Computers: A Journey from Past to Future




1. Essential questions   2. Research the history of computers  3. Team discussion & reflection 4. Create interactive timeline  5. Investigate technologies of the future  6. Team presentations- future innovations   7. Learn about how computers work in the process.

1. Questions: In creating your timeline, you want to consider the following questions. How did computing technology develop from 500 B.C. to the new millenium? What were some of the most significant technological innovations and why? Do not feel threatened by any of the computer terminology in this process. You can look up any term by clicking on Webopedia, Wikipedia, or How Stuff Works . There are several resources on "How Computers Work" at the bottom of this page. All colored and underlined words and phrases are links to websites. Have fun on your quest! 

2. Research: To learn about the history of computers, explore the websites below. You will find information dating all the way back to ancient civilizations. To prepare for your timeline, focus on the 1940's through the present time (2010).  Download and print Research & Reflection worksheets (4 pages). See resources page at the bottom of this web page. Click on Resource #1. Your company boss may already provide this for you. Choose several computer inventions or developments that seem most important to you or your team. Use your Research and Reflection worksheet to take notes. Be sure to include the year, the creator(s), and the significance of each invention, if you can. The creator of an invention could be one person, a group of people, or an entire company. Be sure to cite your sources.

Click on the following links to access websites for step 2 (Research):

Triumph of the Nerds: History of Computers (PBS)-- PBS.org

Computer History Museum Timeline-- Computerhistory.org

ThinkQuest: From Stone to Silicone (B.C. to 1998)-- Thinkquest.org

Computer Hope: Timeline-- Computerhope.com

History of the Internet (video)-- Teacher Tube (by Mehli Gilbil)

Suggestions and Ideas for Teamwork
These are just suggestions and options for how to cooperate and collaborate as a team. For the Research and Reflection task, you might have each member read and think about one website or resource, and provide information to the team. Each member can take his/her own notes on the Research and Reflection sheet, or each member can take an assigned task. For example, some team members can gather and read information, while others listen, summarize, and take notes; or, each member can focus on the history of one or two decades. For example, one member could collect information on the 1940's and 50's, while another member focuses on the 1960's and 70s, and so on. There are many ways to organize a team. The important thing is that everyone contributes.
3. Reflect:  You are preparing to create your timeline. Discuss the questions on the Reflection Sheet with your group (page 3 of Resource#1). Using page 4 of resource#1, take notes, based on your discussion. Discuss and choose at least two of the most significant innovations for each decade. For example, be prepared to list at least two advances in computer technology in the 1940's, at least two in the 50's, the 60's, and so on. You may notice that some decades had more rapid developments (more inventions) than others. It's a good idea to list several innovations for those decades. Discuss how one innovation lead to another. For example, how did computers change after the development of the integrated circuit? This exploration will help you to create a more interesting timeline.
4. Create: Choose one of the two options below. Option 1 is a hard copy timeline. Option 2 is an interactive digital timeline. 
Option 1: Download and print the Timeline Presentation sheet (resource #2 at the bottom of this page). This may already be provided by the "company boss". Notice how some significant events are already placed on the timeline. This is to help you think about how some invetions lead to others. Be sure to mention the date, the inventors (or computer companies), and the significance of each innovation. Cite your source for each example. See the following example*:
Year: 1940
Invention or innovation: The complex number calculator
Creator(s): John Stibitz and researchers at Bell Labs
Significance: This was one of the first "small" electronic devices to calcualte complex numbers using the binary number system.
You will need a ruler or straight-edge to complete your timeline neatly. You may choose to use construction paper or tagboard instead of the timeline worksheet provided.
*Note: see Teacher Page for possible modifications to this assignment.
Option 2: Create an interactive timeline online at Timerime.com. This option is perhaps more exciting and interactive. However, it will take time to learn how to create your interactive timeline.  Click here for a tutorial. (You may have to view an advertisement before the tutorial.) Click here for a sample timeline created by Mr. Bollinger (the creator of this webquest). Mr. Bollinger's timeline is intentionally spare and incomplete. It's up to you to make a complete timeline! You can choose to create your timeline individually or as a team. Provide the same kind of information you see in the example for option 1 (above).
5. Conclusions & New Innovations:  Download the Conclusions worksheets (2 pages-- see Resource #3 at the bottom of this page). Think about why the inventions you included in your timeline were important. Choose one important invention from your timeline. Explain in detail how you think that invention changed the world. For example, if you believe the iPod had the most significant impact on people's lives, you should be able to explain why. This can be done as a group or independently.
Next, explore the videos and links below to review some of the latest and future technologies. A few of the examples on are not real (yet). Can you tell which? How are the latest computers and gadgets different from those that you currently use? Do you notice any trends in the latest computer designs and interfaces? What do you think computers of the future will look like? How will they be used? What role will the internet play? Be prepared to discuss your findings with other teams (and classmates) in the computer business. Note that there are additional options below for you to learn some basics about how computers work. See "Conclusion" page (upper left menu bar) before you begin your presentation.
YouTube Resources:
Latest Computer Interfaces
Touchscreen Magic-- Arthckr's Channel
Computer Tabletop-- Chunsfreefiles.webs.com
Holographic Computer?-- ConnerTheSlayer's Channel
Voice-Controlled Robotic Surgery-- Karen Lustgarten (KLustgarten Channel)
Brain-Computer Interfaces
Brain-Controlled Toy  --KiwiboxDotCom
Brain-Computer Interface--Formlessness' Channel
Supercomputing Models of the Brain--Henry Markram/TED.com
The Computer Pen-- kay0kay 

The Future: computers, robots, networks
Honda Robotics-- Honda.com- News
Living in 2050 -- Whiteeagletrance
What is Moores Law? --60SecondScience
Future of the Net-- LearnTheNet.com
Did You Know? -- ITV Video Tutorials Channel
Wireless Sensor Networks CNBC/CrossbowJapan
Google's View of Future Internet--TheOpenRoom/OGilvy.com
Website Resouces/Articles:
National Gallery for America's Young Inventors--National Museum of Education (nmoe.org) 
Kids Innovation Study-- Life-connected.com
Students Robotics Competition 2010 (video)-- RITUniverstyNews
7. How Computers Work (optional)

You will gain a deeper understanding of computer innovations (including those on your timeline) if you understand a little more about how computers work. These resources will help you to generate a more informed and meaningful discussion with  your GenComp peers about the history and future of computers.
Video: "Computer Walk-through" (Computer History Channel)  
Interactive Unit: Intel's Introduction to Computers (Intel.com)
Resource #4 Binary Numbers- (below) provides a PowerPoint introduction to binary numbers, and how they apply to computers. Interactive activities are included.
Resource #5 Computer Components- is a PowerPoint introducing the main components of a computer, and how they work together.


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    Description: computer timeline worksheet

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    Description: How computer components work together.


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    Description: PowerPoint: How Binary Numbers Work

  • File
    Description: Research & Reflection Sheet

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