What is a Computer

‘An electronic device which is capable of receiving information and of performing a sequence of operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of procedural instructions to produce a result in the form of useful information’

This is the modern definition of a computer. But, it was not always the case.

 

Before the modern computers came into picture, the question ‘what is a computer‘, yielded a very different answer.  

The Human Computers

In Latin, the word ‘Computer‘ meant ‘Somebody who does math‘.

Latin: Computare: to count.

So, the world’s first computers were.. Mathematicians!

Indian Mathematicians

Indian Mathematicians

Math was an interesting subject even in ancient times. It is called as the language of Gods because anything in this universe can be described in this language.  

 

European Mathematicians

European Mathematicians

European mathematicians further advanced mathematics in early 16th and 17 centuries. 

 

People started doing specific math related to orbital mechanics, because they were curious about the things they were discovering:

Mathematicians were interested in orbital mechanics

Mathematicians were interested in orbital mechanics

 

Newton invents calculus to prove his gravitational theories: 

Newton, Leibniz and their Calculus for Gravitional theories

Newton, Leibniz and their Calculus for Gravitional theories

 

Calculus and trigonometry stitched together with algebra were describing the higher mathematical abstractions of physical concepts.

And then came, these guys:

Getting it down to basic math

Getting it down to basic math!

 

Euler and Taylor invented the ways to brake down complex math into a series of expansions – in the form of basic addition and multiplications.

 

This showed the world that any complex math can be calculated using just addition and multiplication. This was a pivotal invention in the field of mathematics. 

 

A little trivia about Halley’s Comet:

Halley's comet orbiital prediction

Halley’s comet orbital prediction

 

This trend of human computers followed through the early 19th century as well. 

In 1890, this is how a person became a computer by writing a math exam:

Computer Exam in 1890

Computer Exam in 1890

 

And, this is how a room full of computers looked like in 1920. 

Room full of Computers in 1920

Room full of Computers in 1920

 

So the Conclusion that we draw from all this is:

“Computers do Math”