• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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WOZ: The core of cutting edge computing


Information technology, electronic engineering and science have all reached very advance stages in the world today in truly startling ways; so much that yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality and a peek into tomorrow’s futuristic concept invention which makes dreaming seem like a noble profession.

The smallest micro-chip and the largest of machines have something in common: both exude engineering genius.

From bulky desktops, to laptops, and then petite handheld devices, technology has continued to evolve, taking quantum leaps with the invention of the first mechanical computer by Charles Babbage whose ingenuity led to the invention of the design now described as the essential framework of computers of today. Building on Babbage’s ideas, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry produced the first generation of electronic digital computers called the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) in 1942. Even though it still required some work, it was completely functional.

While it was smaller than other computers of the time period, it was also the first to use capacitors for storage, as in current RAM, and was capable of performing 30 simultaneous operations but it also featured 300 vacuum tubes for control and arithmetic calculations, use of binary numbers, logic operations (instead of direct counting), and the storage mechanism, a paper card writer/reader, was unreliable.

Growth and development continued to herald the design of the computer with the birth of the world’s first general purpose computer, Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). The methods and technology developed for the ABC were later used to construct the ENIAC, although it was a better calculating machine, it covered 1800 square feet (167 square meters) of floor space, weighed 30,000kg, consumed 160 kilowatts of electrical power, it could only perform single tasks, and had no operating system.

With each generation came either a new and improved version or an improvement to the existing computer with one major aim, to create not just a storage device but a portable machine that could organised, and preserve large data for years to come.

The invention of integrated circuit moved the evolution to the next generation of computers. By 1963, with this invention, computers became smaller, more powerful more reliable and were able to run many different programs at the same time.

Who would have imagined that a chance meeting between Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs would explode in creative juices that have today produced just what the founding fathers of computing technology could only dream? The explosion of personal computers occurred in the early 1970s with the exhibition of Apple II at the First West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. Wozniak, an American computer engineer, and co-founder of Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) has his inventions and machines credited to this feat.

Not only did Wozniak create the Apple I and Apple II computers both in the mid-1970s, the Apple II rapidly gained huge fame, eventually becoming one of the best selling personal computers of the 1970s and early 1980s. Wozniak singlehandedly designed the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for Apple 1. On June 29, 1975 Wozniak made computer history when via his creation, a character displayed on a TV screen was generated by a home computer.

Wozniak alongside his partner, Jobs has been credited with revolutionizing technology by creating smaller, cheaper computers giving rise to the BYOD policy which translates to “Bring Your Own Device”. The BYOD policy perils the use of personal devices such as PCs and smart phones to access privileged information in places that hitherto, such personal devices were prohibited.

While Wozniak was still working for Hewlett-Packard, he spent his nights improving Apple I, and Jobs figured out how to market it.

 He designed all its hardware and software—an extraordinary feat even for the time.

And what’s more, he did it all while working at his day job at Hewlett-Packard.

The Apple II was the machine that brought computers onto the desks of ordinary people with its miraculous designs. It became one of the most popular computers ever. Though it was a vast improvement over Apple 1, it contained the same processor and ran at the same speed.

Muola Awolowo