India, the cradle of mathematical gems like zero and the decimal system, has played a pivotal role in shaping the world of computing and information technology. This article journeys through India’s computing history, tracing its path from the creation of early computing machines to its present-day status as a global IT powerhouse.
Early Developments: The Genesis of Computing in India
India’s tryst with computing began in the 1950s. The Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata developed a small Analog Computer in 1953, marking the country’s first foray into the realm of computing. This was followed by the arrival of a British-built HEC 2M computer in 1955, the first digital computer on Indian soil.
However, the crown jewel of India’s early computing history was undoubtedly TIFRAC. Short for Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Automatic Calculator, TIFRAC was the first computer developed indigenously in India. Commissioned in 1960, this computing behemoth was equipped with 2,700 vacuum tubes, 1,700 germanium diodes, and 12,500 resistors. It boasted a memory of 2,048 40-bit words and even featured a cathode ray tube display system for analog and digital displays.
Building a Foundation for IT Services
India’s IT services industry began to take shape in the late 1960s. The Bhabha Committee, named after the renowned physicist Dr. Homi Bhabha, created a 10-year blueprint in 1966 that laid the foundation for India’s IT Service Industries. This plan facilitated the birth of Tata Consultancy Services in 1967, which later partnered with Burroughs in 1977, kickstarting India’s export of IT services. A significant milestone was the establishment of the first software export zone, SEEPZ, in Mumbai in 1973. By the 1980s, SEEPZ was responsible for more than 80 percent of India’s software exports.
Progress in Regulations and Infrastructure
A pivotal moment in India’s IT journey came with the formation of a Task Force in the 1990s. This Task Force produced an IT Action Plan with 108 recommendations, sparking an acceleration in the IT sector’s growth.
Simultaneously, the Indian government took significant steps to ease regulations, leading to the creation of the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI). This move allowed VSAT communications to flourish, paving the way for Indian firms to transmit their work directly abroad, thus fortifying India’s position in the global IT market.
International Collaborations: Bridging Borders with Technology
The early 2000s saw India bolstering its technological prowess through international collaborations. A joint EU-India group of scholars was established in 2001 to promote joint research and development. Furthermore, India gained Associate Member State status at CERN from 2017, solidifying its position in the international scientific community.
The Boom of Startups and the Current Landscape
The last decade has seen a meteoric rise in the number of startups in India, particularly in the IT sector. This boom has been fueled by initiatives such as the Start-Up India Scheme, which provides resources and support for budding entrepreneurs.
Despite this growth, challenges persist, particularly for marginalized communities struggling to break into this thriving industry. Efforts are needed to ensure that the benefits of India’s IT boom are equitably shared.
Today, India is the largest exporter of IT, contributing 10% to the nation’s GDP in 2019, up from a mere 1.2% in 1998. With exports constituting about 79% of the industry’s total revenue, India has become a major player in the global IT landscape.
From the humble beginnings of TIFRAC to the dizzying heights of today’s IT giants, India’s computing history is a testament to the country’s innovative spirit and resilience. As India continues to stride forward in this digital era, it remains a fascinating chronicle of triumphs and challenges, of dreams realized and aspirations yet to be fulfilled. It is the story of a nation that has successfully transitioned from being a consumer of technology to becoming a creator, shaping the future of computing not just for itself, but for the world.
For More Information
- Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore: The official website of IISc Bangalore, one of India’s leading institutions for advanced scientific and technological research and education.
- Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India: The official website of the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which provides various resources and updates on India’s IT policies and initiatives.
- National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM): NASSCOM is a trade association of Indian Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing industry that provides a wealth of information on the IT sector in India.
- Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC): C-DAC is an Indian autonomous scientific society, involved in research and development in IT, electronics, and associated areas.
- Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi: The website of IIT Delhi’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, which offers a glimpse into the academic advancements in the field of computing in India.
- Statista: A leading provider of market and consumer data, Statista offers statistics and reports across various industries, including IT. This platform can be particularly useful for finding the most recent data on the growth and impact of the IT industry in India.
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- “Indian Institute of Technology Madras.” https://www.iitm.ac.in/