Probably everyone past the 3rd grade knows who invented the airplane and the telephone. But the one thing that we depend on every day is the computer and it seems that few can say who invented it.
One problem with identifying the inventor of the computer is identifying what the first computer was. Here are a few candidates:
· Charles Babbage designed a mechanical computing machine called the “analytical engine” in 1820
· Basile Bouchon and Jean-Baptiste Falcon invented a punch card system to control looms in the 1700’s
· Howard Aiken led a group of scientist that developed the first electronic digital computer, called Mark I in 1944. (The Mark II followed in 1947.)
· In 1946 scientists at the University of Pennsylvania completed ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator), the first all-purpose electronic digital computer.
Then there is Alan Turing. Last week (June 23rd) was the 100thanniversary of his birth in Cheshire, England. Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park breaking German ciphers in WWII. After the war he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for a stored-program computer.
To me, the most interesting contribution he gave us was his introduction to artificial intelligence. In 1950 Alan Turing published his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence. In his paper he asks the question ‘Can machines think?’ He then went on to argue against most objections to the idea that machines could possibly think.
Alan Turing’s life ended in a suspected suicide after being convicted of indecency for homosexual acts in 1952 while homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. To peak your interest in reading more about Turing, I will tell you that there is a link to Snow White in his death!
Turing was a brilliant free-thinker that was one of the many that could be considered the Father of the Computer.
BTW: For those 1st graders reading this, the Wright Brothers invent the airplane and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Of course most Italians recognize Antonio Meucci as the inventor of the telephone and conspirators say Bell stole his ideas and paid off Patent Office officials to hold Elisha Gray’s patent but those are stories for another day…