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The first device that might be considered to be a computer in the modern sense of the word was conceived in 1822 by the eccentric British mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage.

In Babbage's time, mathematical tables, such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions, were generated by teams of mathematicians working day and night on primitive calculators. Due to the fact that these people performed computations they were referred to as "computers." In fact the term "computer" was used as a job description (rather than referring to the machines themselves) well into the 1940s, but over the course of time this term became associated with machines that could perform the computations on their own.

In 1822, Babbage proposed building a machine called the Difference Engine to automatically calculate these tables. The Difference Engine was only partially completed when Babbage conceived the idea of another, more sophisticated machine called an Analytical Engine.

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