Abstract

1985 marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the first microcomputer in kit form in the USA. It is hard to believe that just over 40 years ago, the first computers were invented to crack secret message codes during the 2nd World War. These huge computers consisted of thousands of valves which essentially provided switches for on/off binary logic. The development of the transistor in 1948 led to the valve being replaced and started the miniaturization of computers. This miniaturization trend has continued since the 1950s, leading to the development of minicomputers in the 1970s and resulting today in a computer technology which allows over 100000 components to be etched onto a single chip of silicon less than l cm2. This is the microprocessor or computer on a chip and contains the equivalent of the many thousands of valves used in the earlier computers which occupied entire rooms. In a similar manner, the storage of digital information has undergone a revolution and it is common today to be able to store up to 1 Mbyte of information on one floppy disk. The advent of laser disks will, in the future, probably increase storage capacity by a factor of one million and the power of the new generation of super computers, such as the Cray, has led to problems being solved in microseconds rather than hours. These trends have resulted in faster precise processing of data and ready access to more reliable, smaller and cheaper computers with a greater capacity

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