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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Some Computer History

Some 34 years ago, I was responsible for the worldwide computer operations for Avon Products, Inc. With over 30 computer centers in the United States and all over the world, I was constantly on the road. The interesting thing about computer departments in those days was that we were called “Data Processing” – not “IT.”

The reason was simple. The computers in that era processed data and very little was sent electronically. In those days, the computer rooms were air conditioned and measured around 20 ft. by 20 ft. Today, a sophisticated laptop would be equal to those giant computers.

All of this leads me to taking a look at how computers evolved. Some of the facts I will outline could be debated, but I will try to lay out a real time line for the development of computers.

Some early experiments with a form of computer took place during World War II. Herman Goldstein was one of the early developers of the very first general purpose electronic computer. In 1947 two senior managers from J. Lyons and Co., an English food manufacturing company, visited Goldstein in the United States to see whether a computer could be used in business administration. They became excited about the prospect and on their return to England found that a similar machine was being built at Cambridge University. J. Lyons and Co. then made a deal with Cambridge to set up a machine to use in its business. Its first program ran in May of 1949 – the first computer to ever be used in the business world.

From there, computers constantly evolved to where we are today. In 1953, International Business Machines entered the world of computers. As it changed into IBM, I will never forget an executive friend of mine at IBM who said the name change came about because the initials really stood for “I’ve Been Moved.” IBM truly covered the world in the 1970’s.

Then in 1981, IBM developed one of the first home computers. If you think about it, to go from the J. Lyons and Company efforts in 1949 to today – only 60 years – the world and our personal lives have changed dramatically. Probably the two areas where the computer has had the most impact on our personal lives are in research and communications.

YAHOO and GOOGLE have brought changes to high school and college students and for me in doing the research for my columns. As for communications, the computer now goes beyond emails. Now, depending on what you sign up for, video and/or voice are now available on the computer around the world. I cannot help but wonder what will be next?

Robert McMillan Website: www.bobmcmillan.net