More then a hundred and fifty years ago, a British man named Charles Babbage had an idea about a machine that could work with numbers. He wanted to make a machine that could follow different orders to do different jobs. Today, we call this sort of machine a computer, and we call the orders software. Software is a group of rules that you can give to a machine to tell it how to do something. Computer programs are software.
For the next hundred years, people worked on Babbage’s idea. Finally, in the 1940th, they built the first computer. The United States and Great Britain worked on it together during the war, and the work was secret. Three of the most important men who helped to build it were Alan Turing, Claude Shannon and John Von Neumann.
Even before the war, Claude Shannon was interested in “thinking” machines. He showed how small switches could be the computer’s alphabet. In this system, a switch that was off meant “true” and a switch that was on meant “not true”. This simple system is called the binary system, and computers still use it today.
John Von Neumann, an American born in Hungary, added something just as important. He had an idea about how computers could use a memory in powerful ways. As soon as this was possible, the modern computer was born.