Computers and electronics play an enormous role in today's society, impacting everything from communication and medicine to science.
Although computers are typically viewed as a modern invention involving electronics, computing predates the use of electrical devices. The ancient abacus was perhaps the first digital computing device. Analog computing dates back several millennia as primitive computing devices were used as early as the ancient Greeks and Romans, the most known complex of which being the Antikythera mechanism. Later devices such as the castle clock (1206), slide rule (c. 1624) and Babbage's Difference Engine (1822) are other examples of early mechanical analog computers.
The introduction of electric power in the 19th century led to the rise of electrical and hybrid electro-mechanical devices to carry out both digital (Hollerith punch-card machine) and analog (Bush’s differential analyzer) calculation. Telephone switching came to be based on this technology, which led to the development of machines that we would recognize as early computers.
The presentation of the Edison Effect in 1885 provided the theoretical background for electronic devices. Originally in the form of vacuum tubes, electronic components were rapidly integrated into electric devices, revolutionizing radio and later television. It was in computers however, where the full impact of electronics was felt. Analog computers used to calculate ballistics were crucial to the outcome of World War II, and the Colossus and the ENIAC, the two earliest electronic digital computers, were developed during the war.
With the invention of solid-state electronics, the transistor and ultimately the integrated circuit, computers would become much smaller and eventually affordable for the average consumer.
STARS articles are peer-reviewed articles on the history of major developments in technology. Available in the computers and information processing category are:
- Automation - The use of information technologies and control systems to reduce the need for human labor in the production of goods and services
- Circuitry - Included are topics which deal with the workings and issues dealing with circuitry, such as circuit noise, silicon on insulator technology and circuit synthesis
- Computational and artificial intelligence - Covers aspects dealing with artificial intelligence from a computational standpoint
- Computer applications - Various practical applications of computing such as computer aided design and telecommunications community
- Computer architecture - The inner workings of computers, including data structures, system buses and distributed computing
- Computer classes - Different kinds of computers, such as calculators, analog and digital computers.
- Computer networks - Topics dealing with networking, such as IP networks, multicasting and WAN.
- Computer science - The mathematical, algorithmic and scientific elements of computing are included here, such as algorithm analysis, programming and graph theory.
- Computing - Various types of computing such as high performance, mobile and optical computing
- Consumer electronics - Electronic devices designed for consumer purchases such as sound systems
- Contacts - Electrical contacts for joining electrical circuits
- Data systems - Topics dealing with systems that process data
- Digital systems - Systems like metropolitan area networks and token networks are covered under this category
- Distributed computing - All aspects of distributed computing including client-server systems, peer to peer computing and file servers are included in this category
- Electron devices - Electron devices and tubes such as cathode ray tubes, vacuum tubes and electron guns
- Electronic components - Topics pertaining to components such as capacitors, resistors, diodes and switches
- Electronic equipment manufacture - Various elements related to the manufacturing element of components, circuitry and devices are included in this category
- Filtering - Different types of filtering methods such as active, Bragg and harmonic filters
- High-speed electronics - Includes integrated circuits, networks, and Ultrafast electronics.
- Image processing - Topics relating to processing of computer images
- Imaging - Devices which display an object's outward appearance
- Industrial electronics - Power electronics used in an industrial setting
- Information display - Electronic and liquid screens and displays
- Information theory - The processing of information via the use of applied mathematics and electrical engineering
- Integrated circuits - One of the 20th century's largest breakthroughs in electronics, integrated circuits paved the way for miniaturized electronics
- Logic devices - Logic gates and arrays are among the concepts which provide a foundation for digital circuits
- Memory - Computer memory such as analog memory, flash memory and read only memory are included
- Multitasking - Multitasking is the act of performing two or more tasks at the same time
- Open systems - Computer systems which provide a platform of interoperability
- Oscillators - Various kinds of oscillators and their applications related to electric devices
- Pattern recognition - Methods of using computers to recognize patterns such as character recognition, data mining and text recognition
- Pervasive computing - A ubiquitous computing model in which information processing is integrated with common objects
- Sensors - A sensor is a measurement device which produces a readable signal
- Software & software engineering - Topics dealing with various elements of software and its design
- Solid state circuits - Devices composed of a solid material where the flow of electronics is confined to the solid material
- System recovery - Various aspects of system recovery and backup such as core dumps and debugging
- Thermal management of electronics - Topics dealing with heat in electronics
- Tunable circuits and devices - Topics dealing with circuits and devices which may be tuned such as RLC circuits