Lesson 78 – The History of Computers

Level C1 – Lesson 78

 The History of Computers


IN YOUR LANGUAGE (Top right > Select language > Click on the flags).

In this free English lesson you will access:

      1. Dialogue in English (video format)
      2. Transcript of the Video in English
      3. List of Vocabulary
      4. Downloadable PDF of the lesson
      5. Comprehension Quizzes (3 to complete):
        I) Interactive Video Comprehension Quiz
        II) Summary Statements
        III) Drag and Drop Quiz
      6. Grammar Practice: video tutorial(s) + interactive quizzes
      7. Pronunciation Practice: video tutorial(s) + interactive quizzes


 1/ Dialogue in English (video format)

 2/ Transcript in English


Lesson 78 – History of Computers

Computers and technology play a huge part in 21st century life. From GPS systems to smart phones, from ATMs to laptop computers, it is difficult to conceive any aspect of our life that does not require or involve technology in some way. It is interesting to consider how this all began.

It is difficult to pinpoint how exactly the term “computer” first came into use, though one of the earliest uses was to describe a person who performed calculations. First recorded in the 17th century, this definition stayed in use for about 200 years. With the conceptualisation of the Difference Engine in 1822, by Charles Babbage, this definition was shifted to describe a machine that was capable of computing several sets of numbers and making hard copies of the results. Unfortunately, because of funding issues, Charles Babbage was unable to see the full development of his concept in his lifetime. However, in 1910, Henry Babbage, his son, was able to complete a portion of this machine and was able to perform basic calculations.

In 1936, Alan Turing proposed The Turing machine which became the foundation for theories about computing and computers. Turing was an all-rounder, a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, computer scientist, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner. Without the formalisation of his concepts of “algorithm” and “computation” we wouldn’t have the computers we use today. He is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

His contributions extend further to his work as a cryptanalyst for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during World War II. Having devised a number of techniques for breaking ciphers and played a key part in the success of the Enigma machine in cracking coded messages. As a result, the Allies were able to defeat the Nazis in many crucial battles. Prime Minister, Winston Churchill stated that Alan Turing had made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany.

The American company, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), announced in 1953, the first computer for mass production, the 701, although it wasn’t until 1981 that IBM released its first personal computer, code named the Acorn and possessing a meer 8088 processor and 16 KB of memory.

In the meantime, many other companies where designing and releasing personal computers:

Compaq – In March 1983, Compaq released its first computer and the first 100% IBM compatible computer the “Compaq Portable.”
Dell – In 1985, Dell introduced its first computer, the “Turbo PC.”
Hewlett Packard – In 1966, Hewlett Packard released its first general computer, the “HP-2115.”
NEC – In 1958, NEC builds its first computer the “NEAC 1101.”
Toshiba – In 1954, Toshiba introduces its first computer, the “TAC” digital computer.

In 1976, Steve Wozniak designed what is now known as the Apple I. Steve Jobs convinced him to try to sell the computer but it was not until 1977 that the Apple truly hit the market. The design of the Apple II, which included color graphics, and pre-assembled availability saw the sale of Apple computers increase dramatically.

However, by the 1990s, the computer market was saturated by personal computers, most of which utilised Windows 3.0, which was able to run on almost every personal computer. Apple computers were not compatible with Windows 3.0 and started to see a steady decline in sales. With the DOS system being used by so many PCs, software developers like Microsoft were able to capitalise on a growing market.

The next decade saw a rocky road for Apple, despite the introduction of the PowerMac in 1994. The company was finding it difficult to keep up with Bill Gates’ Windows ´95. In 1997, Microsoft and Apple established a 5 year patent cross licence, that seemed to serve Microsoft better than it did Apple. Nevertheless, Apple were able to stay on the market and years later produce many machines that are very competitive in the current market, such as IPods and IPhones.

 3/ List of Vocabulary of the Lesson

  • To play a huge part
  • Smart phones
  • Laptop computers
  • To conceive
  • Any aspect of our life
  • To involve technology in some way
  • To consider how this all began
  • It is difficult to pinpoint
  • To come into use
  • One of the earliest uses
  • To describe a person
  • He performed calculations
  • This definition
  • The conceptualization of
  • To describe a
  • That was capable of
  • Hard copies
  • Funding issues
  • Unable to see
  • Development of
  • His concept
  • In his lifetime
  • Able to complete
  • Able to perform
  • To become the foundation for
  • Theories about computing and computers
  • The formalisation of his concepts
  • We wouldn’t have
  • The computers we use today
  • Widely considered to be
  • The father of theoretical computer science
  • To extend further
  • His work as
  • Having devised a
  • A number of techniques
  • Breaking ciphers
  • To play a key part
  • The success of
  • Cracking coded messages
  • As a result
  • They were able to defeat
  • Many crucial battles
  • The single biggest contribution
  • For mass production
  • It wasn’t until
  • He introduced his first computer
  • What is now known as
  • It convinced him
  • To try to sell the computer
  • To hit the market
  • The design of the
  • Colour graphics
  • Pre-assembled
  • Availability
  • The sale of
  • To increase dramatically
  • It was saturated by
  • Most of which
  • Utilised
  • Almost every
  • Not compatible with
  • He started to see
  • A steady decline in sales
  • Being used by
  • To capitalise on a growing market
  • Finding it difficult
  • To keep up with
  • That seemed to serve
  • To stay on the market
  • To produce many machines
  • Very competitive

 4/ Downloadable PDF of the Lesson

Top of this page!

5/ Comprehension Quizzes (3 to complete)

Interactive Video Comprehension Quiz 1

Summary Statements Comprehension Quiz 2

Drag and Drop Quiz 3: 

6/ Grammar Practice (video tutorial(s) and interactive quizzes)

  • Related Grammar Video Lesson and interactive exercise(s): Passive Voice

7/ Pronunciation Practice (video tutorial(s) and interactive quizzes)

  • Related Pronunciation Video Lesson and interactive exercise(s):


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