Computer Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Computers are everywhere, and people depend on them for nearly all aspects of daily life. In this lesson, find out how computers got their start, and meet some interesting people who have helped computers become what they are today.

Machines of the Past

Quick! Take a look around the room where you're sitting and count the computers that you see. Be sure to include any phones and tablets that might be lying around. Chances are, you counted at least one or two computers. These machines are everywhere, and people can't live their daily lives without them. You probably use them all the time, but what do you really know about computers? Let's learn more about these amazing inventions.

What is a computer? It's any machine you can input information into that uses that data to perform specific functions. The first computers definitely didn't look like what we use now. In the 1800s, machines were created that used something called punch cards. These were heavy pieces of paper that had holes punched in them, and the machine would interpret these punches as directions to know how to function.

First Modern Computers

In the early 1900s, a man named Alan Turing had an idea that was pretty far out there at the time. What if there was a machine that could calculate or compute basically anything? This was the first idea of the modern computer, and it got many other people thinking about all of the possible things that these machines could do.

In 1943, two professors from a university in Pennsylvania created a huge machine that could perform calculations. This was called ENIAC, which stood for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator. Many people consider this the first modern computer, but it took up an entire large room!

The first modern computer was ENIAC and it took up an entire room.

Military Coder

Remember those punch cards that early computers used? They're no longer needed thanks to a woman named Grace Hopper. She was an admiral with the United States Navy, and she worked as a computer scientist. In 1953, Hopper devised a computer language that would allow computers to be programmed to do specific jobs and functions. This language was called coding, and many similar languages are used today to create all kinds of apps, software programs, and video games.

Grace Hopper developed the concept of computer programming by creating codes that told computers to do specific functions.
Grace Hopper

Computers in Daily Life

There are computers everywhere today, including in many items that you might not suspect have computers. All smartphones are mini-computers that you can put in your pocket. Quite a change from the huge computer that took up a whole room!

Today computers are much smaller, and can be found in many different places like cars and phones.

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