Modern computer technology offers a universe of conveniences. People can look for jobs online and even work from home via the Internet, while cutting edge technology enables doctors to do surgery on people from around the world. This is due to the abundance of modern gadgets including laptops and tablets, as well as personal desktop computers, high speed Internet lines, and web hosting servers. In order to appreciate these technological wonders, however, it is important to know how technology got to this point. It is the result of thousands of years of technological evolution and progress across many parts of the world.
3000 BC: The first abacus is likely invented and used by the Babylonians.
1800 BC: Algorithms are developed by a Babylonian mathematician as an aid in solving numerical problems.
500 BC: The Egyptians invent the bead and wire abacus.
1000: Pope Sylvester II devised and introduced Europe to a new abacus to which he applied his knowledge of Hindu-Arabic numerals.
1617: The Scottish inventor John Napier demonstrated a method of multiplication using numbering rods made of ivory. These rods became known as Napier’s bones due to the material they were made of.
1642: The first mechanical calculating machine, the Pascaline, is built by Blaise Pascal who was 19 years old.
1673: A mechanical calculating machine that adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides is built by Gottfried Leibniz.
1805: Joseph Marie Jacquard invented punch cards to control certain aspects of his mechanical loom.
1822: Charles Babbage proposes and designs a Difference Engine to calculate logarithms; however, the machine is never completed.
1833: The Analytical Machine, which is considered the original general purpose computer, is designed by Charles Babbage.
1842: Babbage’s work is documented by Ada Lovelace. In addition, she also wrote programs for him.
1854: The Mathematical Analysis of Logic is published by George Boole.
1855: The first practical mechanical computer is based on work by Babbage, but is built by George and Edvard Scheutz of Stockholm.
1884: A patent application for a punch-card tabulating machine is filed by Herman Hollerith.
1885: The first commercial listing and adding machine was developed and patented by William Burroughs.
1889: The Hollerith tabulating machine patent is issued.
1890: To aid the taking of the U.S. census, Dr. Herman Hollerith creates a machine that uses perforated cards.
1903: Electric logic circuits known as gates or switches are patented by Nikola Tesla.
1924: International Business Machines becomes the new name for the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company.
1931: Konrad Zuse builds Z1, which is the first calculator.
1933: The Voder, a talking machine and the first of its kind, is invented by Homer Dudley for Bell Telephone Laboratory.
1937: The first binary calculator is created by George Stibitz for Bell Telephone Laboratories.
1938: Hewlett-Packard Co. is founded.
1939: A prototype for the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) is designed by John J. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry.
1940: The first terminal is created as a result of remote processing experiments at Bell Laboratories.
1941: Alan M. Turing designs the Colossus computer, which is then built by M.H.A. Neuman at the University of Manchester.
1941: A calculator with automated controls is built by Konrad Zuse. It is called the Z3.
1944: Colossus Mark II is built in England.
1944: The relay-based computer called Mark I (IBM ASCC) is completed and Grace Murray Hopper becomes its first programmer.
1946: Eckert and Mauchly start the first real-time computer called Binac (Binary Automatic Computer), which takes three years to complete.
1946: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) is dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania.
1946: The Universal Automatic Computer Univac is designed by the Electronic Control Co., which was formerly Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation.
1947: An Intelligent Machinery article by Alan M. Turing defines artificial intelligence.
1947: The not-for-profit Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is founded.
1948: Maurice V. Wilkes of the University of Cambridge develops the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, or EDSAC.
1948: The 12,000 tube Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC) is created by IBM.
1948: William Bradford Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter H. Brattain invent the transistor.
1949: The first tests of magnetic disks are supported by EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer).
1950: Assembler (symbolic assembly language) is applied to EDSAC by Cambridge University’s Maurice V. Wilkes.
1950: The National Bureau of Standards receives SEAC (Standards Eastern Automatic Computer).
1951: UNIVAC I, which utilizes a magnetic tape for a memory buffer, is installed at the Bureau of Census.
1951: The first real-time computer called Whirlwind becomes operational at MIT.
1952: Fred Gruenberger writes the first computer manual.
1952: IBM announces its first electronic stored-program computer called the 701.
1952: Bizmac, which has a magnetic storage and an iron-core memory, is developed by RCA.
1953: IBM 726 has 100 character-per-inch density and a speed that is 75 inches-per-second speed. It is the first magnetic tape device.
1954: FORTRAN is created by John Backus and his team at IBM.
1956: Information Processing Language, known as IPL, is invented by F. Simon, D. Shaw and A. Newell.
1958: Atlas, the world’s first virtual memory machine, is built at the University of Manchester by R.M. Kilburn.
1958: The first integrated circuit is built by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments.
1959: The patent for the first integrated circuit is filed by Kilby at Texas Instruments.
1960: The PDP-1 is developed at Digital Equipment Corporation by Benjamin Curley. It is the first minicomputer.
1960: The first removable disks are invented.
1961: The Stretch computer, a transistorized machine with 64-bit data paths, is delivered to Los Alamos by IBM. This computer is the first to use eight-bit bytes; it stays in operation until l971.
1962: Ken Iverson, in conjunction with Harvard University and IBM, develop “A Programming Language,” or APL.
1963: Computer-aided design (CAD) is made possible by the development of conversational graphics consoles by General Motors’ DAC-1 and MIT Lincoln Laboratories’ Sketchpad.
1964: Tom Kurtz and John Kemeny of Dartmouth develop the BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Language) programming language.
1966: Texas Instruments introduces the first solid-state hand-held calculator to the market.
1967: DEC manufactures the PDP-10 mainframe.
1967: Computerworld publishes its first issue.
1968: Joshua Lederberg ?writes Dendral, a medical program designed for medical diagnostics, at Stanford University.
1968: Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce found Integrated Electronics Corp., also known as Intel.
1969: Nova, the world’s first 16-bit minicomputer, is introduced by Edson deCastro and Data General Corp.
1969: The First International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence takes place.
1969: IBM separates hardware from software and brings to market a line of minicomputers called System/3.
1969: Nicklaus Wirth creates the first PASCAL compiler software.
1970: The first computer chess tournament is hosted by the ACM.
1970: Honeywell acquires General Electric’s computer operations.
1971: Floppy disks enter the market.
1971: The first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, is developed by Marcian E. Hoff and his team at Intel.
1971: The Kenbak I, the world’s first personal computer (PC), is invented by John Blankenbaker.
1972: The founding of Cray Research.
1972: Jack Kilby, Jerry Merryman, and Jim VanTassel create the first electronic pocket calculator for Texas Instruments.
1972: Gary Kildall writes the programming language PL/1 for the Intel 4004 microprocessor.
1972: Intel introduces an 8-bit microprocessor called the 8008.
1973: Alain Comerauer develops the PROLOG programming language at the University of Marseilles-Luminy in France.
1973: MICRAL is the first microcomputer marketed in France. It is created by the company R2E.
1973: IBM invents the first Winchester disk drives.
1974: Intel invents the 8-bit microprocessor called the 8080.
1975: The Cray-1 supercomputer comes online.
1975: The first computer users group, Homebrew Computer Club, holds its first meeting.
1975: MITS brings the Altair personal computer kit to market. Designed by Ed Roberts and Bill Yates, it is named after “A Voyage to Altair,” a Star Trek episode. The 256-byte computer kit cost $397.
1975: Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop a version of the BASIC computer language for the Altair PC. They also found the Microsoft Corporation.
1975: In Santa Monica, CA, the first computer store goes into business.
1976: Tandem creates the T/16, the world’s first fault-tolerant computer.
1976: Engineers at Seymour Cray introduce the Cray 1, a supercomputer with 200,000 freon-cooled ICs and 100 million floating point operations per second (MFLOP).
1976: Perkin-Elmer and Gould SEL introduce super minicomputers to the market.
1977: Apple Computer goes into business and brings the Apple II personal computer to the market. Tandy and Commodore also enter the personal computer market.
1977: DEC introduces the VAX-11/780, the first 32-bit super minicomputer.
1977: Datapoint invents the first local area network, the ARC system.
History, 1978 – 1994
1978: The educational toy Speak-and-Spell is introduced by Texas Instruments. The toy features digitized speech synthesis.
1978: COMDEX holds its first trade show.
1979: Jean Ichbiah and a team at CII-Honeywell Bull in France develop the Ada language.
1979: CompuServe Information Services begins operating.
1979: VisiCalc is the world’s first electronic spreadsheet program. It makes its first appearance at the West Coast Computer Faire.
1979: Micropro (now Wordstar International) introduces Wordstar, which becomes one of the most popular word processing programs in the world for PCs.
1980: Bell Laboratories licenses the UNIX operating system to Microsoft, which then introduces their own version of UNIX called XENIX.
1980: The number of active computers in the U.S. reaches a milestone of one million units.
1981: Commodore brings the home computer known as the VIC-20 to market. The computer sells over a million units.
1981: IBM brings de facto standards to the personal computer market.
1981: The first portable computer, the Osborne 1, is introduced by Osborne Computer.
1982: Sun Microsystems opens for business.
1982: 16 months after MS-DOS becomes available on the market, Microsoft licenses the operating system to 50 microcomputer manufacturers.
1982: The computer is declared Man of the Year by Time Magazine.
1983: Upon introducing its first computer to the market in January, Compaq sales reach $111M.
1983: The Cray 2 super computer reaches a performance rating of one billion floating point operations per second, or FLOPs.
1984: Apple brings the Macintosh computer to the consumer market.
1984: IBM invents the PC Advanced Technology, or PC AT.
1985: Aldus releases PageMaker for the Apple Macintosh. This is the beginning of the desktop publishing era.
1987: IBM produces the PS/2 family of computers and ships over 1 million machines.
1987: Sun Microsystems offers a workstation that uses the RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) microprocessor.
1987: Apple offers the Apple Macintosh II, Macintosh SE, and its new HyperCard technology.
1987: DEC releases the Vaxstation 2000, MicroVAX 3500 and 3600 workstations to the market.
1987: Aldus brings desktop publishing to the IBM PC and PC compatible market with the release of PageMaker for that platform.
1988: Cray Research produces a $20 million super computer, the Cray Y-MP.
1988: AT&T announces plans to work with Sun Microsystens to develop a new version of UNIX.
1988: IBM, DEC, HP, Apollo, and other major computer companies respond to AT&T’s announcement by creating the not-for-profit organization Open Software Foundation. Its purpose was to create royalty-free UNIX operating systems and software.
1988: NeXT introduces a workstation computer that uses rewritable optical discs as its primary form of data storage.
1988: The Morris computer worm spreads through the Internet and overloads thousands of computers, forcing them to crash and shut down.
1989: Intel unveils its new 80486 microprocessor as well as the I860 RISC coprocessor chip. The chips feature over one million transistors.
1989: Poqet unveils the first sub-notebook, the Poqet PC, which is a pocket-sized computer with an MS-DOS compatible operating system.
1989: Grid produces the GridPad, a laptop that uses a touch-sensitive pad. The pad also recognizes a person’s handwriting.
1989: Compaq introduces the LTE and LTE/286. These computers are battery-powered notebooks that include a hard drive and floppy disk.
1989: EISA-based PCs, the first of their kind, are available.
1989: The first computers that are 80486-based are unveiled.
1990: The Motorola 68040 microprocessor is introduced.
1990: The high performance RISC Station 6000 workstations are announced by IBM.
1990: A fault-tolerant VAX computer is introduced by Digital Equipment.
1990: The PS/1, a computer designed for home and home office use begins to ship from IBM.
1990: The first web hosting server connects with a web browser client over the Internet.
1990: NCR switches from a proprietary mainframe to systems based on Intel 486 and microprocessors and their successors.
1990: Microsoft, IBM, Tandy, and AT&T, among others announce hardware and software specifications for multimedia platforms.
1991: Advanced Micro Devices, or AMD, announces it has created a competitor to the Intel 386 chips. It is called the AMD 386 microprocessor.
1991: Most PC vendors unveil Notebook PCs.
1991: The Advanced Computing Environment (ACE) is launched by 21 companies headed by Compaq. Its purpose is to create standards for PCs and workstations that are higher end.
1991: Microsoft is investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over business practices.
1991: The 486SX, which is a more affordable 486 chip, is introduced by Intel.
1991: The UNIX operating system Solaris is announced by SunSoft, a subsidiary of Sun Microsystems.
1992: OS/2 Version 2.0 is released by IBM. Over 1M units are shipped.
1992: Microsoft Windows 3.1 is introduced and results in the shipping of nearly 10M units.
1992: Compaq becomes a price trendsetter with the announcement of several new lines of PCs, an ultimately successful strategy.
1992: The RISC-based Alpha is announced as the next generation computer by Digital Equipment.
1992: Windows for Workgroups is introduced by Microsoft.
1992: Intel announces that it will change the name of their next microprocessor from 589 to Pentium.
1993: Novell’s NetWare 4.0 is revealed.
1993: Notes 3.0 is announced by Lotus.
1993: The first of the PowerPC microprocessors are shipped by Motorola.
1993: Windows NT is unveiled by Microsoft.
1993: The shipping of Pentium-based systems begins.
1993: Apple’s first Personal Digital Assistant called the Newton MessagePad is shipped.
1993: A family-oriented PC for the home called the Presario is introduced by Compaq.
1993: The FTC probe of Microsoft comes to an end with no action taken.
1993: After 10 years as Apple’s chairman, John Sculley is forced to resign.
1993: Microsoft at Work (MAW) along with the Plug and Play initiatives are outlined by Microsoft.
1993: PowerPC chip based workstations are debuted by IBM.
1993: IBM’s OS/2 for Windows upgrade is announced.
1994: Shipping begins of Macintosh computers that use the PowerPC.
1994: The clock-tripling microprocessor called 486DX4 is introduced by Intel.