The history of computing hardware covers the history of computer hardware, its architecture, and its impact on software. Originally calculations were computed by humans, who were called computers, as a job title.
The von Neumann architecture unifies our current computing hardware implementations. The major elements of computing hardware are input, output, memory, and processor (control and datapath). They have undergone successive refinement or improvement over the history of computing hardware. Beginning with mechanical mechanisms, the hardware then started using analogs for a computation, including water and even air as the analog quantities: analog computers have used lengths, pressures, voltages, and currents to represent the results of calculations. Eventually the voltages or currents were standardized and digital computers were developed over a period of evolution dating back centuries. Digital computing elements have ranged from mechanical gears, to electromechanical relays, to vacuum tubes, to transistors, and to integrated circuits, all of which are currently implementing the von Neumann architecture.
Since digital computers rely on digital storage, and tend to be limited by the size and speed of memory, the history of computer data storage is tied to the development of computers. The degree of improvement in computing hardware has triggered world-wide use of the technology. Even as performance has improved, the price has declined, until computers have become commodities, accessible to ever-increasing sectors of the world's population. Computing hardware thus became a platform for uses other than computation, such as automation, communication, control, entertainment, and education. Each field in turn has imposed its own requirements on the hardware, which has evolved in response to those requirements.