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Hello, Lakesuperior:

Sometimes we can use a singular count noun without an article, in certain phrases like "at home" and "by plane." Almost always, however, a singular count noun does need an article or other determiner in front of it. Or, you might express a very similar idea with the plural count noun and no article.

For your sentence, you could use one of these instead:

"¢ The computer was invented in 1700.
"¢ A computer was invented in 1700.
"¢ The computer has been in existence since 1700.
"¢ Computers have been in existence since 1700.

Rachel
Hello, Rachel!
I think your second option
quote:
A computer was invented in 1700.

is wrong. The indefinite article in its generic function cannot be used in this sentence because in such cases the article has, as a rule, the aditional meaning 'any.' If we follow your advice and write
quote:
A computer was invented in 1700.

we'll create a sentence with a very strange meaning
? Any computer was invented in 1700.

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