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EARLYCOMPUTINGMACHINESANDTHEIRINVENTORS I. Practise reading the following words: aspect, automatic, conduct, transactions, virtually, impact, abacus, programmable, merchant, analog, wheel, refine, arithmetic, drawback, ...



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I. Practise reading the following words:

aspect, automatic, conduct, transactions, virtually, impact, abacus, programmable, merchant, analog, wheel, refine, arithmetic, drawback, allow, pattern, series, define, repeatedly, automatically, particularly, apply, purpose, analytical, engine, instruction, drawings, partly, mechanical, subtract, advances, function.

II. Before reading the text try to answer these questions:

1. What is a computer?

2. What parts does a computer consist of?

3. What is the role of computers in our lives?

III. Read and translate the following text.

Early computing machines and their inventors

Nothing characterizes modern life better than a computer that has infiltrated every aspect of our activities. Today computers do much more than simply compute: supermarket scanners calculate our bills, automatic teller machines allow to carry out bank transactions from almost any place in the world. To fully understand and appreciate the impact computers have on our lives and promises they hold for the future, it is important to understand their evolution.

The history of the modern computer begins with two separate technologies: calculations and programming. The abacus, which emerged about 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor may be considered the first computer. Early merchants used the abacus to keep trading transactions. But as the use of paper and pencil spread, particularly in Europe, the abacus lost its importance. The «castle clock», an astronomical clock created by Al-Jazari in 1206, is considered to be the earliest analog computer.

In 1642, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the 18-year-old son of a French tax collector, invented a numerical wheel calculator, a Pascaline, to help his father with his duties. The calculator was used to count money. During the next ten years, Pascal made fifty more machines.

In 1694, a German mathematician and philosopher, Gottfried Wilhem von Leibnitz (1646-1716), improved the Pascaline and created a machine that could multiply. Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar invented a machine that could perform four arithmetic operations and was widely used until the First World War. Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) played an important role in the development of the earliest programmable loom (the «Jacquard loom»), which was an important stage in the development of computers.

During the 1830s, an English mathematician Charles Babbage (1791-1871) developed the idea of a mechanical digital computer. The problem centered on applying the machine to the needs of mathematics. Babbage's first attempt at solving this problem was in 1822 when he proposed a machine (Difference Engine) to perform differential equations. After working on the machine for 10 years, Babbage was suddenly inspired to begin work on the first general-purpose computer, which he called the Analytical Engine. The basic design of the Analytical Engine included input devices in the form of punched cards containing operating instructions, a «store» for memory and output devices to produce printed results. Babbage's assistant, Augusta Ada King, (1815-1842) the daughter of Lord Byron, a famous English poet, created the instruction routines to be fed into the computer. She was the first computer programmer in the world. In 1979, a modern computer programming language was named ADA. Babbage borrowed the idea of punch cards to encode the machine's instructions from the Jacquard’s loom. In 1837, Charles Babbage was the first to design a fully programmable mechanical computer «The Analytical Engine». Because of limited finances, Babbage never built his machine.

In 1889, an American inventor, Herman Hollerith (1860-1929), also applied the Jacquard’s loom concept to computing. His first task was to find a faster way to compute the U.S. census because the previous census in 1880 took nearly seven years to count. With expanding population, the bureau feared it would take 10 years to count the latest census. Hollerith's method used cards to store data which he fed into a machine to compile the results mechanically. Instead of ten years, census takers compiled their results in just six weeks. Hollerith brought his punch card reader into the business world and founded Tabulating Machine Company in 1896. In 1924, after a series of mergers, it was called International Business Machine (IBM). Both business and government used punch cards for data processing until the 1960's.

Later on, several engineers made other significant advances. Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) developed a calculator for solving differential equations in 1931. The machine was cumbersome because hundreds of gears and shafts were required to represent numbers and their various relationships. To eliminate this problem, John V. Atanasoff, a professor at Iowa State College (now called Iowa State University) and his graduate student, Clifford Berry, envisioned a computer that applied Boolean algebra. This approach was based on the work of George Boole (1815-1864) who clarified the binary system of algebra. According to George Boole, any mathematical equation could be stated as either true or false. Based on George Boole’s concept, Atanasoff and Berry had developed the first electronic computer by 1940. Speaking about computers, one should mention the name of the famous scientist von Neumann. He described a computer architecture where data and program memory are mapped into the same address space. His architecture has become the de facto standard.

Early electronic computers were the size of a large room and consumed as much power as several hundred modern personal computers. Today, simple computers are small enough to fit into a watch and be powered from a watch battery. The most common form of computers used today are the embedded computers which are small simple devices used to control other devices, e.g. they may be found in machines ranging from aircraft to robots, digital cameras and toys.

The ability to store and execute lists of instructions differentiates computers from calculators. According to Alan Turing, any computer with minimum capabilities is, in principle, capable of performing the same tasks that any other computer can perform. Therefore, computers with capability and complexity ranging from a PDA to a supercomputer are able to perform the same computational tasks.

IV. Answer the following questions:

1. What computer applications are mentioned in the text?

2. Why did Blaise Pascal invent his machine?

3. What was the achievement of von Leibnitz?

4. Who invented machine that could perform four arithmetic operations?

5. Who used the Jacquard’s loom concept in computing?

6. What is the difference between a computer and calculator?

7. What is Herman Hollerith famous for?

8. Why was Bush's machine cumbersome?

V. Decide whether the following statements are true or false. It they are false, correct them.

  1.  Today computers do much more than simply compute.
  2.  The abacus is considered to be the first computer.
  3.  In 1642, Blaise Pascal invented the first calculator.
  4.  Babbage built the Analytical Engine.
  5.  The first devices that resemble modern computers date to the end of the 20th century.

VI. Which words in the text have the same meaning as:

influence, in the whole, compute, start, watch, assist, permit, offer, be able to, error, focus, requirement, do, information, look like.

VII. What do the following numbers in the text refer to?

5000; 1623; 1694; 1815; 1642; 1822; 1931; 1924; 1889; 1830's.

VIII. Form Past Simple and Participle II of the following verbs: 

to have, to keep, to understand, to hold, to lose, to invent, to clarify, to find, to state, to occupy, to feed, to give, to encode, to begin, to bring.

IX. Here are the answers. Make out the questions:

  1.  than the computer
  2.  history of modern computers
  3.  lost its importance
  4.  in 1642
  5.  until the First World War
  6.  to compute the U.S. Census
  7.  other significant advances.

X. Make a list of key words to retell the text.


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