The first programmable computer was called the Z1. It was made by German Konrad Zuse in his parents’ living room between 1936 and 1938. For decades computers were very big – and often filled a whole room!

In the late 70’s people began to use personal computers in their homes. They bought them at electronic shops but they were sold in parts and people had to assemble them in their homes. Users even had to build the computer case on their own. This meant that only people who were very knowledgeable about computers used them. Many people who were clueless about them thought they were objects for children to play with.

What really revolutionised the computer industry was when Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple Inc. with Steve Jobs, designed and built Apple 1 in Steve’s family garage. In April 1976, Apple 1 made its public appearance at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, in the United States, but many people did not take it seriously. At $666.66 (equivalent to R 9281.07 in today’s rands) it was an expensive piece of machinery by today’s standards, considering one had to still assemble its parts.

In 1981, International Business Machines (IBM) introduced their first personal computer together with Disk Operating System (DOS) – which used a textual language to represent files. The number of people who used personal computers expanded.

Increasingly businesses began to rely on computers which meant that their employees had to learn to use them at work. This was challenging as the operating system was complicated and provided much stress for employees who had to learn it.

Operating computers became much easier when Xerox Corporation introduced The Xerox Star in 1982 which used icons rather than text. This changed everything as it was much easier to navigate – users could delete files by simply dragging them over a wastebasket. The sale of personal computers rocketed.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for matters that relate to information and communication technologies, estimated that 48.3% households in the world owned personal computers in 2018.

These days, personal computers have many uses in both work and home environments. Many work-related activities can be performed quickly and efficiently using computers which saves huge amounts of time and increases productivity. Employees make presentations and keep records of the company using office computers. Music studios record musical tracks using personal computers. Students use personal computers to gather information and type their school projects. People can edit easily now rather than having to proof hard copies and type up changes.

Nowadays younger and younger children can operate computers as they are much easier to navigate. It is hard to imagine a world without computers now!


Tell us: Do you have a computer or access to one? What do you use computers for?