Remember Ada Lovelace and her first algorithm? In the same paper where she described her program, Lovelace predicted that one day computers could do much more than crunch numbers. Today, that prediction has held true! Programs can now make predictions about what tv shows you like, beat a grandmaster at chess, and personalize advertisements. But how did we get here?
In 1947, Bell Labs invented something that would change computer science forever - transistors. Transistors are devices used to switch and amplify electronic signals: the basic building blocks of computers. The old method of switching and amplifying signals used unwieldy, fragile glass tubes. Transistors were sturdier, cheaper, and smaller, and scientific advances have only enhanced those traits. The first transistors were the size of the palm of your hand. Now, the average transistor is only the size of a couple of molecules!
In fact, the computer scientist Gordon Moore predicted that transistors would get exponentially smaller. Since transistors are grouped into chips called integrated circuits, the prediction is expressed in those terms: Moore predicted that the amount of transistors in an integrated circuit would double every two years, and that prediction has held true! This is popularly known as Moore’s law.
With better computers, programmers can solve more advanced problems, which leads to new and interesting jobs (we will get more into this in Lesson 3). For instance, if you are a programmer who enjoys educating the world you could get a job at Codecademy. If you are a TV and film aficionado, you could join Netflix or Hulu. If you love cars, you could join any car company (how about Tesla?)! Every industry needs programmers, and over time, you can develop the skills to become a high-valued programmer.
Moore’s law is shown on the right, with the year on the x-axis and a logarithmic scale of the number of transistors on the y-axis. Over time, computers have become smaller and smaller with the exponential increase of transistors that could fit in a computer.
Look around you right now. How many computers can you see? Chances are you are vastly underestimating that number.