English mathematician Charles Babbage conceives of a steam-driven calculating machine that would be able to compute tables of numbers. The project, funded by the English government, is a failure. More than a century later, however, The world’s first computer was actually built.
Herman Hollerith designs a punch card system to calculate the 1880 census, accomplishing the task in just three years and saving the government $5 million. He establishes a company that would ultimately become IBM (IBM was founded in 1911).
J.V. Atanasoff, a professor of physics and mathematics at Iowa State University, attempts to build the first computer without gears, cams, belts or shafts.
Atanasoff and his graduate student, Clifford Berry, design a computer that can solve 29 equations simultaneously. This marks the first time a computer is able to store information on its main memory.
Two University of Pennsylvania professors—John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert—build the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC). Considered the grandfather of digital computers, it fills a 20 foot by 40 foot room and has 18,000 vacuum tubes.
Mauchly and Presper leave the University of Pennsylvania and receive funding from the Census Bureau to build the UNIVAC, the first commercial computer for business and government applications.
Grace Hopper develops the first computer language, which eventually becomes known as COBOL. Inventor Thomas Johnson Watson, Jr., son of IBM CEO Thomas Johnson Watson, Sr., conceives the IBM 701 EDPM to help the United Nations keep tabs on Korea during the war.