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When was the computer invented?

They have been around longer than you probably realize.

computer on table
Image: Unsplash

With how ubiquitous computing is nowadays, it’s hard to think back to a time when it wasn’t part of our daily lives. They power our smartphones, facilitate financial transactions, control traffic lights, and millions of other things that we all use all the time.

Nowadays, we think of computers as powered by electricity, but that wasn’t always the case. After all, the processes inside the CPU that crunch data are still based on mathematics, and the first computers were fully-mechanical calculating machines.

You might be surprised at how long ago they were invented, and also what they were created for in the first place. Let’s explore.

So, when was the computer invented?

Short answer: That depends on your definition of “computer”

If your definition of a computer is something that can take data as input, do something with that, and output something else, the first computer was created in 1801 and was a loom that took wooden punch cards to automatically weave fabric designs. This type of punch card system was eventually used in the first working computer, created to calculate the 1880 census by the company that went on to become IBM.

Wait, but what about Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine? Wasn’t that before IBM’s inception? Yes, but the important thing to note is that neither of Babbage’s designs was actually completed in his lifetime. It took until 2002 for the Difference Engine 2 to be physically made.

The forerunner of our modern desktops was created in 1964 when Douglas Englebart showed off a prototype with a graphical user interface and the first computer mouse.

What do you think? Surprised that some form of the computer has been around for so long? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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