Historic Timeline of Computers


This brief timeline of computing skims key events in the creation and invention of computing tools and ideas. These ideas continued and continue the invention and advancement of the computer. They continue the computer's integration and interaction with human history, culture and our educational systems. Underlying this development is a concept unique to our human species, one so persistent in human behavior that it seems embedded in our genetic code. Not only is there a belief (e.g., theory) that life can be made better by remembering or storing information, but that through personal actions ones own life can be improved through such remembering. In that theory we also find the motivation for systems of education that have become our schools and universities.

Through the additional/optional links below to the Google search engine first display images, clicking the Web tab on the Google page also runs a search of web pages for that topic with the most relevant appearing at the top of the list. The green color below highlights computing developments that are especially significant to educators and school curriculum.

Year Event
350 millions years ago to 1000 B.C. Numerous mechanical and conceptual developments enabled counting and calculation. For example, the word "calculate" comes from the Latin word for pebble.

The most important development during this time period was not a thing but a concept that life could be improved and advantage gained by recalling things, remembering and using a set sequence of things and inventing a better sequence. This is the original meaning of calculate, and is still used today when the fictional literature refers to the phrase, "a calculating person."
2400 BC to 300 BC. (technology to support mathematics begins)
The first portable counting mechanism was the abacus. Some claim it originated with the Chinese, Early Abacusbut most scholars argue that it was invented by the Babylonians (Encyclopædia Britannica). The  concept was first implemented with pebbles and sand or dust on a rock, hence its origins in the Phoenician word abak or sand. Of course if it was a windy day, you couldn't calculate the big figures. As the technology of that period improved, carrying a bag of pebbles, waiting for the right weather, then finding a nice pile of dust or sand and then placing a design on it was no longer necessary. The early Roman abacus to the right created a permanent sand pile grid, the clay tablet. This development led to something better to deal with the problem of easy to lose and displace pebbles. This tablet technology was improved on by putting the pebbles on a string or rod. This design put a number of thinking functions into one highly portable device where they could not get lost and made it easy to quickly move things to the beginning of the sequence. This was the first handheld computer. See thousands of images of different abacus models using Google image search for abacus or try out a simulation of one design of an abacus.
80 BC the Antikythera mechanism, designed by Greek engineers, was the first known functioning analog computer that perhaps calculated the positions of the stars and planets
1500s AD Leonardo da Vinci's designs a Mechanical Calculator
1600s John Napier creates Napiers Bones (multiplication tables on wood or paper) and logarithms.
1621 William Oughtred invents the slide rule, an early analog computer .
1642 Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher, invents the first operating model of mechanical digital calculator using gears, called the Arithmetic Machine. It used addition to subtract, multiple and divide.
1665 Robert Hooke writes in Micrographia of how our use of eye glasses suggests extensions for all senses (technology conceived to support sense of sight extended to all senses)
1804 Joseph Marie Jacquard used punch cards to automate a weaving loom.
1812 Charles P. Babbage, the "father of the computer", discovered that many long calculations involved many similar, repeated operations. Therefore, he designed a machine, the difference engine which would be steam powered, fully automatic and commanded by a fixed instruction program. In 1833, Babbage quit working on this machine to concentrate on the analytical engine .
1840s Augusta Ada is known as "the first programmer" because she suggested that a binary system should be used for storage rather than a decimal system for Babbage's designs .
1850s George Boole developed Boolean logic which would later become significant to the design of computer circuitry and as a method for refining the searching of information.
1874 first commercial typewriter was released in 1874, having been patented in 1867.
1890 Hollerith's tabulator
1890 Dr. Herman Hollerith image of Hollerith's punch card and tabulating machineintroduced the first electromechanical, punched-card data-processing machine which was used to compile information for the 1890 U.S. census. Hollerith's tabulator became so successful that he started his own business to market it. His company would eventually become International Business Machines (IBM). (this paper based machine represents the origin of computer database software)
1906 Lee De Forest invents the vacuum tube which is used as an early form of computer memory holding the values of zero and one by being on or off.
1910 first commercial implementation of teletype or teleprinters, between New York City and Boston
1939 Dr. John V. Atanasoff and his graduate assistant Clifford Berry build the first electronic digital computer.
1940 The first example of remote computing, using a teleprinter to reach across a telephone line to a computer in New Hampshire which returned answers to New York. The teleprinter is not a computer but connects with and displays interactions with the computer. .
1941 Konrad Zuse from Germany, introduced the first programmable computer which solved complex engineering equations. This machine, called the Z3, was also the first to work on the binary system instead of the decimal system.
1947 The giant ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator) machine was developed by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, Jr. at the University of Pennsylvania. It used 18,000 vacuum tubes, punch-card input, weighed thirty tons and occupied a thirty-by-fifty-foot space. It was only programmable by changing the wiring, not through software changes, but was productive from 1946 to 1955 and was used to compute artillery firing tables.
1947 William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain of Bell Labs invented the transistor. In the next decade, vacuum tubes will be replaced by transistors for which they will receive the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956.
1951 Mauchly and Eckert built the UNIVAC I, the first computer designed and sold commercially, specifically for business data-processing applications.
1950s Dr. Grace Murray Hopper developed the UNIVAC I compiler. (computer supports composition with text)
1955 Hiller and Issacson compse the first piece of computer-generated music using the Univac computer, the Illiac String Quartet (computer supports composition with music)
1957 FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator), an early computer programming language that was the first to handle loops, repeating sets of computer directions (computer supports complex composition with text)
1958 Jack St. Clair Kilby and Robert Noycefirst integrated circuit of Texas Instruments manufactured the first integrated circuit, or chip, which is made up of six components, a feat for which they eventually win a Nobel Prize for physics in the year 2000. This led to hundreds of tiny transistors that fit on a chip of silicon, then thousands, then millions over the next decade.
1960s Gene Amdahl designed the IBM System/360 series of mainframe (G) computers, the first general-purpose digital computers to use integrated circuits.
1962 Ivan Sutherland produces software for drawing and manipulating images in real-time called Sketchpad (computer supports computer  image composition)
1964 IBM produces the MT/ST (the Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter) (this typewriter becomes the first word processor)
1965 BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming language developed by Dr. Thomas Kurtz and Dr. John Kemeny.
1960's late ATM machines introduced, but only allowed cash withdrawal.
1967 A Texas Instrument team of engineers TI's first calculator, the 1972 datamathcreated the Cal-Tech, the first handheld calculator design completed which is marketed three years later by Canon. TI begins to sell its own 4 function Datamath calculator in 1972 for $150.00.
1968 The movie 2001A Space Odyssey is released.
1969 A major internet is started as a U.S. government defense agency, ARPANET, needs to connect many machines on many smaller networks.
1970 intel introduces the first 1k dynamic RAM on a chip which quickly replaces magnetic core memory.
1971 Intel released thethe first microprocessor first microprocessor, the 4004 (invented by Ted Hoff) a specialized integrated circuit chip which was able to process four bits of data at a time at 108 khz using some 2000 transistors (see 1958). What formerly required many computer chips with connecting wires for the arithmetic, logic and control components, was now on one chip, significantly reducing the complexity and cost of manufacturing the heart of a computer. Storage  for data and programs remains on other chips and devices. Eventually, almost every device using electricity will be controlled by a microprocessor.
1971 PASCAL, a structured or modular programming language, was developed by Niklaus Wirth.
1972 The first grocery store used computer read bar code on products, a Kroger in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1972 The Atari Company invented the first commercially successful coin-operated video game called "Pong" starting the concept of software as simulation and games
1973 Texas Instruments introduces the first dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) that is a 4K-bit chip
1973 The first sophisticated computer systems that could scan human tissue were installed at Massachusetts General and Mayo Clinic. Using x-rays, the process takes 4.5 minutes of scan time then another 20 minutes to process the collected data. The Nobel Prize for the development of Computer Assisted Tomography was awarded to Cormack and Hounsfield in 1979.
1974 Hewlett-Packard introduces the HP-35, the first scientific handheld calculator
1974 Robert Moog invented the first practical electronic synthesizer and introduced it to the public in 1964.
1975 Two young hackers, William Gates and Paul Allen approached MITS and promised to deliver a BASIC compiler. So they did and from the sale, Microsoft was born.
1976 Cray developed the Cray-I supercomputer.
1976 Jobs and Wozniak designed Apple II series computer showing person working with it in kitchenand built the Apple I; then the following year introduced the Apple II microcomputer during a year in which many other personal computer brands are marketed including the Commodore Pet, Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I, Atari and Coleco and then more brands appear in the years to follow.
1978 Arcade video game arrives called Space Invaders.
1979 Arcade video game by Atari called Asteroids which provided fast action and high score as challenge for others to beat.
1979 Visicalc (a spreadsheet program) is first sold for the Apple II computer.(computer supports easy mathematical problem solving)
1980 IBM offers Bill Gates the opportunity to develop the operating system called MS-DOS for its new IBM personal computer.
1980 Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 Pocket Computer. It features a 24 character display, QWERTY keyboard, and 1.9 KB of programmable memory. Price is US$230.
1981 The IBM PC was introduced with a 16-bit microprocessor.
1982 Time magazine chooses the computer instead of a person to be its "Machine of the Year."
1982 CMX/Orrox shows a disc-based editing system for digital video (computer supports composition with video)
1982 The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) became a standard allowing digital electronic instruments to work efficiently with computers.
1982 first digital audio CD discs made available in the 5-inch size.
1983 The Internet is born when Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (Arpanet) of the US Department of Defense switched over to the TCP/IP protocol from the Network Control Protocol (NCP) on January 1, 1983.  The ARPANET (forerunner to today's Internet) which was limited to just 1,000 machines could now handle millions. Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn designed the TCP/IP protocol.
1983 The movie War Games is released in which a seeker of network computer access stumbles into playing a game that becomes a real prelude to thermonuclear war.
1983 Aldus Corporation introduces Pagemaker software for desktop publishing (computer simplifies the merging of text and images, desktop publishing)
1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh computer, which uses a graphical interface instead of the usual text command interface, making the computer much easier to use.
1984 The same year, IBM released the 286-AT.
1984 William Gibson authors the book Neuromancer which coins the term cyberspace.
1984 Seiko Instruments U.S.A. Inc. displays the first wristwatch computer, with a 10-character, 4-line LCD.
1987 Hypercard distributed by Apple Computer, (the computer manages multimedia, integration of many media on one computer screen)
1988 A nondestructive worm was introduced into the Internet network bringing thousands of computers to a halt.
1989 The Intel 486 became the world's first 1,000,000 transistor microprocessor.
1989 Virtual reality software appears from Autodesk and VPL (personal computer supports 3 dimensional (3D) displays of imagery)
1990 By 1990, all known forms of composition can be edited and displayed on one affordable device and on one screen, using the personal computer. Digital composition tools for taste, smell and touch still challenge inventors.<\td>
1992 Apple Computer chairman John Sculley coins the term Personal Digital Assistant, referring to handheld computers that typically operate via a stylus on a LCD display. Sculley announces that Apple Computer will enter the consumer electronics market by the end of the year. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Apple Computer announces the Newton pen input device.
1992 The movie Lawnmower Man explores possible social consequences of virtual reality computing; Lawnmower Man 2 (due 2003).
1994 Commercialization of the Internet.
1995 Colombia Pictures released The Net, which explored the social issues of personal security and privacy with networked computers.
1995 The Copycat movie explored how computers could be used to animate images and to transmit them.
1996 3Com debuts the palm pilot hand held computer or PDAPalm Pilot.
1996 first DVD players made available
1997 Nokia introduces the Nokia 9000i Communicator, combining hand-held PC, digital cell phone, and fax4.5 x 1.4 inch LCD screen, QWERTY keyboard, GeoWorks operating system, Intel 24-MHz 386 processor, and 8-MB RAM. Price is US$850-1000 plus monthly cell phone charge; weight is 14 ounces; size is 6.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches.
1998 Microsoft announced the Palm PC hand-held computer, running Windows CE 2.0.
1998 Pople and Kohn were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in this year for showing how to use computers  to use the complex equations of quantum-chemical methods to accurately determine the three-dimensional structure of molecules. One application of this is the development of new catalysts to generate very specific products such as drugs and plastics. Future applications will include nanomachines and nanocomputers .
1999 Palm Computing introduced the Palm VII Connected Organizer handheld computer2 MB RAM, and telephone modem port which can be connected to a separate cell phone. Price is US$599; size is 5.25 x 3.25 x 0.75 inches; weight is 6.7 ounces. Two AAA batteries power the unit for 2-3 weeks. Connectivity via Palm for email and Internet access costs US$9.99 for 50 KB transferred per month, or US$24.99 for 150 KB.
1999 The movie The Matrix is released, starring a big brother computer network that is controlling minds and the world.
2001 Apple's iPod, a digital pocket sized  music player is made available.
2002 Crichton authors the book "PreyA Novel" about a swarms of nanocomputers (the size of molecules) organizing to become new life forms, a work which speculates on and explains the merger of computer, nano, and bio technologies, artificial life, and emergent behavior.
2003 First nanocomputer-DNA device designed to play tic-tac-toe and called MAYA; research is underway to make nanocomputing possible through developing quantum replacements for the idea of the transistor (see 1947).
2004 Sony and IBM begin production of cell computer chips, a supercomputer on a chip designed to also be part of teams of chips
Other dates being sought -
First collections of inexpensive personal computers used to make a supercomputercluster or array computing.
First all-in-one wireless handheld and first smart-phone.
First consumer satellite digital access products, for radio and for Internet use.
2005-06 The end of the digital divide is near; Nicholas Negroponte showed prototypes of a $100 laptop to conferences in the fall of 2005; Quantra Corporation won the bid to manufacture the device in January 2006. Mass production began, fall, 2007 with initial price near $200. First big order to Peru, 272,000 computers. January, 2008, Birmingham, Alabama signed agreement to buy 15,000 .
2008 IBM announced the Roadrunner computer, June, 2008, had reached 1 petaflop of computing speed (1,000 trillion calculations per second)

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