Our world is built on technology.
Do you want to know how it works?
Throughout history, from the abacus...
to the microprocessor…
technology is advancing faster than ever as people dedicate their lives to solving problems – pushing the boundaries of knowledge to shape our world.
Over 2,000 years ago, the first known example of an analogue computer was developed. Known as the Antikythera mechanism, after the island of Antikythera where its remains were discovered in a shipwreck in 1901, it was designed to perform a calculation mechanically.
Even though it didn't come close to modern computational ability, the device is thought to have contained complex gear mechanisms that could calculate the positions of celestial bodies at a level of engineering complexity not seen again for 1,000 years.
Greek engineer Hero's automatic theatre and programmable cart could perhaps be the first documented example of a reprogrammable robot and self driving vehicle. A cord pulled by weights, and wrapped around two wheel axles could also be looped around pegs to change a wheel's direction and determine a pre-programmed path for it to follow.
Ismail Al-Jazari's castle clock is thought to be the first example of a programmable analogue computer. It combined clockwork calculation with intricate automated movement, and featured the ability to be re-programmed.
An inventor and clockmaker, Ismail Al-Jazari produced a number of complex robotic clocks and automata during this lifetime.
france / germany
Blaise Pascal (France) invented a mechanical calculator in the mid 17th century. Gottfried Leibniz (Germany) designed some improvements to this calculator, and studied a field of mathematics called "universal combinatorics”.
Perhaps the first “theoretical computer scientist”, Leibniz’s work appears to have been the first attempt to formally symbolise logic and describe how computation can be performed using binary.
Joseph Jacquard invented a machine that could read from a chain of punch cards to automatically control the operation of a loom to change a woven pattern. The use of replaceable punch cards for programming, data entry and automation later became the norm in computing, remaining in use up until the mid 1980s.
The Analytical Engine was a machine proposed by English mathematician Charles Babbage. He had previously designed a large mechanical calculating machine called a Difference Engine, but wanted to explore the concept of a machine which could be described as a general purpose computer, a concept we now call “Turing complete”. If it had actually been built, it would have been the first ever machine capable of performing all the same basic computations as a modern-day computer (only slower), but he never finished building it.
English mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace had become interested in the Analytical Engine and was translating a paper describing it written by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea. She annotated this paper with a description of how to program the machine to perform an algorithm calculating Bernoulli numbers, making it the first published complex computer program.
English mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing published perhaps the most influential paper on computer science which described a theoretical machine that could compute any conceivable mathematical calculation represented as an algorithm.
Turing went on to prove that a mathematical problem called the “Entscheidungsproblem”, first proposed by Leibniz, had no solution. At the same time, an American mathematician Alonzo Church came to similar conclusions using a different method, and the two approaches were later shown to be equivalent. This was the first time a definition of “universal computation” was formalised.
Mathematicians worked on theoretical computer science problems throughout the 1800s, with the invention of the “logic gate” appearing at the turn of the century. This led to the development of the Z3, which used electromechanical relays to implement logic gates.
The Z3 was a computer designed by Konrad Zuse in 1935, and completed in 1941 (Berlin). It was the world's first working, programmable, fully automatic, digital computer and was programmed using the first real computer programming language, “Plankalkül”. This machine was later shown to be capable of the universal computation described by Alan Turing.
Colossus was a set of computers developed by the British in the years 1943–1945 to help break German codes during WW2. Together they are regarded as the world's first programmable, electronic, digital computer, but their existence was kept secret until the 1970s. In 1945 another electronic, digital computer called ENIAC was built by the United States Army for general-purpose research use.
This was followed by the EDVAC computer, which computer scientist John von Neumann worked on to produce the first “stored-program computer”. Variations of von Neumann’s designs are still used in modern-day computers.
The most significant development in the 1950s and 1960s was the development and use of the transistor in computing technology. Previous electronic computers used vacuum tubes as one of the main components, which were large and consumed a lot of power. The resulting computers were very large - the size of a room.
The introduction of the transistor meant that the same functionality could be achieved with a much smaller device, using much less power. This led to significant improvements and miniaturised computer circuit boards. In the 1960s, transistors were made even smaller with the development of integrated circuits (or “chips”).
In 1971 Intel released the first commercially available microprocessor, a computer processor contained on a single integrated circuit (or “chip”). This soon led to the development of Kenbak-1, the world’s first “personal computer”, followed by the Apple II, PET2001, and TRS-80 computers in 1977, which were made available as consumer products.
Three Proud Parents: Posing during induction ceremonies for the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1996, Federico Faggin, Marcian “Ted” Hoff Jr., and Stanley Mazor [from left] show off the pioneering microprocessor they created in the early 1970s, the Intel 4004.
With significant computing power now commonly available, the 1980s saw a boom in the study of artificial intelligence. Much of this effort focused on “expert systems”, computer programs which can learn from human experts in order to automatically make similar decisions.
In the 1970s the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense had built a network of computers called ARPANET which let computers communicate with each other via “packet switching”.
By the 1980s the National Science Foundation had adapted this technology to connect supercomputers across several centres across the United States. This network, called the NSFNET, created the beginnings of the Internet.
This was no ordinary game of chess. In 1997 an IBM supercomputer called Deep Blue played against world champion Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. Deep Blue won, marking the first defeat of a reigning world chess champion by a computer under tournament conditions.
Kasparov argued that the computer must actually have been controlled by a real grand master. He and his supporters believed that Deep Blue’s playing was too human to be that of a machine.
It appeared that artificial intelligence had reached a stage where it could outsmart humanity – at least at a game that had long been considered too complex for a machine.
The Google story begins in 1995 at Stanford University. Larry Page was considering Stanford for grad school and Sergey Brin, a student there, was assigned to show him around.
Working from their dorm rooms, they built a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web.
Originally called Backrub (and thankfully later changed to Google), the search engine caught the attention of not only the academic community, but Silicon Valley investors as well. In August 1998, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote Larry and Sergey a check for $100,000, and Google Inc. was officially born.
SEOUL, South korea