Event 84

Beginning 1937 AD

09 084 001eniac
The ENIAC,the first general-purpose electronic computer. The photo shows Corporal Irwin Goldstein setting the switches for this ENIAC at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. U.S. Army photo, 1946.
Credit: U.S. Army Photo, Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Most of us living in the U.S. today can hardly imagine a world without the computer – The one on our desktop, or the laptop or notebook we carry around with us, perhaps the smart phone we carry in our pocket or purse, or even the small computer tucked away in our mp3 player or Ipod. Such electronic computers are all around us today, but go back about 70 years ago to the early 1940s, they were just getting their start. The first modern computer was invented by Geoge Stibitz of Bell Labs, who put it together at his kitchen table and named it “Model K.” And you wouldn’t believe what the early computers of the 1940s looked like – they were huge, room-size monsters that gobbled up loads of energy to make fairly simple calculations. At first they used vaccum tubes for their electronics, which were replaced by the much smaller transitors by the 1960s, and then by the extremely small but complex integrated circuits by the 1970s, when microprocessors took over as the central processor for computers.

09 084 002transistorradio
A very early transistor radio built by RCA Victor in the mid-1950’s.
Credit: Photo by Kathy Schick, courtesy of the Stone Age Institute. All rights reserved.

The miniature integrated circuits in modern computers are sometimes called ‘silicon chips,’ and are made up of a very small piece of very thin silicon in which millions of transistors and other electronic components have been imbedded and linked together. These chips have become increasingly dense and packed with transistors over the years (following “Moore’s Law,” which predicted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a chip would double every two years), with ever more complex layering and connections between layers. This transformation of our technology has sometimes been called the “microchip revolution.”







09 084 003earlyapplecomputer
An early version of the Apple computer.
Credit: Photo by Kathy Schick, courtesy of the Stone Age Institute. All rights reserved.


Integrated circuits or silicon chips are imbedded in the things around us we use every day – not just our computers, but our cell phones, and all of our digital appliances. The microchip revolution has transformed our world drastically in an unbelievably short time – not only in our computers, but also communications, transportation (planes, trains and automobiles), our factories, GPS technology, our toys and entertainment, and the internet. It is hard to imagine world anymore without the lowly silicon chip.







This is a really good overview of early transistors, computers, radios, and circuits.

This is Computer Museum website that shows a timescale of events with links to more information.

This is a site detailing the month leading up to the invention and release of the first transistor.  

YouTube video about “How Transisters Work.”

This is visual video by Intel, “From to Silicon: the making of a chip.”

This is a 7-minute video, “How Computers and Binary Work.”

This video is about the binary code, “How Binary Code Works.”
This video was produced in 1990, “How Computers Work:  journey into the walk-through computer”



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