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The Earliest Programmable Computers

November 27, 2012

By Ira Smolev

The predecessors of the computers we know today came about in the 1940s, though the first man to create a programmable computer, Konrad Zuse, was mostly ignored by his German countrymen. Zuse built his computer in 1941 and dubbed it the Z3. Used to design aircraft, it was nevertheless deemed unimportant to Germany’s future and not mourned when it was destroyed in an air raid.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, American researchers were developing a computer of their own. In 1944, they completed the Mark I, which remained intact. With this development, the field of computer programming blossomed. Programming pioneer Captain Grace Murray Hopper discovered that individual programmable commands could fit together to create longer strings of information, which proved important to the development of later programs.

At first, the people who wrote computer programs were academic specialists rather than computer specialists. Because of this, many early programs were able to achieve only one task and had little transferability. The trend toward widely usable programs started in the 1970s, as computers took on a more prominent role.

About Ira Smolev

After earning an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, Ira Smolev took a job as a Systems Engineer with IBM. In that capacity, Mr. Smolev developed a conversion utility program that IBM distributed widely to allow conversion to a newer computer model.

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