Computer Science: A Brief History

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Here's a brief history of "computer science". Really it's a mix of hardware and software innovations over the years. This is from the back cover of Operating Systems Concepts, 4th Ed. by Silberschatz and Galvin.

Some interesting notes for those of you keeping score:

  1. Computer science has always been a progressive field. The first programmer, Ada Lovelace, was female.
  2. About the time I was busy being born, they had just invented the modern hard drive design. Today, something about half the size of a bar of soap can hold 500 megabytes of data. And the really expensive drives can put at least 100 megabytes of data on a drive platter the size of a half dollar. (And there was a point a 10 megabyte harddrive was the size of a briefcase, and they thought you'd never need to store more than 10 megs. Gee, they obviously didn't have Tie Fighter back then.)
  3. For all of you getting so very excited about the new "Information Superhighway" (and if I hear that one more time, I'm going to scream): It's already here, you're just now finding out about it. The rest of us call it the Internet; and it isn't new. It first started evolving way back in 1965 with ARPAnet, a Defense Department project. Another note, for those of you wanting censorship and control and all that... ARPAnet (and therefore Internet) was designed to ALWAYS get data through, even if large portions of it are wiped out, say, by nuclear war. You can't stop it, it was designed to be a free-form anarchy.
  4. Interesting thing to know: Digital logic (ie: processors) shrink by half every 3 years, and double in speed every 4. Memory and hard drive capacity quadruples every 3 years, and are 1.4x faster every 10 years. Pretty soon, re-writeable CD's will become commonplace, storing 650 megabytes per disk. (And yet, 8086's and tape drives still do useful things, and FORTRAN is written in columns because of punchcards.)

Last Updated: 10-15-95
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