In the 1967 Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Mr. Spock says, “I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” Like Mr. Spock, people have come up with all sorts of ingenious ways to build computing devices using the resources available to them. Few fundamental technologies were invented explicitly for computing; most were invented for other purposes and then adapted for computing. This chapter covers some of this evolution, leading up to the convenient but fairly recent innovation of electricity.

In Chapter 1, you learned that modern computers use binary ...

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