Tech Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in History …

5th July 2023

Computers Before Keyboards

Computing was a lot more challenging before July 4th 1956 because that’s when MIT revolutionised their Whirlwind Computer … by introducing a keyboard !

Before that, interacting with computers was a laborious, time-consuming process. Programmers would offer instructions to these mammoth machines by the manual insertion of punched cards, an operation requiring meticulous accuracy. They also changed dials and switches, physically reconfiguring the hardware to implement different instructions.

Believe it or not, punched-cards were relics from the ‘Jacquard-Loom’ – an invention developed during the industrial revolution in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard.

Talking of revolutions, he was a frenchman, so goodness knows what he’d say about the riots in France although he did live during the French Revolution himself so was perhaps no stranger to troubled-times.

His punched-cards enabled weavers to independently fabricate textiles of virtually limitless size and intricacy. Interestingly, he was born on 7th July, albeit 204 years earlier (than the birth of the Computer-Keyboard) in 1752.

With touch-screens, voice-to-text, haptic-clothing and other interfaces heading our way, what will inputs and outputs to computers be like soon? Perhaps with direct-to-brain connections (e.g. from Musk’s Neuralink company) we’ll just be one step closer to living in a virtual-world …