Kids and teenagers today are the first generation of people in history to be born not knowing what life is like before the internet and use of computers.
Being digital natives, they are most likely to spend the most time online using various computing devices. That is why it is important to guide them early on about developing computer skills and being mindful about safety measures. Knowledge of the long and fascinating history of computers will also help them better appreciate and, hopefully, use the technologies available to them today more responsibly.
History of Computers
Computers have a long and detailed history filled with innovations and breakthroughs that have affected the course of mankind’s progress and have brought us where we are today. Since it would be impossible to compress two thousand years of history in a couple of paragraphs, here is a brief timeline highlighting the most important events in the history of computers.
Ancient Times: This is the birth of the manual computation device called the abacus.
Industrial Age: John Napier invents logarithms, which aided arithmetic computations, in 1614. Blaise Pascal invents the first ‘digital computer,’ a device that helped his tax collector father, in 1642. Charles Babbage, the father of the modern computer, designs the automatic difference engine to create mathematical computations for navigation. Later, Ada Lovelace makes the first ‘computer program.’
Late 1800s-20th Century: Herman Hollerith takes a step towards automated computing with his invention of punch cards for the US Census Bureau. International Business Machines (IBM) creates the first computers to process those cards.
World War II: War brought development in computing technology leading to the invention of the electronic high-speed computer called ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator).
Post War: Breakthroughs in the 1950s lead to an improvement in digital computer memory capacity.
1970s: Companies like Radio Shack and Apple Computer introduce cheaper and smaller computers called PCs to the mass market, in part due to the popularity of video games.
1980s: The first mass-produced computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI), the Macintosh, is introduced.
- The University of Alabama-Huntsville: A brief history of computers
- Seattle Central College: A brief history of the computer
- California State University Dominguez Hills: History of computers in education
- Computer History Museum: Timeline of computer history
There is no doubt how advanced the computers of today are compared to the ENIAC and even the first mass-produced PCs.
For example, modern computers are estimated to have a memory 25,000 times more than their mid-20th-century counterparts. This leap becomes more incredible considering that the computers we use today are far more powerful and advanced than the ones used to send the first man to the moon.
Computers are also being used by a greater number of people than ever before. In the 1980s, only eight percent of American homes had a computer. This number would increase more than ten times in 2016 when 89% of all households reported having one.
- University of California-Irvine: The computer for the 21st century
- United States Census Bureau: Computer and internet use in the United States: 2016
Future of Computers
With the speed of technological progress today, it is exciting to think about what better things are in store for future generations when it comes to computers.
Scholars and experts predict a future where computing capabilities are not limited to just regular computers and devices. People in the industry anticipate breakthroughs that would enable regular household objects like light bulbs and refrigerators to communicate with phones and other devices.
We also see biotechnology as a field where advancements in computing technology would be useful. Scientists are currently working on finding ways to 3D print heart tissues, design body parts, and create living organisms.
To learn more about the future of computers, check out the links below.
- World Economic Forum: By 2030, this is what computers will be able to do
- Obama White House: We the geeks take a look at the future of computing
- National Nanotechnology Initiative: A federal vision for future computing: A nanotechnology-inspired grand challenge
Computer Skills for Kids and Teens
With schools and universities utilizing the latest technology for educating students, it is inevitable that your kids will use computers and go online. Make sure they are equipped to navigate their way by teaching them basic computer skills like typing, using a variety of programs and apps, and searching the internet. There are a variety of resources that they can use to build those skills. Check out the links below to explore a few.
- Milwaukee Public Library: A resource guide to basic skills, computer skills and tutoring programs for youth and adults
- Common Sense Media: Lessons for little learners-mouse skills
Computer and Internet Safety
There is no doubt that the Internet has many wonderful things to offer from entertainment to learning materials. However, it is also filled with information and people that may cause harm to your children’s well-being. Before giving them smart devices and full access to the internet, make sure that they know the basics of internet and computer safety.
Keeping personal information private. Never give out personal details like full names, addresses, and phone numbers to strangers or questionable websites online.
Being careful of purely online friends. There are many ways kids and teens can meet new people on sites and forums online. Make sure they know the dangers of agreeing to meet with online friends to keep them safe from potential predators.
Being careful of downloading things. Anti-virus programs may have come a long way, but there are still lots of viruses that may infect your computer. Aside from updating your anti-virus, talk to your children about the dangers of downloading files from suspicious websites.
- New York Public Library: Internet safety tips for children and teens
- Connect Safely: Tips for safe social networking for teens
- GCF Global: Teaching kids about internet safety
Resources for Parents and Educators
Do you want to be more involved in making sure that your child is computer and internet savvy? To learn more about how you can help your children develop computer skills and learn about internet safety, you can read through the additional resources below.
- Pew Research Center: Parents, teens and digital monitoring
- Web Wise Kids: Parents and teachers
- The Community for Technology Leaders: Safety apps that allow teens to regulate their own online activity