Sometimes called "Napier's bones", this manually-operated calculating device was created by Scottish scientist John Napier of...Read More >>Sometimes called "Napier's bones", this manually-operated calculating device was created by Scottish scientist John Napier of Merchiston (1550–1617) for multiplication and division.There is no simple answer to this question, because the definition of what a computer actually is has changed over the years. The first mechanical computer, which was created by British inventor Charles Babbage in 1822, would not be what most people would think of as a computer today. Generally speaking, a computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out a set of arithmetical operations automatically. This set of operations is called a program. Most modern computers in use nowadays are digital electronic computers. But in the past, before electronic components were invented, computers were mechanical devices. Later mechanical computers were powered by electricity and were known as electro-mechanical computers.
The Antikythera mechanism is the earliest known mechanical "computer”. Designed and built by Greek scientists between 200 and 100 BC, it was used to calculate astronomical positions. Recovered in 1901 from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, the device has a clockwork mechanism consisting of at least 30 meshing bronze gear wheels housed inside a wooden box about the size of a shoebox. The gears ran a system that displayed the date, the positions of the Sun and Moon, the phases of the Moon, a 19-year calendar and a 223-month eclipse prediction dial.
The word "computer" was first recorded as being used in 1613 and originally used to describe a person—someone who performed calculations or computations.
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