Historical Development of Computers (JSS 1)












1. Introductory Activities




By the end of the lesson, the students should have attained the following objectives (cognitive, affective and psychomotor) and should be able to –

1. list early counting devices.

2. state the problems in counting large numbers with those devices.

3. name the mechanical counting and calculating devices.

4. name electro-mechanical counting devices.

5. identity electronic counting devices and modern counting devices.

6. identify the five generations of computers.

7. describe the features of each generation.



Abacus and Modern counting machine



The teacher will teach the lesson with the aid of:

1. Fingers

2. Toes

3. Sticks

4. Stones

5. Pebbles



6. Abacus

7. Slide rule

8. Four Figure Table

9. Charts

10. Pictures

11. Computer

12. Cardboard cutting


METHOD OF TEACHING – Choose a suitable and appropriate methods for the lessons.

Note – Irrespective of choosing methods of teaching, always introduce an activities that will arouse pupil’s interest or lead them to the lessons. 



1. Scheme of Work

2. 9 – Years Basic Education Curriculum

3. Course Book

4. All Relevant Material

5. Online Information




Before the invention of computer, people used their fingers and toes in counting.

Sometimes, they used stones, pebbles, cowries even the seed of plants like agbalumo seeds and palm kernel are used in counting.



Early Counting Devices are devices used for performing basic arithmetic operations such as addition and subtraction before the invention of computer.


Examples of Early Counting Devices 

1. Fingers and toes

2. stones

3. wooden sticks

4. pebbles

5. cowries

6. notch sticks

7. Bottle tops (local name – counter)

8. Seeds of plants such as agbalumo seeds (local name – koro or station) and palm kernel.

9. Straw – each straw are cut into smaller pieces for counting.

10. Beads such as rosary which are still commonly used by Catholic and Muslim for Prayer.



1. Abacus

The first computer called Ancient counting machine. The first computer was called the Abacus counting machine. Abacus can be used for addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

2. Slide Rule 

Slide Rule is a ruler that function as mechanical analog computer used for computing multiplication or division, roots, logarithms, and the result of trigonometric functions.

It is also called slipstick.



1. John Napier bone

In 1617 John Napier, a Scottish mathematician, invented the Napier’s bones. These were rods on which numbers were marked.

These numbers enable the user to easily work out the answers to a restricted set of the multiplication tables. The numbers to be multiplied are positioned on the top row and the left column.

2. Blaise Pascal Machine 

In 1642 Blaise Pascal invented the first calculating machine when he was 19 years old. This machine was developed to assist his father’s work as a government auditor of accounts.


3. Gotfried Leibniz Machine 

A famous German mathematician, Gottfried Von Leibniz made the most significant contribution to the mechanical calculator in 1671 when he invented the Leibniz calculating machine. The machine can perform 4 arithmetic operations.

4. Joseph Jacquard Loom 

The Jacquard loom is a mechanical loom, invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1800. The loom simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with complex patterns such as brocade, damask, and matelasse.


5. Charles Babbage Analytical Machine 

Charles Babbage was a mathematics professor at Trinity College in Cambridge, England.  After several unsuccessful attempts at building a mechanical calculating machine, Babbage developed the analytical engine in 1834.


6. Philip Emeagwali

Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian-born engineer and computer scientist/geologist. He is called the Bill Gates of Africa. He invented the world’s fastest computer. He was one of two winners of the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, a prize from the IEEE, for his use of a Connection Machine supercomputer to help analyze petroleum fields.


For more information, visit – Early Counting Devices and the Modern Computer System



The EDVAC computer, when it was finally constructed in 1952, followed von Neumann’s design. But the first von Neumann computer to be constructed and operated as the Manchester Mark I.

This machine was designed and built at Manchester University in England. It ran its first program in 1948. The computer had a 96-word memory and executed an instruction in 1.2 milliseconds. Today, the computer you are using is born out of von Neumann’s idea.



Each new computer was better than the one before it. Each new type of computer is therefore known as a generation of computers.

Computer are classified according to generation, the following types of computers can be identified as follows –

1. First Generation

First generation computers are the first computer. They used vacuum tubes. First generation needed much electricity before they could be used.

They are slow and can only store little information.

  • The year of development – 1946 -1959
  • The technology speed of operation – Very slow
  • Storage capacity – Magnetic Core as Primary Memory


2. Second Generation

Second generation is the second computer made. Just like the first generation, it is big, cost and slow. But it is faster and can store more information than the first generation computers.

First generation used transistors. And needed less electricity

  • The year of development – 1959 -1965
  • The technology speed of operation – microseconds
  • Storage capacity – Magnetic Drum and Magnetic Tape as Secondary Memory


3. Third Generation

Third generation computer is the third computer made. They contained integrated circuits that allow flow of electricity.

Third generation computers are cheaper, smaller and faster than the second generation computers. They store more information than first and second generation.

  • The year of development – 1965 -1971
  • The technology speed of operation – faster than first and second generation
  • Storage capacity – Semiconductor Memory


4. Fourth Generation

Fourth generation computer is the four computer made. They contained microprocessors that’s large – scale integrated circuits that allow more flow of electricity than third generation.

Fourth generation computers are cheaper, smaller and faster than the third generation computers. They store more information than first, second and third generation.

  • The year of development – 1971 -1980
  • The technology speed of operation – faster than the previous generations
  • Storage capacity – Semiconductor Memory


5. Fifth Generation

Fifth generation are work in progress. They are to contain artificial intelligence.

  • The year of development – 1980 – still date
  • The technology speed of operation – Logical Interference per Second
  • Storage capacity – ROM and RAM



Teacher’s/Student’s Activities – Writes notes on the board for the students copy the board summary into their notebooks. 



To deliver the lesson, the teacher adopts the following steps:

1. To introduce the lesson, the teacher revises the previous lesson. Based on this, he/she asks the students some questions; then, the teacher –

2. Describes and shows early counting devices.

3. Mentions the problems of counting large numbers with those devices.

Student’s Activities – Observe and examine the counting devices.

4. Demonstrates the use of counting and calculating devices.

Student’s Activities –

  • Observe the use of mechanical counting and calculating devices.
  • Count given large numbers with the devices.

5. Describes and shows pictures of electro-mechanical counting devices.

6. Guides students to compare and contrast the electronic counting devices with modern computers.

Student’s Activities –

  • Observe and recognize the pictures of electro-mechanical devices.
  • Observe and recognize electronic counting devices and modern computer.

7. Discuss the contributions of the various counting devices to the modern computer.

8. Describes each generation of computers in terms of –

  • the year of development.
  • the technology speed of operation.
  • storage capacity, etc.

Student’s Activities – Match each generation with its characteristic features.

ClassRoomNote – Copy the board summary into the notebooks.



To conclude the lesson for the week, the teacher revises the entire lesson and links it to the following week’s lesson.

Next Lesson –



Students to:

1. name at least four early counting devices.

2. discuss the problems in using those devices to count large numbers.

3. name two mechanical counting and calculating devices.

4. name two electro-mechanical counting devices.

5. identify shown electronic counting devices and modern computers.

6. state contributions of a names inventor .

7. list the generations of computers.

8. state two features of each generation of computers.



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