History of computing hardware

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The history of computing hardware is the record of the ongoing effort to make computer hardware faster, cheaper, and capable of storing more data.

Computing hardware evolved from machines that needed separate manual action to perform each arithmetic operation, to punched card machines, and then to stored program computers. The history of stored program computers relates first to computer architecture, that is, the organization of the units to perform input and output, to store data and to operate as an integrated mechanism (see block diagram to the right). Secondly, this is a history of the electronic components and mechanical devices that comprise these units. Finally, we describe the continuing integration of 21st century supercomputers, networks, personal devices, and integrated computers/communicators into many aspects of today's society. Increases in speed and memory capacity, and decreases in cost and size in relation to compute power, are major features of the history.

This article covers major developments in the history of computing hardware, and attempts to put them in context. For a detailed timeline of events, see the computing timeline article. The history of computing article treats methods intended for pen and paper, with or without the aid of tables. Since all computers rely on digital storage, and tend to be limited by the size and speed of memory, the history of computer data storage is tied to the development of computers.


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