Computer Science For Kids

Updated: Apr 6

Early Computing

Computers are an extremely important part of today's world. They have changed and affected pretty much every part of modern day life.

In the Industrial Revolution we started to see everything start to be affected by this amazing technological advancement. Computing is still improving and taking even more of an affect on us today!

And all of the machines we create today may seem really complicated and impossible to understand. But computers are really just simple machines that perform complex actions by layering different actions and logistics on top of one another effectively.

Everything inside computers work because of logic that can be pretty simple when broken down.

The earliest device recognized to be used for computing was the abacus. It was invented in ancient Mesopotamia when the population grew too large for any one individual to comprehend. That is when the abacus stepped in to help record the mass amounts of people.

Later in history, humans created a new invention called the astrolabe. This clever device helped sailors calculate their ships latitude when at sea. And inventions kept coming!

There was also called the Slide Rule which was a tool that could help calculate multiplication and division problems.

The point is, there were thousands of devices used to make human life easier.

But, computers weren't always machines. Back then, a computer was a job title for a person who did calculations. And all their calculations were done by hand, or they looked up answers in books.

And then, in the late 1800s, computers started to be used towards devices. The first device referred to as a computer was a Step Reckoner in 1694. The Step Reckoner was a machine able to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division! The Step Reckoner was the first machine that could do all four of these operations.

Over time, more and more machines were starting to be used. They eventually spread to the military which used them to calculate as accurately as possible, which angle to point the cannons. This was very helpful because before the machine, the artillery shells being fired almost always missed.

Charles Babbage created something called the Difference Engine that could approximate polynomials. Polynomials describe relationships between different variables. For example, range and air pressure. Or how sick Sally is, and her appetite.

The same person also came up with the Analytical Engine that, unlike any other machine, could be used for many purposes.

This engine was most likely started the first generation of computer scientists. It started a new age of machines that could do more than just calculate math problems but also much more to make human life easier.

In 1880 a problem raised. The US government put in a law that said a census was to be done every decade. But, the population was growing because of immigration and the next census was predicted to take 13 years. This is a bit problematic since it was to be done every decade. So they created a machine to help with the census. The census for that decade ended up taking only 2.5 years.

After this, that market started demanding more computers and devices to make jobs much easier. Computers started popping up everywhere, and the market for computers shot up.

Electronic Computing

Even after the first “computer” jobs in the 18th century were replaced with machines and handy devices. The scale at which computers were replacing things was humongous.

In the first half of the 20th century the population was skyrocketing and almost doubled. We went through World War II. And the global trade market was stronger than ever before. Our engineering and scientific discoveries were amazing. And the US even started thinking about visiting other planets.

The United States started becoming dependent on computers for certain jobs that needed to be done. Giant computers that filled up entire rooms were created to help humanity as we rapidly started turning into a world with computers everywhere.

In 1944 one of the largest computers was created called the Harvard Mark 1. It was used to protect our allies during the war. It was huge and needed many people attending to it to make sure everything was running. It even required a 50 foot shaft running through the computer to keep the system functioning.

We started using something called a mechanical relay to make switches. An astounding discovery that transformed all the machines created at that time.

The control wire (which is the wire on the bottom that is bended) turns on and makes an electric field which attracts the wire bended at the top. Then the wire is connected with the other wire and completes the circuit.

But the switches they had were really slow and not able to perform large complex problems effectively.

And since computers were so big, parts would often break, and the machine wouldn’t work. And since they had no way of knowing what broke, people would have to spend ages trying to find out what did.

These giant machines attracted insects as well that broke the machines. It took a long time to find out what happened inside the computer that made it malfunction. And took a great deal longer to find the bug. Basically, little bugs started breaking the computer. The reason why we call problems in our code bugs is because of this.

In 1904 the first vacuum tube was created. Which was when electrons could be heated, to emit light. This is called Thermionic Emission.

Afterwards, a man added a switch to this lightbulb allowing it to be turned on and off automatically.

These lightbulbs were the next step towards radio, and other advanced mechanics. But, they weren’t perfect and could break and burn out. Even so, it was a big step and could also be improved upon.

These light bulbs were very expensive, so computers were very expensive. This meant that the only people that could really afford these computers were extremely rich families and the government.

The Colossus Mark 1 was the first computer that used these bulbs. It was made by Tommy Flowers and completed in 1943. And was used to decode Nazis messages. This was also called the first programmable electronic computer.

Next came the ENIAC which was completed in 1946 in the University of Pennsylvania. It was the first computer to be general purpose, programmable, and electronic.

The vacuum tubes that were created were reaching their limits. New innovations needed to be created in order to improve our technology. So, we created the transistor which transformed computers once again.

The control wire is connected to a semiconductor which is sometimes positively charged and sometimes not. By changing the charge, the electrodes can either be connected, or not.

Even the first transistors showed great technological advancements. And even the first versions of it could be made smaller than the smallest vacuum tube.

In 1957 a computer called the IBM ran fully on transistors. It was much smaller than the past computers and ran better as well.

Today, we still use transistors, but they are much smaller than the ones that were used in the IBM. IBM continued to make computers that eventually ended up in peoples homes.


Thank you for reading about computer science! I hope you enjoyed and found it interesting! Even if you get my summaries the first time, I would strongly suggest also watching the videos as well. Hope you come back to learn about more topics! Have fun at home!