Computer technology

Calculation aids and machines were produced by the mankind since its beginnings. In the 19th and early 20th century, very intricate mechanical computers were built. The first electric computers were created during the World War II. The first of them combine mechanical and relay components, the later use vacuum tubes and are much faster. The first real programmable computer is probably the ENIAC finished in the USA at the end of 1945. It contained 18 000 vacuum tubes and consumed 200 kW of power. The first Czechoslovak computer was the SAPO designed in 1951, but built only in 1958. It used 7000 relays and 380 vacuum tubes. It used punch cards for input and output, an interesting feature was its triple operation unit - the results of the operations were compared and were used only if at least two of the units provided the same result. A magnetic drum was used for main memory with 4 kB capatity. However, this computer soon became outdated and was withdrawn after a major failure in 1960. In the same year, a new EPOS computer was put into operation and two years later, the fully semiconductor EPOS 2 was started. This computer was manufactured in many modifications until the 1970s. In 1969, a new programme for an unified computer system was launched by the Socialist Bloc including Kuba. The new system was marked as JSEP in Czechoslovakia. The goal was to produce copies of IBM computers, but this could be performed only with significant delay, approx. 15 years behind the current U. S. production. Some of the key components were made by countries that did not have any tradition in manufacture of such devices, which had an impact on reliability. The EC1027 computer made in 1988 was as powerful as an IBM computer built in 1966. Despite this, it was considerably more expensive than the computers that the IBM company just sold as new. Nevertheless, this series of computers was produced until the fall of socialism despite the fact that IBM compatible personal computers were already assembled in the Eastern Bloc and were approx. 50 times cheaper for a given computing power.

A mainframe computer would be used in a very different manner than today's computers. The input data would be prepared on a punch card or tape, the output results would be sent to a printer. Just as one task was finished, another one would start. The operation of the computer was very expensive and it was necessary to use it as much as possible. Later, the computers would be controlled using terminals, which were a separate device with a display and a keyboard. It was possible to connect many terminals to a single computer and many users could work together at the same time. The expense of building and running a mainframe computer was immense and the resulting financial or human resource benefits were doubtful. Companies used the computer for e. g. wage calculations. It would cost tens of millions of Ks and consumed tens of kW of power. The air conditioning that cooled it had similar power usage. A team of highly educated technicians would maintain it, another team of workers would have to prepare the input data. Since the 1980s, personal computers came to market. These were small and cheap enough to be used by a single person.

 

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