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Evolution of Computers Passage
If you had to count every person who lived inthe United States, and there were no calculatorsand no computers of any kind to help you, howwould you do it?05That's the puzzle that nineteen-year-old engi-neer Herman Hollerith was faced with in the 1880swhen he was employed by the U.S. Census Bureau.His solution was to invent a machine that storedinformation by putting patterns of holes in stiff10pasteboard—an idea that Hollerith struck upon byobserving the Jacquard loom, an automatic weav-ing machine that was controlled by specially codedpunch cards. The machine, called the Hollerithtabulating machine and sorting box, was used15to record the 1890 population census and short-ened what had been a seven-year job to just threemonths.Because Hollerith's machine used mechanicalcounters operated by electromagnets and circuits, it20is considered the very first computer. Go anywheretoday—a grocery store, an office, a school—andyou see one of its many descendants, such as thecalculator, personal computer, iPad, and smart-phone. Though Hollerith retired to work at a cattle25farm in Maryland, in 1924 the company he foundedwas renamed International Business Machines(IBM), which is still one of the largest technologycorporations in the world.
As a data storage medium, Hollerith's inven-30tion was revolutionary, but one problem with itwas the physical size and quantities of cards, eachpunch card holding only 960 bits of information.Many types of companies needed to hold moredata in a smaller space. A big leap was made in the351950s with the invention of magnetic tape, whichconsisted of long strips of plastic with a magnetizedcoating that could store as much data as 10,000punch cards. A single reel was about the size of adinner plate, and could be read from and written40to rapidly. In 1963, Philips introduced magnetizedtape in a small cassette, which became a popularchoice for businesses to store data using computers.Nevertheless, tapes were still cumbersome, andthey would degrade over time. Then came the hard45drive. IBM made one of the first, in 1956, called305 RAMAC. It was bigger than a refrigerator andcontained fifty discs, each two feet in diameter. The305 RAMAC could store 4.4 megabytes of data.By comparison, at about the size of a wallet, three50floppy discs, a popular medium from the 1980s and1990s, held the same amount of information.Hard drives have been constantly improvingever since, getting smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient. With the invention of the flash drive55and the micro-SD card, our information storageplatforms are almost too small to handle with ourbare hands.Over the years, the price of data storage spacehas decreased exponentially. In 1984, a 5-megabyte60drive cost $1,400, or $280 per megabyte. Withinfive years, this was cut in half, and since then, thepopularity of personal computers for home andbusiness has driven the price even lower. In 2010,the cost per megabyte was less than ten cents.
65The microprocessor, or Central Processing Unit(CPU), is the brain inside every computer,tablet, and smartphone. It's a silicon semiconductorchip that contains the basic logic and arithmeticfunctions that the device needs in order to run.70The CPU receives and decodes instructions fromkeyboards, touch screens, and Wi-Fi adapters andsends signals out in a timed sequence to devicessuch as monitors, printers, and networks.The first microprocessor was devised in 197175and called the Intel 4004. Measuring just 1/8″ by1/16″, it was as powerful as the electronic computerof 25 years prior, which weighed 30 tons and used18,000 vacuum tubes. It was said about that com-puter that the lights of Philadelphia dimmed when80it was turned on.And yet, as fast as the 4004 Intel was, today'sCPUs are thousands of times faster. One way thatchips get faster is by the addition of more, andsmaller, transistors. Though the Intel 4004 proces-85sor held 2,300 transistors, a typical Intel processortoday, with a 32-nanometer processing die, holds560,000,000 transistors. (One nanometer equalsone-billionth of a meter.)Manufacturers of microprocessors also speed up90chips by making circuits smaller; when the circuitsare more compact, the microprocessors becomefaster because electrons have less distance to travel.As chips get smaller, more of them can be etchedonto the same diameter silicon wafer by improved95fabrication equipment. Consequently, computersthat used to require warehouses now fit in the palmof our hands.
1. The stance that the author takes in this passage is most similar to that of
2. Based on the first three paragraphs, what claim is the author making about Hollerith's invention?
3. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
4. As used in line 43, "cumbersome" most nearly means
5. The author poses a rhetorical question at the beginning of the passage primarily to help readers
6. The passage most strongly suggests that which of the following is true?
7. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
8. What explicit meaning may correctly be drawn from the data in the graphic?
9. As used in line 44, "degrade" most nearly means
10. In line 79, the author most likely refers to the fact that a computer in the 1940s dimmed the lights of Philadelphia to demonstrate the relationship between
11. It can be reasonably inferred from the passage and graphic that
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