Today, virtually every industry depends to some extent upon computerization. Computer repair as an occupation attracts interested technicians in virtually every nation on Earth. It might surprise some modern repairers to consider how significantly this field has changed and evolved over the course of time.

One important early development in the utilization of computers concerned the use of telephone relay switches. Without advances in the use of silicon microchips, computers would likely appear very different indeed today! The development of portable, streamlined, diminutive computers and mobile technology might not have occurred in quite the same way.

Building The First Remote Computing Station

For example, 80 years ago (in 1940), Bell Labs unveiled its breakthrough Complex Number Computer. A brilliant Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer, George Stibitz, designed the device. It used 450 telephone relays and 10 cross bar switches. A telephone relay employs an electromagnet to control a metal switch. This technology figured prominently in telephone switchboards during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Complex Number Computer performed calculations using (of course) complex numbers. It reported the results via a teletypewriter.

George Stibitz demonstrated his invention at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society conducted at Dartmouth College. He used a dedicated telephone line to connect a teletypwriter to the Complex Number Computer several hundred miles away in New York City. Participants at the conference input mathematical problems and received the results remotely just minutes later. This early computer suggested the potential machines held to complete complex calculations much faster than human beings.

An Ongoing Process

The Complex Number Computer appears surprisingly simple today compared with a typical desktop PC, a far more powerful machine. Early computer repairers would have required extensive knowledge about telephone systems and components. In this era, technicians routinely replace computer components that likely would have fascinated the first relay computer developers. George Stibitz eventually patented 38 inventions (in addition to the patents he helped develop for Bell Labs). He taught at Dartmouth before retiring in 1983.

The evolution of computers within the past century demonstrates the importance for the repair industry of monitoring current technological developments. Innovations in this field continue to occur at a rapid pace. A skilled computer technician needs to remain aware of significant new breakthroughs and inventions impacting this dynamic field!