History of Computers Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What was the first computer and when was it created? This lesson plan uses a video lesson to outline the history of computers. A group timeline activity reinforces comprehension.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • summarize key events in the history of computers
  • discuss the different forms and types of computers that emerged throughout history
  • list key players in the history of computers


45 to 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • An image of ENIAC, one of the earliest computers
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated lesson, one for each student
  • Butcher paper
  • Markers


  • Begin by displaying the image of ENIAC for students.
    • What is featured in this image?
    • What do you think it was used for?
  • Play the video lesson History of Computers: Timeline & Evolution, pausing it at 3:09.
    • Do you recognize the item in the image frozen on the screen?
    • The photograph displayed in class is of the ENIAC, one of the earliest computers. Why do you think it was so large?
    • The video lesson lists the slide rule and the electronic calculator as very early computers. Do you think these items qualify as computers? Why or why not?
    • Do you agree that Charlie Babbage should be called the 'father of computers'? Why or why not?
  • Play the video lesson again. Pause it this time at 4:54.
    • What are the main differences between vacuum tubes and transistors?
    • Why was the emergence of the integrated circuit critical for the personal computer revolution?
  • Play the video lesson and pause it at 7:49.
    • Why was the microprocessor the key to the personal computer?
    • What is meant by the terms 'hobbyists' and 'hackers' in the video lesson?
    • How many of you had heard of Stephen Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Paul Allen prior to today's lesson?
    • Which of these men is the most well-known and why?
    • Is 256 bytes a lot of data storage by today's standards? Why or why not?
    • What would it be like to work on a computer that did not have a keyboard or a mouse?
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class.
    • If Moore's Law is correct, what will the computers of the future be like?
  • Review key points from the video lesson with the class before continuing.
  • Pass out the worksheet and instruct the students to work independently to complete it.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class as students follow along checking their answers.

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