John von Neumann was a great mathematician, known by his really significant contributions to the fields of economics, numerical analysis, and computer science. This person played a very important role in developing the study of computation and understanding of how effective and practical computers had to be and how the computers should be created.
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Neumann Janos Lajos (a true name of John von Neumann) was born in December 28, 1903 in Budapest, got his education and obtained his first degree in 1925. However, it was not his only achievement in the sphere of education. In 1930, Neumann’s family came to the United States, where the future popular mathematician decided to anglicize his name, but still keep his first name; from that time, he called himself John von Neumann.
John von Neumann had all the rights to be known as one of the pioneers in the development of computer science due to his role in developing logical design: “the primary advance was the provision of a special type of machine instruction called conditional control transfer – which permitted the program sequence to be interrupted and reinitiated at any point” (Hoyle, ch. 14). With the help of the offered techniques, programming became faster and more efficient. The von Neumann architecture and its five components are still considered to be one of the major backgrounds for computers: memory unit, logic unit, input unit, output unit, and control unit (Dale and Lewis, 123).
In general, it is necessary to admit that without John von Neumann’s activities, computers do not play such an important role in modern society as they play right now. His theory of cellular automata made the use of computers both attractive and useful to users of any level.
The Father of Computing, Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage is also regarded as the father of computing due to his unbelievable plans for Calculating Engines, which turned out to be rather flexible, powerful, and detailed. This British mathematician and inventor presented the mechanical computing machine that moved the use of computers on one more level.
The peculiar feature of this contributor is his respect to such fields like philosophy and religion. He made a wonderful attempt to unite a man, nature, and inventions. He was born 26 December 1791; it was the end of the 18th century, when religion had unbelievable impact on people and their comprehension of the world. This is why the idea to make some contribution to the field of computing and still keep in mind the religious ideas and restrictions.
At first, he decided to develop the Difference Engine, the machine that could calculate numerous astronomic and navigating tables and print the results. However, in 1833, he abandoned that idea and started developing the Analytical Engine that was a kind of prototype of our modern computers. This invention was characterized by numerous operations, like conditional control, which provided machines to have a specific but not numerical order (Hoyle, ch. 7).
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Unfortunately, Charles Babbage did not get an opportunity to present a complete machine to use. He used one simple reason to that failure: Victorian mechanical engineering did not have the necessary services, and the government did not offer necessary financial support, and the mathematician had to spend the rest of his life as am embittered person, who did not get a chance to demonstrate his potential and his really bright ideas.
But still, his contribution to computer science, his various approaches to investigations, and his ideas for calculating open a new door to development of computer science.
Alan Turing, a War Hero
One more pioneer of computer science was born 23 June 1912 in London. His name was Alan Mathison Turning; during his not too long life (he dead at the age of 41 because of cyanide poisoning), he made numerous contributions to different fields, and computer science was one these fields. This person was famous by his first designs of stored-program computer (also known as ACE). The offered by Alan Turing model was able to keep data and some instructions inside. Of course, one of his greatest contributions to the development of computer science was the idea whether a machine can be conscious and can think (the Turing test).
In 1936, Alan Turing presented a work, On Computable Numbers, where he investigated the opportunities for computer machines and described one of his brightest inventions, a hypothetical device, also known as the Turing machine. This device could “perform logical operations and could read, write, or erase symbols written on squares of an infinite paper tape” (Hoyle, ch. 11).
In 1950, Computing Machinery and Intelligence was presented to the world by Alan Turing, where he offered one of the most unbelievable ideas that a machine could demonstrate intelligence. The idea of this test is as follows: a person has to judge a conversation that happens between a machine and a human, and both the machine and human have to appear human. If a judge cannot tell where a human is and where a machine is, the machine passes this test. The last achievement to discuss in this paper is Turning’s ability to break codes. This very ability made him a real war hero. During the World War II, Alan Turing tried to break German ciphers and read naval signals. He was involved in breaking the Lorenz ciphers (Teuscher and Hofstadter 460) and developing Hut 8 at Bletchley Park. It is possible that his activities save many lives during that war period.
Vinton G. Cerf and the Era of the Internet
Vinton Gray Cerf is one more person, who has made a great contribution to the development of computer science and becomes famous as the father of the Internet. He admitted that “the Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see and hear it” (Weimann, 203). Now, this person is a vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, and one of his major aims is to develop new technologies in order to provide support of numerous Internet services.
Vinton G. Cerf was born on June 23, 1943. In 1970, he got his master’s degree at UCLA and, in 1972, the PhD degree was at his hands as well. In the middle of the 1980s, he lead one of the most popular projects at MCI Digital Information Services that was connected to the development of one of the first commercial emails, which were able to work through the Internet.
The achievements of Vinton G. Cerf deserve much attention by people of different positions. For example, in 1997, President Clinton awarded the US National Medal of Technology to Mr. Cerf for his contribution to the Internet sphere and the Internet Protocols’ development. In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom that is awarded to people, who make positive impact to society and support on the national interests, world peace, and other endeavors. In spite of the fact that Vinton G. Cerf himself admit that his innovations may cause numerous misunderstandings in the government, because everyone can find out the truth (Weimann, 203), that very government admitted his achievements and honored him.
In general, it is possible to say that without the work of Vinton G. Cerf, people could hardly enjoy the abilities to communicate, search and exchange information, meet new people online.
Grace Hopper: The First Woman in Computer Science
Certain attention to the name of Grace Hopper, as a pioneer of computer science, should be paid as well due to several reasons:
- she was one of the first women in the world, who made a considerable contribution to the development of computer programming;
- she was the woman, who created the first complier, influential for a computer programming language; and, finally,
- in her honor, one of the US Navy destroyers was named (in fact, the list of US military vessels, which were named after women, is considered to be rather short).
“Amazing Grace, the Grand Old Lady of Software, the First Lady of data processing, the Mother of Modern Naval Computing, and Grandma COBOL” (Marx, 7) – all these are the names, which were given to Grace Hopper during and after her life.
It was a real mathematical genius among women and even among men. Her achievements in computer science were closely connected to the activities during the World War II. For her Mark computers series, she got the award from the US Navy (Mattern, 10); in 1986, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal was honored to her upon the retirement; and in 1991, she got the National Medal of Technology.
The Mark type computers were aimed at helping people use computers directly without some extra professional help; each of the models became faster than the previous one, this is why the demand for the computers, offered by Amazing Grace was really huge, and she always had one more purpose to achieve.
Even when this woman retired, society and the government in particular did not forget her contribution to the development of computer science, and awarded her from time to time in order to demonstrate their proud and gratitude.
Howard Aiken and His Lessons to People
Howard Aiken was also a significant figure in the development of computer science. His contributions and achievements as well as the achievements of Grace Hopper lain in the development of Mark computers and their spread to people during the period of the Second World War. His cooperation with Grace Hopper took a very important place as in the history of the United States as well as in the developing of computer science.
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In fact, this man was a genius: his unbelievable power of will, his originality, and desire to participate in his nation’s development made him a significant figure in computer history. From his childhood, he had one dream – to create a huge machine, a huge calculator that will make it easier to count, analyze, and get the results quicker than it was earlier.
He learnt thoroughly the work by Charles Babbage Passages from the Life of a Philosopher and decided to surpass the already done work. The first calculator, developed by Howard Aiken in 1944, was the Mark I. The essence of this invention became crucially important for the United States Navy in the spheres of gunnery and ballistics.
One of his greatest contributions to the development of computing was his lessons: he wanted to help other people to create the same machines and even develop them on higher levels. Lots of people under Howard Aiken got a chance to enlarge their knowledge and provide them with the opportunities to get degrees and take leading positions in the chosen industry. This is why the ideas of Howard Aiken and his actions take a very important place in the development of computer science.
Konrad Zuse: German Influence on the World Computing
If we talk about the pioneers in computer science, we should also take into consideration such name as Konrad Zuse. This German engineer was famous due to his achievements in programming: he was the first, who offered the high-level programming language, now known as Plankalkül. He also developed the program-controlled computer that was considered to be the first automatic digital computer ever.
In fact, this very inventor and his activities deserve people’s attention due to one simple fact – he developed all his ideas and creations in his parents’ room. He did not want to use some help from the outside; he just used his ideas, his skills, and his desire to unite them and create something useful. In comparison to the works by Hopper and Aiken, the activities of Konrad Zuse were not that noticed. But still, in Germany, he was awarded for several times for his unbelievable achievements in the sphere of computing.
The responsibility of Mr. Zuse is really great, and it turns out to be very difficult to count all his achievements and his inventions. In addition to high-level programming language, Konrad Zuse was know due to the use of the binary number system that had a deal with numbers and circuits; the development of the mechanical binary cells, which took place in the memory; the design of Sonderwhert, the principle of which was the idea that all calculations, made by a computer were correct.
In general, when we talk about computer science development, we should not divide people into nations and race, and in spite of the fact that Konrad Zuse was a German computing genius, his ideas helped other nations to take a significant step in computer science.
John V. Atanasoff
The role of John V. Atanasoff in computer science is really great; he, as many other pioneers in this sphere, got the National Medal of Technology from President Bush’s hands in 1990. This engineer was famous due to the development of ABC (the Atanasoff – Berry Computer); in spite of the fact that his computer was not programmable, the ideas to include binary math in addition to Boolean logic deserve recognition and attention.
John V. Atanasoff’s participation in the development of computer science was inevitable: the son of an electrical engineer and a teacher. To connect his life with engineering or teaching was not that difficult, however, the son wanted something more: to use the abilities to learn everything very quickly and enlarge his awareness of engineering. He tried to make use of the mechanical Monroe calculator in order to present a perfect doctoral thesis; however, he was not satisfied with the results and wanted to find out faster methods to calculate and get correct results.
In 1936, John V. Atanasoff created an analog calculator in order to analyze surface geometry. This invention inspired the future chief scientist for Army Field Forces to enlarge his knowledge and develop something really worthwhile. John V. Atanasoff himself told that “at night in a tavern after a drink of bourbon he began generating ideas of how to build this computing device” (Dale and Lewis, 124).
It is necessary to admit that one suit was connected with the name of John V. Atanasoff. Mauchly and Eckert wanted to proclaim that they were the inventors of the automatic electronic digital computer. However, during long 135 working days, the judge found that only Dr. John V. Atanasoff had the right to be called the inventor of this computer, and no one else. So, this person proved even legally that his contribution to computer science was considerable and important.
Dale, Nell, B. and Lewis, John. Computer Science Illuminated. USA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., 2006.
Hoyle, Michelle, A. The History of Computing Science. 2006. Web.
Marx, Christy. Grace Hopper: The First Woman to Program the First Computer in the United States. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2003.
Mattern, Joanne. Grace Hopper: Computer Pioneer. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2003.
Teuscher, Christopher and Hofstadter, Douglas. Alan Turing: Life and Legacy of a Great Thinker. New York: Springer, 2004.
Weimann, Gabriel. Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2006.