Information technology, a term which was quite rare in the earlier centuries, is a term used to refer to the use of computers and software’s to manage information. This stirs up the question of when and how the computers and information technology begun. This paper therefore seeks to show the origin of computers, information technology and how some world views influenced the development of information technology.
In computing the history of information technology it is important to understand that the evolution of this area played a significant role in the invention of computers. There may not be a clear cut date of the evolution of computers, however, it is possible to back track and trace when and how they evolved. The evolution of computers is linked to the earlier devices used in calculations such as: abacus- this was used by the Egyptians, Asians, Romans and the Greeks. Key punch key to disk systems- this was built upon by IBM in the 1990’s, Calculators- these were the first mechanical ones and they were built by a German known as Wilhelm Schickard, and Slide rules- this was developed in 1922 by William Oughtred. The above mentioned qualify to be termed as information technology (Aspray & Campbell, 2004).
As time passed by and more inventions came up, devices advanced in their use from that of calculations to data collection in astronomy and they were also used in mechanical equipments to increase production as industrialization also evolved. In the1940’s, there was the development of what may be recognized as a computer (K Alliance, 2005). This “computer” functioned with the use of binary and decimal numerical systems though not all of them were programmable logic controlled. Memory storage was developed in 1941 by Zuse a German, EDSAC and the U.S military “ENIAC” among other new designs in these kinds of computers.
Computers had undergone some transformation by the 1970’s from vacuum tube technology to microprocessor circuitry. This was also accompanied by smaller sized hardware’s that required less space as it was the case in the past, where they were room sized computers.
The evolution of computers was also accompanied by the change in programmability and program language. The program languages began with the Fortran, which was used in the 1970’s to transfer data to magnetic cards, this facilitated easier and faster transfer of data collection. Pascal was another type of language that was largely used during that period. There was gradual change in the computers and the program languages by the late 1980’s; by this time they had some sophistication in them, and the ability of these computers to store huge amounts of data led to the development of larger memory storage up to the current gigabytes and terabytes.
Charles Babbage was also a polymath just like Lull, Pascal, and Schickard. He created an analytical engine which had more capabilities than Pascalian and Schickardian calculator. The machine by Babbage was capable of data storage and manipulation by the use of in built operations; these operations were similar to the character of computer programs in use today. Babbage’s machine is considered the first of automatic computers made by humans. This machine was however never made due to lack of funding. Babbage’s works on the analytical machine were however inspired by several things; one of this was his enquiring mind. Babbage was very inquisitive even of his own faith, in one instance he summoned the devil to appear so that he could confirm with the devil what the Bible said of him.
In the development of Information Technology, there were a number of factors that influenced its development in one aspect or the other. In quite a number of instances, as human beings our views on various issues are highly intertwined with the beliefs we have. A simple question will have different answers and this is because of the difference in opinion which is influenced by our different philosophies of life. Roman lull, a polymath who believed that theology could only be pursued in the context of missionary endeavors argued that ne methods had to be evolved so as to accomplish this mission. Lull’s art entailed the use of a combination of exhaustive interrelating combinations of divine qualities to solve theological problems. His method was therefore that of finding the possible proposition to a given subject and for the verification of the truth or falsehood. This assessment process had a combinatory nature involved the use of complex semi mechanical techniques and the symbolic notation of its alphabet. These features have qualified his art to be classified among the pioneers of both modern symbolic logic and the history of computing. Babbage on his part believed in proving things that had been previously assumed to be true. Babbage discounted the world view that there was a higher form of evidence other than that shown by mathematics. This belief by Babbage led to his success as compared to other scholars of his time.
Wilhelm Schickard, a name that cannot go unmentioned in the history of computers and information technology was a Christian who studied theology and oriental languages. He was a Lutheran minister until he was made a Hebrew professor at the University of Tubingen. From his life history it is clear that he was a Christian who believed in the Christian philosophy and therefore it may have been a shaping factor in his drive to invent the calculating machine.
Pascal, a roman catholic who was deeply committed to the Augustinian theology and at some point was regarded as a protestant. He had not intended for his celebrated wager to b used as an intermediary in witnessing to non- Christian and not as a final profile of any kind. Pascal followed the wager in the argument of non- Christian solutions to the human dilemma which was greatly influenced by the biblical principles where for example Christ was a solution to mankind being saved and there were witnesses to this fact. Pascal invented a calculating machine that was referred to as “ la pascaline” and its operation was based on the Schickard invention but with some modifications which had a mechanism of falling weights as opposed to long chain gears used by Schickard.
Information technology which has had a goal of reducing information fraud, advancing information technology and increasing interactions has experienced a number of challenges in its evolution. In the year 2001 there were suspicions of the emergence of negative perceptions of information technology whereby questions such as why is information technology not advancing? Why haven’t organizations experienced the benefits of information technology? These are a few of the issues experienced in information technology and the history of computing and the various life views that had a role to play in their evolution.
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K Alliance (2005) “History of information technology” LLC