...live long and prosper...
After a brief history of time, space and the universe, this is a brief history of computers,
from a little after dinosaurs became oil until quite recently.

Pen and paper

A long time ago, whenever people need to calculate anything, they used to... take a piece of paper and do it on their own!
The first machine that could really compute, was mechanical, using gears and wheels, and naturally, was dead slow. It needed at least three minutes for one multiplication!
It took a couple of inventions to revolutionise the computing machine world: electricity, switches and relays; a definite advance was the triode, but what really changed the path of history was the transistor. Shortly after, computers no longer needed a warehouse to be stored in, nor did they need tremendous amounts of power either. Note that an average triode valve computer required around 15kW of power.
Shortly after the invention of the transistor, faster, cheaper and smaller computers began to appear. However, it was until the late '60s that an integrated circuit was manufactured, and the first processors appeared in 1970. The processor, as a concept, was at the time a miniaturised version of existing computers. It would be until later that the design principles would be altered. Soon after the introduction of large-scale integrated circuits, the first all-IC computers began to appear. They were constructed using exclusively integrated circuits (i.e. chips) and were again, much much smaller than their colossal predecessors.

However, the computers were until then, the exclusive privilege of research facilities, government departments or universities. Moreover, people just couldn't foresee the need for a small computer at home:
"I simply don't see what it's good for."
Internal memo at IBM's Advanced Computing Systems Division
on the invention of the microchip, 1968
"There is no reason why anyone would want a computer at home."
Ken Olson, President and CEO of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977


Contrary to IBM's engineers' beliefs, people did actually see what microchips are good for. And built computers with them.
Contrary to Ken's beliefs too, people did find reason enough to build small computers. And took them home.
Small computers had started as "smart" terminals connected to the big mainframe computers of the time. However, there were people that that level of "intelligence" was enough for them to use on their own, but those terminals were too expensive. So, they built their own.
Usually, these people would be engineers at some computer or electronics company, or enthusiasts with enough knowledge to design and build a small computer.
Two of them were Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak.
These two guys designed and built (as a kit) a small computer, which they named "Apple". That computer is still regarded the first "microcomputer" by many. Seeing the success of that computer, which they were selling as an unassembled board, the two founded... Apple Corp.! The first product of their company was a normal computer, with a keyboard, monitor and proper case, which they called Apple II.


Computing machines, from that moment on, pretty much found their way into practically everything. The adoption process was supersonic, considering it only took around three years for them to be introduced to businesses, and another year for them to invade the household.
You can read about the two branches of commercial computers in the "Home Computers" and "Personal Computers" subsections.

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