually short time. Modern engineering enables to do the amount of calculations and researches within a very short period of time, which would have required years of laborious work of large groups of people before³.

The first electronic digital computer was developed in Russia under the supervision of S.A. Lebedev in 1950. Then, in 1953 BESM (High-Speed Electronic Computer) was designed by the Academy of Sciences. This machine could perform about 250 million operations. A human being could do this work during 300 years of continuous labour.

BESM was followed by a number of large-, medium-, and small-size general and special purpose computers4. It was the first generation of computers constructed on electronic tubes.

The second-generation computers were solid-state large-powered machines.

Computers made on integrated circuits containing hundreds of thousands of active electronic devices in tiny elements are of the third and fourth generations.

Computers of the fifth generation contain high-level user interfaces based on VLSI and SLSI5, optical fibers, videodisks, and artificial intelligence6 approaches for interaction via natural languages, including speech input.

A major advance in the development of computer technologies was the creation of microprocessors and microcomputers. These tiny computer devices are able to control complex operations.

So we see that the significance of the electronic computers invention can be compared with the invention of the steam engine at the end of the 18th century and the utilization of atomic energy.

(3 470 t.un.)

NOTES: ¹a special counter wheel – специальное счетное колесо

² He is known to…. – известно, что он …..

³ which would require years of laborious work of large groups of people before – которые потребовали бы раньше годы трудоемкой работы большой группы людей

4 general and special purpose computers – универсальные и специализированные компьютеры

5 VLSI (Very Large-Scale Integration) – интеграция очень высокого уровня, SLSI (Super Large-Scale Integration) – интеграция сверх высокого уровня

6 artificial intelligence - искусственный интеллект


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