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Publication Title | The History of Information Processing

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1 The History of Information Processing

G. Jahns

Abstract. Life without information processing is virtually impossible. Every living organism has the ability to receive information, to process it and to react. Humans used technical means to communicate and to process information very early on. The development of these means first began slowly and sped up dramatically in the past few decades and now includes almost all areas of human dealings so that some scien- tists are already discussing the possibility that humans will become superfluous through their own development. In this chapter, the significant aspects of the devel- opment of information processing technology will be sketched and a short overview of its possible further development and its limits will be given.

Keywords. Information, Information processing, Numbers, Script, Computer, Proc- essors, Memory, Networks, History.

1.1.1 Introduction

Today, information processing permeates all areas of our daily life. The overview of its history can thus only be presented in a spotlight manner and should above all encourage readers to seek out more detailed literature. The Internet offers a further rich and easily accessible source of information.

Today the computer1 is a synonym for information processing technology. Its de- velopment in no way followed a straight path. In today’s computers different lines of development, which in the past had nothing in common, are united. Our computers originated from calculating machines. These machines originally functioned in a purely mechanical manner to link information in that the rules required and their stor- age were realized through one and the same components. Very early on it proved to be practical to separate these functions. While the linkage of information in the true cal- culator remained linked to a material realization (hardware), this was not the case for the rules (software).

1 The term computer first appeared in the literature in 1646 from Sir Thomas Browne, who meant the people who calculated the calendars to measure the passage of time. Up to the 1930s the meaning remained the same: persons with mathematical training who performed calculations in construction offices and observatories on the basis of formulas were known in Great Britain and the United States as “the computers.”

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