Demirdjian, Z. S.

                           California State University, Long Beach

                                         Tel. (562) 985-4764 Fax. (562) 985-5543
It has been oftentimes hackneyed that Rome was not built in a day, so was not the invention of the personal computer by a single stroke of genius. The personal computer, like Rome, has evolved into being a potent and a pervasive machine from humble beginnings. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is no one single person who could be called the father of PC, but rather a number of inventors who toyed and others scrabbled with esoteric contraptions which had, by today's standards, the genetic potential of the larva and the speed of the snail. The PC had to undergo many, albeit short, metamorphoses. A spellbindingly beautiful butterfly finally hatched. The confluence of the pioneering works of a community of early inventors have finally engineered the infrastructure for today's modern information superhighway. A salutary account of these early pioneers are presented in this study to demystify the origins of the PC to those students and others who consider one or two individuals are the bona fide fathers of the innovation.
Although the Personal Computer (PC) has a relatively very short history, many take it for granted that it was invented in Silicone Valley. A survey of 220 students has substantiated this assumption. An exploratory survey study has indicated disconcerting findings. Over ninety percent (90%) of the students queried think that the PC was the product of the 1980s and only a handful could identify Charles Babbage or Vannevar Bush as inventors of the computer. While such beliefs are harmless, it distorts the genealogical record of an invention, which is touching virtually every aspect of our personal, social, and professional lives. Our students should learn that the PC was a toy or a miniature version of the mainframe computer mutated into the ultimate desktop information processing machine.
Did it take a village to conceive the personal computer? Or was there a single father of the PC? A review of the literature failed to disclose of any definitive work done on the pedigree of the PC spanning from the beginning to the present time on the machine that ushered in the powerful information revolution. It did, however produce some conflicting views: some contend that the PC was invented in the 1980s; while others, like Bill Gates, gives the credit to Vannevar Bush's invention in 1940s as being the "•riginal Internet PC." Phlipson (2002) aptly reminds us that "Too many people ignore the history of the computer industry. It is as fascinating, or even more so, than the history of any other aspect of humanity." Understanding the true background history of the PC would make students as well as scholars appreciate its development into an inseparably integral part of our daily lives around the globe. Also, for fairness sake, credit should be given to those who have actually earned it through their own innovations rather than by their enterprising business talents alone.
Chronological history listing of the computers is daunting. Students would abandon ship at their mere sights. The main purpose of this paper is, therefore, to build a simple, uncluttered "family tree" of the PC and thus give a brief window on the conception, development, and growth of the PC by its most important trailblazers whose contributions have been groundbreaking. First, the early "tinkers" of computers are presented. Secondly, the entrepreneurs and the improvisers of 1970s are discussed, followed by an introduction to the tycoon builders of the best sellers of 1980s. Finally, some recommendations are made to create student awareness and knowledge of the progenitors of the PC.
The computers that we use today came into being after a long journey. The voyage started in about 3000 B.C. with the invention of the abacus in Babylonia (Pullan 1969). It proceeded through the development of the vacuum tubes, transistors, integrated circuits, microprocessors and countless other inventions until the computer of today. The abacus, palpable of the presence of the past, is still used in Asia. Although there were other inventions between the abacus and the early computer such as the Mechanical Calculator of Leonardo da Vinci, the Arithmetic Machine of Blaise Pascal (Payen 1963), and the first punch cards for storing data by Joseph-Marie Jacquard (Augarten 1984), Charles Babbage and Vannevar Bush's inventions standout as creative landmarks.
Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871) has been a multitalented person during the Industrial Revolution in England. Babbage's greatest achievement was his detailed plans for Calculating Engines, both the table-making Difference Engines and the far more ambitious Analytical Engines. The latter were flexible and powerful, punched card controlled, general-purpose calculators, possessing many features which later appeared in the modern stored program computer. Some of these features included punched card control, separate store and mill, a set of internal registers, fast multiplier/divider, a range of peripherals, and even array processing. Babbage's invention, albeit crude and clumsy, marks the serious beginnings of the computer (Augarten 1984).
According to Hyman (1982), Babbage's plans first served as a muse to other inventors for the planned devices were not built yet. Some twenty-five years ago, Anthony Hyman and Maurice Trask (Hyman 1989) carefully investigated the question and concluded that Babbage's Engines would have been quite possible. Allan Bromley (Phlipson 2002) built a complete version of DE2 (Difference Engine). The result was a triumphant success, vindicating Babbage's work as being a valid invention designed to advance our computing needs. Thus, Babbage deservedly earned the title of being the "father" of the computer (Hyman 1989)
Another illustrious "tinker" is Dr. Vannevar Bush who invented the "memex" machine in 1945. According to Gates (1999), the idea of an information-producing tool is not a new one. It goes back to Dr. Bush, Director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. Dr. Bush predicted the development of a device in which one could store all one's books, records, and communications and call up the data on a screen. Although Bush's memex is a big physical desk and microfilm storage operated by physical levers, it was a new device that stored and organized all our information.
Because of his machine, Bush described (in the mechanistic terms of 1945 technology) the multimedia PC connected to the Web. He even went so far to predict the equivalent of Internet search engines. Therefore, Dr. Bush's memex, though based on the microfiche technology of the 1940s, anticipated correctly the idea of a PC connected to the Internet. He further maintained that such connectivity would enable one to hold vast amounts of data and use links to connect all information related to a topic. Today, Forcier and Descy (2002) hail the computer as an educational tool for productivity and problem solving. Owning to his insights, Dr. Bush has been dubbed as the Godfather of the PC (Gates 1999).
Both Charles Babbage and Vannevar Bush's inventions have been fertile spawning grounds for new ideas and concepts for many years. Amazingly enough, their inventions had embodied most of the features that are found today on the Personal Computers of the young entrepreneurs and the improvisers of 1970s.

Although Charles Babbage and Vannevar Bush are considered to be the true pioneers of the computer, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs are the Young Turks who made it possible to market the personal computer by improvising on the large and clumsy machines of yesteryears.
Gold (1994) called Steve Wozniak the "Wizard of Woz" for single-handedly designing an entire personal computer (i.e., Apple 1). Later, he also designed the Apple 11 and wrote the software to make it run. Legend has it that it was not the money he was after since there was no fortunes to be made in personal computers in the mid-1970s. Endowed with boundless intellect and curiosity, Wozniak designed his computer from passion, anxious to see how well he could achieve his plans. His overriding belief as a design engineer, while still at Hewlett Packard at that time, was that "simple and cheaper" is better. As a result, he started with the cheapest chips he could find, and a $20 microprocessor for the brain, he built an affordable personal computer. Thus, he became known as the "Genius of Apple." He is still "fathering" the personal computer revolution.
While Steve Wozniak is the brain behind the PC, Steve Jobs is the master of entrepreneurship. In 1976, Steve Jobs at 21 and Steve Wozniak at 26 founded the Apple Computer Company in the Jobs' family garage. Jobs was instrumental in making the company go public at $22 a share, making the partners instant millionaires. Carlton and Kawasaki (1997) wrote that within five years The Apple Company's sales rose to $300 million, a feat of a record which catapulted the fledgling company into the ranks of the Fortune 500.
Being marketing oriented, two years after building the Apple I, Jobs introduced the Apple H, which was considered the best buy for home and small business use. Having a sense for market segmentation, he later in 1984 introduced Macintosh which was marketed towards medium and large businesses. With the engineering talents of Wozniak and the entrepreneurial leadership of Jobs, the personal computer went through many changes until 1985 when Wosniak resigned and thus paved the road to the company's decline. According to Cringely (1996), without Steve Wozniak's passion for electronic gadgets and without Steve Jobs market orientation, the PC would not have gained dominance in the classroom, at home, at the office, and with the government agencies. Augarten (1984) declared that the invention of the computer was one of the greatest achievements of the 20" century, "...but, it wasn't until the development of the personal computer in mid-1970s that the magnificent promise inherent in this machine was fulfilled."
With the Intel's constant improvement in the microprocessors, the personal computer became more and more attractive for its growing household, research, and business users. Although the acceptance of the personal computer was increasing, the curve was not moving upward at an increasing rate (Roblyer 1992). The PC was not yet friendly to millions of people for it required verbal commands to operate it. With Bill Gates' operating system (i.e., Windows), the popularity of the PC soared.
Bill Gates is at the center stage of the PC revolution. The world has seen a computer revolution in the last two decades. The crusader of this happening has been Bill Gates. He is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, the largest software producer in the world. Because of his talents and diligence, Bill Gates has become a billionaire at the age of thirty-one, making him the youngest person ever to achieve this feat of accomplishment. With his invention of Windows operating system, the PC is now cable of carrying out many tasks with ease and high speed.
While Bill Gates made PC popular with the general public, Larry Ellison has become a crusader in the revolution of business programs for success. Ellison has been CEO of Oracle Corporation since he founded the company in 1977. He has succeeded in making Oracle the world's leading supplier of software for information management and the world's second largest independent software company. Although Oracle now is stuck in the doldrums, the company under the leadership of its CEO made applications programs popular with all kinds of business firms. His ambition and talents enabled him to build an empire in the information technology industry. His company's innovative softwares, have made the computer popular for business use ever since Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs had marketed the streamlined computer known today as the desktop PC.
Currently, Ellison is doing his best to make things better for customers. The hosting alternative eliminates headaches for customers. Currently, he is promoting a new database technology called "rapid application
clustering." The big idea behind this application is that a bunch of databases can run on smaller computers and act like one big database. It has been promoted as less expensive because it runs on smaller, cheaper computers. The system is more dependable since if one computer conks out, the others keep running. He always had many software inventions up his sleeves to render the PC more productive and user-friendly.
Based on our preceding explorations of the developments in the invention of the computer, it would be safe to conclude that it did take a village to create the personal computer "bit by bit." In essence though, the kudos go to only a handful of resourceful individuals who took quantum leaps to make it possible for us to enjoy today a tool which is pervasively used in our daily personal, social, and professional lives. Therefore, presenting the PC pioneers would be uncomplicated as is listed in Table 1.
By distilling the long list of inventors into a few outstanding movers and shakers who have played pivotal roles in ushering in the information revolution, Charles Babbage has been ranked as the undisputed father of the computer. On the other hand, Vannevar Bush has been dubbed as the godfather of the PC since his memex machine was small like today's desktop computer and it had many features of the present PC. Since Steve Wozniak conceived and produced an affordable and a practical PC, he has been hailed as the "Wizard of Woz" for fathering the practical PC. Unlike Steve Wozniak, an engineer by profession, Steve Jobs' contribution lay in his entrepreneurial talents of getting the "practical" PC to the market. Bill Gates' operating system has revolutionized the PC and made it largely a user-friendly tool; therefore, he has eared the distinction of being the father of the computer operating system. In many ways, Larry Ellison has contributed, like Bill Gates, to the use of the computer largely by business firms by providing them with management information software. Ellison, therefore, has been called the father of the business application programs.
Table 1
CHARLES BABBAGE - The Father of the Computer
VANNEVAR BUSH - The Godfather of the PC
STEVE WOZNIAK - The Father of the Practical PC
STEVE JOBS- The Step-Father (!?)* of the Apple PCs
BILL GATES - The Father of the Operating System
LARRY ELLISON - The Father of the Business Programs
*Steve Jobs is considered to be more of an entrepreneurial genius than an accomplished inventor.
Heroes of the personal computer revolution such as Vannevar Bush, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and others have made the personal computer possible. Their stories, especially the inclusion of their successes other than their inventions, would also interest students a great deal. For example, the phenomenal success of Bill Gates would be a source of inspiration to young minds everywhere in the world.

History is the foundation of our understanding the culture of technology. No understanding of the present can be complete without an understanding of the past. Only by examining the history of an invention can we make sense out of its modern usage and far-reaching influence on our culture. Throughout the history of a technology, one finds that many people may have contributed to the culmination of a final product. While a lengthy discussion may bore students, highlighting the major players in the invention of the PC would be interesting as well as educational as each inventor in Table 2 was discussed briefly.
Table 2
A. Babbage: The Clumsy Calculating Machine B. Vannevar Bush: The Original Internet PC
A. Steve Wozniak: Conceiving the Practical PC. B. Steve Jobs: The Entrepreneurial Passion Behind the PC
A. Bill Gates: Creating the Operating System for the PC B. Larry Ellison: Business Programs for Success
Like the wheel, almost every human endeavor has benefited from the invention of the PC. As educators, we need to provide our students with the provenance surrounding the early inventions in an attempt to increase their appreciation and understanding of the omnipresent PC. In exploring inventions, often the makers are more interesting than their machines. The idea is, therefore, to present students with a small dosage of history of the PC pioneers, lest we bore them with too many smaller inventors and with two many minor, tangential inventions. Thus, to avoid the incidence of information overload, which is usually dreaded by students as the plague, Table 2 highlights only the major pioneers and their greatest contributions to the creation of the computer, which is clearly the most influential invention of all time.
Although the PC is still in its infancy, the promises of this technology outweighs head and shoulders above its present accomplishments as is astutely captured in the following remark:
Technology is reshaping this economy and transforming businesses and consumers. This is about more than e-commerce, or e-mail, or e-trades, or e-files. It is about the "e" in economic opportunity.
--William M. Daley, Former U.S. Commerce Secretary

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