EARLY DATA PROCESSING
The cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls represent an early form of data
processing (facts recorded for subsequent use and manipulation). A more formal
definition describes data processing as the storage and processing of discrete facts
through one or more operations (recording, classifying, sorting, calculating,
summarizing, storing, retrieving, reproducing, and/or communicating). In ancient times,
all of these data processing operations were accomplished, but manually rather than
electronically. Cave drawings, dating back to 2000 years BC, can be viewed as art.
They also represent early attempts at data storage: a recording of the hunt, or other
important events of daily life.
Figure 1-6. Cave drawing of a hunt as data storage.
a. The abacus is perhaps the most important early computing instrument, since
it has been known and widely used for more than 2,000 years. All ordinary arithmetic
operations can be performed by moving heads along a wire according to rules ("a
program") that the user memorizes.
abacus: an ancient calculating device composed of a frame of rods representing
decimal columns, and beads that are moved on the rods to form digits.
b. In arithmetical terms, the rods of an abacus act as place columns. Each bead
on the rod is worth one, those on the 10s rod are worth 10 apiece, and so on. The
abacus is so efficient that not until the 17th century did it meet significant competition as
a computational device. Still widely used in the Orient, skilled users have been known
to perform computations more quickly and accurately than clerks using mechanical desk