Story of India’s first computers | Fusion - WeRIndia

Story of India’s first computers

Story of India’s first computers

When most people think of computers, the rectangular-screened, keyboard-equipped devices of today come to mind. However, computers have been around for a much longer time than many people know, and they would be, for the most part, unrecognizable to us today.

Although most people associate the beginning of the computer age in India with the Liberalization Privatization Globalization reforms (or LPG reforms) brought about by the government in 1991, India’s first computers were actually made several decades earlier.

The first Indian computers were made by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, founder of the Indian Statistical Institute (or ISI) in Kolkata in 1932.

After a famine had struck, Mahalanobis had been asked by colonial administrators to conduct estimates of the paddy crop in Bengal. While he was doing this, he felt the need for computing machines to help him with his estimation, and he decided to attempt to develop them locally.

Thus, in 1932, he founded the ISI in Kolkata, then called Calcutta. Eleven years later, in 1943, Mahalanobis also founded the Indian Calculating Machine and Scientific Instrument Research Society to explore the possibility of the local creation of such devices.

However, it was only after India regained its independence that he was able to find an opportunity to work on developing indigenous computers. The Prime Minister of the time, Jawaharlal Nehru, was interested in developing India’s scientific capabilities. Therefore, he gave the responsibility of developing an indigenous computer to his two most trusted scientific aides: Mahalanobis and Homi Jehangir Bhabha, his rival.

The two began a race to develop India’s first computer, which did not turn out to be an easy task. The right components were so difficult to come across that Mahalanobis’s team had to punch data into stiff paper cards, instead of using floppy disks or magnetic tapes.

However, thanks to their ingenious usages of local materials and their long, tireless efforts, in 1953, Mahalanobis and his team managed to build India’s first indigenous analog computer.

Image Credit:- AlokeKumarBose / CC BY-SA

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