The Early Years of Computers in Business
Career Path : Business
These days it would be impossible to imagine accounting courses without software training, but before the introduction of computers the most sophisticated calculation technology was brainpower and slide rules.
Computers made their debut as a tool for the military, serving as the muscle behind mathematiciansâ code breaking efforts. But after the war ended, many of the technologies developed in the forties were refined in the early fifties and applied in commercial and government settings. In the US, as early as 1951, a machine was developed to take that yearâs national census, but it was the United Kingdom that made use of the first business computer. The Lyon Electronic Office (LEO) computer was put to work in the accounting department of a British restaurant.
Over the course of the next few decades, computers began to appear in major offices and universities. By the early sixties, there were around fifty thousand business computers in operation. A formal IT school was a long way off, but major universities now offered a chance to learn programming. At that time computers tended to be specialized to tasks, either processing information or with predictive capacity, and were not very sophisticated. A modern, cheap scientific calculator is more complicated than the first machines, and today people have mobile telephones that vastly outperform computers of only two decades in age.
One of the things that changed as the technology evolved was the nature of using the computer. Initially, all users had to be programmers. A personal or even desktop-sized computer was a distant dream, and instead a computer was a massive concoction of vacuum tubes and cardboard punch cards. Coinciding improvements in circuit panels and capacitors shrank the computer, but even as the first visual display terminals became available and the price came down enough to be reasonable for anyone but wealthy companies or large institutions, making the computer function relied on making it understand commands. At the university level it started to become possible to take majors like Computer Science, thus the introduction of the IT school, but many programmers were self-taught or learned as part of their accounting training and the like.
It was the advent of the internet and the dot com boom that really hammered home the value of the computer. This was also a time when users stopped being programmers and in education, it became standard in any business school. At this point, self-executing programs handled everything from text documents to graphic design, all off the same machine. The solid, typically taupe monitors and computer towers were still massive, but especially with the invention of graphical user input systems, computers were finally accessible to the everyday user.
Visit Academy of Learning College for more computer information, including how a modern IT school trains students.