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Inventions

BASIC’s popularity really took off in the 1970s and 1980s, when home computers first became available. Most machines came with a version of BASIC, which became many people’s introduction to programming. The syntax of the language was straightforward and easy to learn, and allowed people to write software to help them in their businesses, or as a hobby.…

An influential mathematician, George Boole (1815–1864) didn’t have much access to formal education and was mostly self-taught. He invented Boolean logic as a systematic, mathematical approach to ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s theory of categorical logic – rules used to determine if a statement is true or false.…

This mechanical analogue computer was invented in the 1600s. The middle section of the ruler could be slid out to work out mathematical functions by reading the numbers on the scale.…

An analogue computer stores and processes data by using physical quantities, such as weight, length, or voltage, as opposed to a digital computer, which stores data as binary code on its hard drive. While digital computers are limited to two values (0 and 1), every single unit of analogue data can give precise answers.…

In 1928, American company IBM redesigned the punch card to have 80 columns of 12 potential holes. A light shone on each card as it was fed into the computer. If there was no hole, the light was blocked and the machine read in a 0.…

American inventor Herman Hollerith invented the Tabulating Machine as an efficient way to compile population census data. An operator punched data into a card, slipped the card into the machine, and then pulled the handle. Wherever there was a hole in the card, an associated dial on the machine increased.…

While working on the Difference Engine, Babbage had a better idea for a machine that could calculate anything – not just numbers for mathematical tables. The Analytical Engine was composed of a store (equivalent to memory in a modern computer) and a mill (like a CPU in a  modern computer).…

In Lyon, France, textile worker Basile Bouchon created a method to store weaving patterns in a piece of tape. Where there was a hole in the tape, the needle on the loom stayed still. If there was no hole, the needle was pushed forward and the thread was lifted.…

English mathematician Charles Babbage was tired of typographical errors in his books of mathematical tables. These books had lists of pre-computed numbers, which were used in navigation, astronomy, and statistics. Babbage drew up the design for the Difference Engine, a mechanical calculator that could produce these tables automatically.…

The Scytale

A transposition cipher changes the position of the letters in a message using a specific rule, called a key. The recipient, who also knows the  key, reverses the process to get the original text. Writing a message backwards is a transposition cipher, although it is not a secure one, as it is relatively easy to break the code.…

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