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The Creation of the Computer

From the DVD jacket:

The machines at the centre of the information age have revolutionized our lives and digitized our world, making previously unthinkable tasks automatic and linking people together around the planet.

Modern Marvels presents a fascinating exploration into the history of the computer. See Charles Babbage’s Victorian “counting machine,” a mechanical computer that produced perfect results for any mathematical problem of six figures or less, and discover how IBM was launched through a punch-card counting machine built to speed the 1890 U.S. census. Trace the technological advancements that led to the first true modern computers and witness the rapid progress that allowed them to shrink from room-sized monsters to the desktop units that are revolutionizing life in the ’90s.

The Creation of the Computer journeys into the fast-paced world of technology and innovation to expose the phenomenal history of the most influential invention of modern times.

Assignment 1

The documentary is divided into six sections:

  1. High Speed, Small Package
  2. Saving the Census
  3. A Colossus to Solve an Enigma
  4. The Pathfinders
  5. Computers on a Chip
  6. The Continuing Evolution

From one of the sections, choose a person, organization, technology, object, or event which captures your interest. For your choice, prepare a valid webpage linked from your index page which compares and contrasts your historical selection with its contemporary equivalent. For example, if your choice from the documentary is Bletchley Park (an organization focused on cryptology), you might like to compare it to Communications Security Establishment Canada. If your choice is punch cards and punch-card readers (an input technology), you might like to compare them to OCR forms, optical scanners, and OCR software.


Your webpage will contain:

  1. Two images of equal size: one of your historical selection and one of its contemporary equivalent.
  2. A comparison of 400 words: 200 for your historical selection and 200 for its contemporary equivalent.
  3. Flawless Canadian spelling and grammar.
  4. Adherence to the word-processing guidelines.
  5. APA citations:
    • In-line citations for all work which is not your own, including, but not limited to, quotations, facts, ideas, and opinions.
    • A separate reference section.
  6. Photo credits following the format displayed on this page.
  7. Validated HTML5 and CSS3.

You might like to refer to the marking scheme.

Assignment 2

From your answers to the questions below, create a short essay entitled The Creation of the Computer. Present your essay as a valid webpage linked from your index page. Illustrate your essay as appropriate.

  1. The search for a machine that could quickly do mathematical computations is over a century old. What was the impetus for the creation of a “computing” machine?
  2. Babbage was the first person who designed a machine that, while impractical, worked. But Babbage’s machine was never fully completed and the world would have to wait until the next century for computers. Why did this happen to Babbage and his machine? What held back his vision and his machine?
  3. It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” If this is true, the what was the mother of Hollerwirth’s machines that were early prototypes of later generations of computers?
  4. The search for a workable electronic computer was hastened by the advent of World War II. What other inventions and discoveries did that war facilitate?
  5. Most people were skeptical about the business and practical applications of computers until the 1952 U.S. presidential election. How did that election contribute to the success of computers in business and industry?
  6. IBM, once one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world, was reluctant to get into the computer business. How was IBM forced into computer research and development?
  7. How did the space race of the 1960s spur development of integrated circuit computers that are essential in the manufacture of personal computers?

Assignment 3

Choose one of the following as the basis of a valid webpage linked from your index page, illustrated as appropriate.

  1. Create a timeline that traces the development of the computer.
  2. Write an essay that discusses how the computer has influenced your life. What might your life be like today if the computer had never been invented?
  3. Interview your parents, or other older people, and ask them what life was like before the explosion of the computer industry. How have computers changed their lives? Did they ever imagine the possibility of personal computers or the Internet?

Photo credits

DVD cover: The Creation of the Computer, <>. Retrieved 2012-09-25. > Education Commons

[This page last updated 2020-12-23 at 12h45 Toronto local time.]