A common misconception about computers is that they are smarter than
humans. Actually, the degree of a computerıs intelligence depends on the
speed of its ignorance. Todayıs complex computers are not really
intelligent at all. The intelligence is in the people who design them.
Therefore, in order to understand the intelligence of computers, one must
first look at the history of computers, the way computers handle
information, and, finally, the methods of programming the machines.

The predecessor to todayıs computers was nothing like the machines
we use today. The first known computer was Charles Babbageıs Analytical
Engine; designed in 1834. (Constable 9) It was a remarkable device for its
time. In fact, the Analytical Engine required so much power and would have
been so much more complex than the manufacturing methods of the time, it
could never be built.

No more than twenty years after Babbageıs death, Herman Hollerith
designed an electromechanical machine that used punched cards to tabulate
the 1890 U.S. Census. His tabulation machine was so successful, he formed
IBM to supply them. (Constable 11) The computers of those times worked
with gears and mechanical computation.

Unlike todayıs chip computers, the first computers were
non-programmable, electromechnical machines. No one would ever confuse the
limited power of those early machines with the wonder of the human brain.
An example was the ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.
It was a huge, room-sized machine, designed to calculate artillery firing
tables for the military. (Constable 9) ENIAC was built with more than
19,000 vacuum tubes, nine times the amount ever used prior to this. The
internal memory of ENIAC was a paltry twenty decimal numbers of ten digits
each. (Constable 12) (Todayıs average home computer can hold roughly
20,480 times this amount.)

Today, the chip-based computer easily packs the power of more than
10,000 ENIACs into a silicon chip the size of an infantıs fingertip. (Reid
64) The chip itself was invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce in 1958,
but their crude devices looked nothing like the sleek, paper-thin devices
common now. (Reid 66) The first integrated circuit had but four
transistors and was half an inch long and narrower than a toothpick. Chips
found in todayıs PCs, such as the Motorola 68040, cram more than 1.2
million transistors onto a chip half an inch square. (Poole 136)

The ENIAC was an extremely expensive, huge and complex machine,
while PCs now are shoebox-sized gadgets costing but a few thousand
dollars. Because of the incredible miniaturization that has taken place,
and because of the seemingly ³magical² speed at which a computer
accomplishes its tasks, many people look at the computer as a replacement
for the human brain. Once again, though, the computer can only accomplish
its amazing feats by breaking down every task into its simplest possible

Of course, the computer must receive, process and store data in
order to be a useful tool. Data can be text, programs, sounds, video,
graphics, etc. Some devices for entering data are keyboards, mice,
scanners, pressure-sensitive tablets, or any instrument that tells the
computer something. The keyboard is the most popular input device for
entering text, commands, programs, and the like. (Tessler 157) Newer
computers which use a GUI (pronounced gooey), or Graphical User Interface,
utilize a mouse as the main device for entering commands. A mouse is a
small tool with at least one button on it, and a small tracking ball at
the bottom. When the mouse is slid across a surface, the ball tracks the
movement on the screen and sends the information to the computer. (Tessler
155) A pressure-sensitive tablet is mainly used by graphic artists to
easily draw with the computer. The artist uses a special pen to draw on
the large tablet, and the tablet sends the data to the computer.

Once the data is entered into the computer, it does no good until
the computer can process it. This is accomplished by the millions of
transistors compressed into the thumb-nail sized chip in the computer.
These transistors are not at all randomly placed; they form a sequence,
and together they make a circuit. A transistor alone can only turn on and
off. In the ³on² state, it will permit electricity to flow; in the ³off²
state, it will keep electricity from flowing. (Poole 136) However, when
all the microscopic transistors are interconnected, they have the ability
to control, manipulate, and move data according to the condition of other
data. A computerıs chip is so ignorant, it must use a series of sixteen
transistors and two resistors just to add two and two. (Poole 141)
Nevertheless, this calculation can be made in just a microsecond, an
example of the