History of Computing Class: Assignment 2

In one concise paragraph, discuss one technical advance that we’ve learned about since Sept. 3 and why that advance was important. It can be a machine, a technique (like a programming technique), or a specific idea. Your response should show us its importance in a broad sense: this is your opportunity to answer the “so what?” question of why a particular historical event matters. Be original and creative: your response should tell us something non-obvious about the advance you choose.

Grace Hopper with the UNIVAC I, from the Computer History Museum’s website:
http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?year=1952 Collection reference: 102635875 (Courtesy Gwen Bell)

Please use formal English and write your response as you would a short academic paper. Keep it to one concise paragraph, and make your point as well as you can in that space.

Your comment will not show up right away: I will approve the best 5 or so comments after the deadline.

As noted on your syllabus, your comment is due by 10pm on Thursday, Sept. 20. There will be no credit given for late responses.

Have fun.


  1. WOluwagbemi

    I will like to talk about the first compiler in the world of computer programming. This was written by Grace Hopper at Remington Rand for the UNIVAC between 1951 and 1952. In general, the compiler is the program that converts the source code of programs written in high-level language to the binary language (1s and 0s) that the computer understands. This particular advance was important because it transformed the way computer programs were written and utilized from manual and mechanical to an automated way of programming. With the use of the compiler, we can now write codes in human language with common arithmetical operators ( like Profit = SalesPrice – CostPrice; ) which would all be converted by the compiler to the form that the computer can read. Ability to write computers programs in a high-level language enables us to solve more complex problems and also helps us design machines and applications that are more efficient, more accurate and easy to use.

  2. Huda

    One of the important technical advances was the invention of the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). [It was finished in the latter part of 1945 and officially announced] on February 14, 1946 by John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert. The ENIAC was the first electronic computer used for ballistic trajectories. The invention of the ENIAC was instrumental in providing jobs, specifically programming jobs, for women in the science field. Many women were involved in the development of the ENIAC and they were known as the ENIAC girls. These women would work on programming the ENIAC. The ENIAC helped distinguish between the hardware and software of a computer. Men worked on designing hardware whereas women programmed. By sex typing programming as a female occupation, it made programming jobs available for women.

  3. Memo

    The flow chart was one of the most important technical advancement because it allowed versatility. The flow chart made it easier to input instructions and more complicated algorithms. The flow chart then was what made inputting instructions faster because it was implemented in a broader way. A programmer could take one flow chart and not only input instructions to one computer, but the programmer could then take that same flow chart and input instructions into a different computer. Not only did the flow chart make it easier to input instructions to different computers, but it also allowed other coworkers to check on each of their work. The flow chart laid down the idea of a universal language for programming computers.

  4. avery

    One of the most important events in the history of computing was publishing of the ‘First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC’, a paper by John von Neumann, in which he attempted to put into words the logical design of a stored program computer. The report was published without the knowledge of the military, and this prevents the government from censoring the document. The circulation of the document in its purest form allows for it to inspire people. After reading the report Maurice Wilkes decided to embark on the journey that would lead to him building the world’s first stored program computer, the EDSAC. The report is also the cause of negative emotions, and legal action among the member of the ENIAC project, which has to be considered as a factor in the decisions of J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, to leave the Moore school and join private industry. These events subsequently lead to the formation of EMCC and the UNIVAC the first commercial computer in the United States, while the EDSAC inspires the LEO in Britain. For this reason the publishing of the report can be seen as one of the most important events as it acts as a catalyst for many of the events that follow.

  5. 2troger

    Since September 3rd, we have learned about many technical advances but one that stands out is the EDSAC. This computer included advanced memory storage for programming and data input and was the first practical memory storage computer. Built in 1949, the technology that went into this machine created a standard for all computers later which was its ability to be programmed without having to switch plugs around like with the ENIAC. This computer was ahead of its time, being developed recently after the war. This advance technically finished the required parts of a computer and allowed many companies to start modifying the size of these machines so that they were smaller, and lighter. This, of course, is not counting the advance of circuitry on boards , since we do not use vacuum tubes now.

  6. bshea3

    I believe that the idea of the von Neumann architecture is very important. For one, it’s a simple design, and in computing the simple solution is generally the best. The merger of data and program instructions was also very important. This allows programs to write other programs and brought about the invention of high level programming languages. Finally, in computing many things have changed over the past 60 years, but the main computer architectures are still based off of von Neumann’s

  7. Eduard Glantsman

    If one had to choose the most important computer-related advancement in the mid-20th century, one should consider the programming language COBOL. COBOL was one of the earliest programming languages and one of the first to incorporate Grace Hoppers vision, that programming should be done in English (or something like it) rather than machine code. The structure of COBOL allowed it to be portable; that is, usable on hardware not native to the writer of the program. This had enormous implications in the business world, as programs could be applied in multiple locations without the extra work of reprogramming computers at those locations; plug-and-play, at least partially. Additionally, its imperative programming style was adopted by Dennis Ritchie when he create C, thereby COBOL can be considered as an inspirational technological advancement which led to, what is perhaps, the creation of the the most widely used programming architecture in the world.

  8. Ropo Sanni

    Storage has advanced greatly since its conception. It has gone from punch cards, punch tapes, delay lines and several other methods to digital means of storage. Digital Storage provides capillaries through which information can be both obtained and archived in a progressively more efficient manner. As such, digital storage has created a new precedent for global awareness. People are more informed as a result of expedited methods to obtaining information. This more informed society has played a vital role in the advancement of the world in both concrete and abstract aspects. With the ability to store large amounts of information, people have become better at progressing in various aspects of life at exponential rate. It has also allowed for some sort of adding and subtracting in the sense that students and teachers can exchange information directly with each other over various platforms that use digital storage. A good example of this idea is the blog we use for class.

  9. Tully Mijatovic

    I think the most important technical advance we’ve learned about since the third of September is the compiler. Essentially, a compiler speeds programming and improves program portability by allowing the programmer to write the program at a much higher level, leaving it to the compiler to tell the machine exactly what to do at the machine code level. The key point I am trying to make about the compiler’s significance is portability, especially as it relates to video gaming, an ever more prominent and high-grossing industry. Video games are ubiquitous these days, from Angry Birds on your phone to Farmville in your browser to Call of Duty on Xbox 360/PS3/PC to Planescape: Torment on your PC. Everyone seems to play games, and so does every device they own. What what makes this possible? Game engines. With the notable exception of Minecraft, all modern video games I know of are written in an engine, because doing so speeds and cheapens the development process, which is good. Engines do this by writing much of the game’s code automatically, allowing developers to focus on gameplay and graphics, not why the game crashed during a routine test. But this is background information. The importance of compilers is they make programs portable. I am demonstrating their relevancy by stating their purpose to be parallel to that of game engines. In turn, game engines are relevant because they allow most of what goes on in the video gaming world to go on. In November 2011, The Telegraph stated since its start in 2003, the Call of Duty franchise had sold over 100 million copies. How is this possible? Call of Duty’s developers deliver a visceral, if shallow and monotonous, combat experience on every platform and they do it again each November, reaching a large audience with a large selection of games. How do they do that? They write the games in a an engine, which allows them to both: write a single game then port it to all platforms with minimal effort/cost, and simply make a new campaign storyline, throw in some different guns, record some new character dialogue, and call it the new Call of Duty.

    Link to The Telegraph article:

  10. Toshi

    The most important advancement during this time period, in my opinion, was the compiler. Developed by Grace Hopper, along with her A-0 (ARITH-MATIC) programming language, the compiler allowed computer programmers to type in human language-based code, rather than in binary. It checked for syntax errors and converted source code into executable machine code. This eliminated many hours of work typing out programs in zeroes and ones, as well as the frustrations of encountering errors during the execution of said programs. This helped not only speed along programming and technological advances, but also showed to the world that computer programming no longer has to be exclusive to the highly educated. Electronic computing was a fairly new concept in the 1950’s; not very many were familiar with it or even willing to learn how to use it. But with the creation of the compiler and the programming languages that came along with it, businesses and governments had an easier time grasping the knowledge of computing and using it to their advantage. From businesses, it trickled down to the masses. Classes were created to meet the demand for programming language-educated persons. The public was informed; the spread of computer programming has succeeded.

  11. Marie Hicks

    Great job, folks. Many of the things you chose to talk about are highlighted in this recent online exhibit from the Computer History Museum on “The Birth of the Computer”:

    Take a look while you’re studying for your midterm–it gives a good thematic and chronological overview and will help put things in perspective.

    Also, after the midterm, or if you need to take a study break, take a listen to this short, fascinating podcast on the use of high-speed pneumatic tube systems for sending information around cities in the days before we could rely fully on high-speed electric means of communication:

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