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> History of Informatics Issue: 2008-1 Section: Math



Since their early existence, human beings have been inventing intelligent tools, in order to reduce the potential dangers of hunting (using of traps), in order to count time and the movements of the stars which were useful to long distance voyages. Moreover, man created machines to make calculations in his transactions or help him in any other use.

Humans created automatic machines, in order to make their daily lives easier.


Ancient Greece –automatic machines

Greek Arkitas Tarantinos constructed the first automatic machine, a wooden dove which was hanging from the edge of a stick and the whole system rotated with the help of compressed air. The desire to fly was intense in the ancient world, particularly in Greece, where gods were able to fly.

Do you happen to know that in ancient times in Greek mythology there was a giant made of copper, called Talos, who was guarding the Greek island, Crete, from the enemies? It was a robot guard invented by the ancient Greeks. The mythic giant had only one vein running from his neck to his heel.

Ιn the vein flowed a liquid called ihor (divine blood). Talos protected the island by throwing huge rocks at the foreign ships approaching.

Moreover, in 80 B.C., the Greek astronomer Iparkos constructed an astrolabe, called the mechanical device of Antikithira, a system of moving cogwheels. Its use was to predict the positions of the sun, moon and the other planets and the stars. In addition, the time was possible to be found with the help of the astrolabe, regardless of the time of the day.

The astrolabe was, in fact, a planetarium in miniature. However, not all the characteristics of this impressive device have been found.

Next, Iron, from Alexandria, was a great mathematician and engineer of the second century B.C. who described and developed many automated mechanisms, such as temple doors which opened and closed automatically before and after a sacrifice ceremony.

In order to avoid the hard and constantly repeated calculations human beings discovered two calculating machines: the abacus and the clepsydra.


An abacus found in Greece in 1846 is dated back to 3000 B.C. and is considered to be the oldest abacus ever found. With the discovery of the abacus the use of fingers for the calculations stopped. The discovery of the clepsydra gives a solution to the problem of calculating time. After the abacus there was an important development in calculating machines.

European renaissance-calculating machines

Napier was a Scottish mathematician who discovered the calculation of log. Around 1617, he invented a machine which performed multiplications using a series of bars. In 1623, Shickard invented a machine with cogwheels and called it the clock which calculates. This differed from the abacus (which performed additions and subtractions) and Napier’s machine, because it could save the results of the calculations.

In 1641, the French mathematician and philosopher Pascal invented a machine which performed additions and subtractions at the same time. His machine was also based on cogwheels, aiming to facilitate his father, who was a tax collector, to keep records of his accounts. In 1801, the engineer and weaver Jacquart using the binary code (0 and 1), built the first automatic loom, which could work on highly complex designs. The loom’s programming was based on many punch cards. Jumpers produced had patterns which were named Zakar after the patterns that Jacquart’s loom produced.


20th century - calculating machines

Herman Hollerith discovered model punched card, which he use in a machine he he designed to help him put in charts the results of an inventory. Punch cards were so important and useful that they were used till the ’80, as our teacher of Informatics told us.

In 1936, Konrand Zuse constructed the first binary, electromechanical computer of general use controlled by a program.

George Boole, Alan Turing and John Von Neuman played an important role in the development of the modern computers.

Eniac was the first electronic computer (first generation) and had approximately 18000 electronic lamps. Its size was that of a big room . The instructions for the performance of a certain program were given through the suitable placing of cables onto a board.

Later, this data and instructions were put in with the use of punch cards. Can you possibly imagine how and how many people handled this computer?

The discovery of the transistor, in 1947 (second generation) transformed the computer and made the revolution in micro-processors possible.

The computers of the third generation were constructed with integral circuits. They were of smaller size, they consumed smaller amounts of energy and they were compatible with each other.

The computers of the fourth generation were of an even smaller size, lower price and much greater abilities in comparison with the previous ones. In 1981, the IBM company presented the personal computer.

21st century– evolution of nanotechnology

The fifth generation computers have higher speed performance, processing power and artificial intelligence and are becoming smaller and smaller in size. Thus, nanotechnology is developed and provides computers for personal or professional use with little demand on processing data. They are the most popular computers nowadays with constantly increasing abilities.

These days, computers appear in every aspect of human activity, playing a considerable part in education, business and information. Computer evolution and informatics, in general, have improved and continue to improve more and more people’s living conditions.


The computers in our school

The computers are very popular in our school. Conducting a small research in two hundred students between 14-17 years of age, we found that all students have a P.C. Surfing the Internet is the most preferable use, with communication to follow. Listening to music and working on school projects are the next more popular uses of the P.C. Senior High School students prefer communication via the computer whereas Junior High School students prefer playing games on the P.C.

It appears that computers play an important role in young people’s lives. They are a new way of communication, entertainment, education, work. Can they be harmless?