September 30, 2021
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Computer Industry Timeline Since 1940
Timeline of significant events in the computer industry since 1940
- WORK IN PROGRESS!! (UP TO 1975 SO FAR)
⟶ Updated 18 Nov 2017 ⟶
List of edits
John Vincent Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry of Iowa State College (now the Iowa State University), Ames, Iowa, completed a prototype 16-bit adder. This was the first machine to calculate using vacuum tubes.
Zuse presented the Z2 to an audience of the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt ("German Laboratory for Aviation") in Berlin-Adlershof.
Now working with limited backing from the DVL (German Aeronautical Research Institute), Konrad Zuse completed the 'Z3' (originally 'V3'): the first operational programmable computer. One major improvement over Charles Babbage's non-functional device is the use of Leibniz's binary system (Babbage and others unsuccessfully tried to build decimal programmable computers).
Max Newman, Wynn-Williams and their team at the secret Government Code and Cypher School ('Station X'), Bletchley Park, Bletchley, England, completed the 'Heath Robinson'. This was a specialized counting machine used for cipher-breaking, not a general-purpose calculator or computer, but a logic device using a combination of electronics and relay logic. It read data optically at 2000 characters per second from 2 closed loops of paper tape, each typically about 1000 characters long.
Williams and Stibitz completed the 'Relay Interpolator', later called the 'Model II Relay Calculator'. This was a programmable calculator; again, the program and data were read from paper tapes. An innovative feature was that, for greater reliability (error-detecting/self-checking), numbers were represented in a biquinary format using 7 relays for each digit, of which exactly 2 should be "on": 01 00001 for 0, 01 00010 for 1, and so on up to 10 10000 for 9.
The Colossus was built, by Dr Thomas Flowers at The Post Office Research Laboratories in London, to crack the German Lorenz (SZ42) cipher. It contained 2400 vacuum tubes for logic and applied a programmable logical function to a stream of input characters, read from punched tape at a rate of 5000 characters a second. Colossus was used at Bletchley Park during World War II — as a successor to the unreliable Heath Robinson machines.
The IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator was turned over to Harvard University, which called it the Harvard Mark I. It was designed by Howard Aiken and his team, financed and built by IBM — it became the second program controlled machine (after Konrad Zuse's). The whole machine was 51 feet (16 m) long, weighed 5 (short) tons (4.5 tonnes), and incorporated 750,000 parts.
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer): One of the first totally electronic, valve driven, digital, program-controlled computers was unveiled although it was shut down on 9 November 1946 for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland in 1947. Development had started in 1943 at the Ballistic Research Laboratory, USA, by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert.
ACE (Automatic Computing Engine): Alan Turing presented a detailed paper to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Executive Committee, giving the first reasonably complete design of a stored-program computer. However, because of the strict and long-lasting secrecy around his wartime work at Bletchley Park, he was prohibited (having signed the Official Secrets Act) from explaining that he knew that his ideas could be implemented in an electronic device.
Development of the first assembly language by Kathleen Booth at Birkbeck, University of London following work with John von Neumann and Herman Goldstine at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Invention of the transistor at Bell Laboratories, USA, by William B. Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain.
IBM finished the SSEC (Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator). It was the first computer to modify a stored program. About 1300 vacuum tubes were used to construct the arithmetic unit and eight very high-speed registers, while 23000 relays were used in the control structure and 150 registers of slower memory.
The Birkbeck ARC, the first of three machines developed at Birkbeck, University of London by Andrew Booth and Kathleen Booth, officially came online on this date. The control was entirely electromechanical and the memory was based on a rotating magnetic drum. This was the first rotating drum storage device in existence.
SSEM, Small-Scale Experimental Machine or 'Baby' was built at the University of Manchester. It ran its first program on this date. It was the first computer to store both its programs and data in RAM, as modern computers do. By 1949 the 'Baby' had grown, and acquired a magnetic drum for more permanent storage, and it became the Manchester Mark 1.
John Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly construct the BINAC for Northrop.
This is considered the birthday of modern computing. Maurice Wilkes and a team at Cambridge University executed the first stored program on the EDSAC computer, which used paper tape input-output. Based on ideas from John von Neumann about stored program computers, the EDSAC was the first complete, fully functional von Neumann architecture computer.
The Manchester Mark 1 final specification is completed; this machine was notably in being the first computer to use the equivalent of base/index registers, a feature not entering common computer architecture until the second generation around 1955.
Konrad Zuse leased his Z4 machine to the ETH Zurich for five years. Z4 was a relay-based machine. The corresponding contract was signed in the fall of 1949, and the machine reassembled in Zurich after its arrival in July 1950. The Z4 was replaced by ERMETH, a computer developed at the ETH in Switzerland from 1953 to 1956, one of the first electronic computers on the European continent.
The first commercially successful electronic computer, UNIVAC, was also the first general purpose computer – designed to handle both numeric and textual information. Designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, whose corporation subsequently passed to Remington Rand. The implementation of this machine marked the real beginning of the computer era. Remington Rand delivered the first UNIVAC machine to the U.S. Bureau of Census. This machine used magnetic tape for input.
Whirlwind, the first real-time computer was built at MIT by the team of Jay Forrester for the US Air Defense System, became operational. This computer is the first to allow interactive computing, allowing users to interact with it using a keyboard and a cathode-ray tube. The Whirlwind design was later developed into SAGE, a comprehensive system of real-time computers used for early warning of air attacks.
J Lyons, a United Kingdom food company, famous for its tea, made history by running the first business application on an electronic computer. A payroll system was run on Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) a computer system designed by Maurice Wilkes who had previously worked on EDSAC.
The oldest known recordings of computer generated music were played by the Ferranti Mark 1 computer. The Mark 1 is a commercial version of the Baby Machine from the University of Manchester. The music program was written by Christopher Strachey.
CSIR Mk I (later known as CSIRAC), Australia's first computer, ran its first test program. It was a vacuum tube based electronic general purpose computer. Its main memory stored data as a series acoustic pulses in 5 ft (1.5 m) long tubes filled with mercury.
CSIRAC used to play music – the first time a computer was used as a musical instrument.
IBM introduces the IBM 701, the first computer in its 700 and 7000 series of large scale machines with varied scientific and commercial architectures, but common electronics and peripherals. Some computers in this series remained in service until the 1980s.
IAS machine completed at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA (by Von Neumann and others).
The NORC was delivered by IBM to the US Navy.
The integrated circuit invented by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments. Robert Noyce, who later set up Intel, also worked separately on the invention. Intel later went on to perfect the microprocessor. The patent was applied for in 1959 and granted in 1964.
First computer ball mouse offered by Telefunken. The device named Rollkugel RKS 100-86 is based on "reversing" an earlier trackball-like device (also named Rollkugel) embedded into radar flight control desks, which had been developed around 1965 by a team led by Rainer Mallebrein at Telefunken Konstanz for the German Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung (de) as part of their TR 86 process computer system with its SIG 100-86 vector graphics terminal.
Douglas Engelbart demonstrates interactive computing, at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco: mouse, on-screen windows, hypertext and full-screen word processing.
The first Request for Comments, RFC 1 published. The RFCs (network working group, Request For Comment) are a series of papers which are used to develop and define protocols for networking; originally the basis for ARPANET, there are now thousands of them applying to all aspects of the Internet.
First dynamic RAM chip introduced by Intel. It was called the 1103 and had a capacity of 1 Kbit, 1024 bits.
AiResearch and American Microsystems develop the MP944, one of the candidates for first microprocessor, for the F-14A Tomcat fighter jet.
Turing Test – The British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing published a paper describing the potential development of human and computer intelligence and communication. The paper would come later to be called the Turing Test.
EDVAC (electronic discrete variable computer). The first computer to use Magnetic Tape. EDVAC could have new programs loaded from the tape. Proposed by John von Neumann, it was installed at the Institute for Advance Study, Princeton, USA.
Magnetic core memory developed.
FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation), the first high-level programming language development, was begun by John Backus and his team at IBM. The development continued until 1957. It is still in use for scientific programming. Before being run, a FORTRAN program needs to be converted into a machine program by a compiler, itself a program.
First conference on artificial intelligence held at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
First dot matrix printer marketed by IBM.
ALGOL, first structured, procedural, programming language to be released.
ATLAS is completed by the University of Manchester team. This machine introduced many modern architectural concepts: spooling, interrupts, pipelining, interleaved memory, virtual memory and paging. It was the most powerful machine in the world at the time of release.
Spacewar!, an early and highly influential computer game, is written by MIT student Steve Russell. The game ran on a DEC PDP-1, competing players fired at each other's space ships using an early version of joystick.
Mouse conceived by Douglas Engelbart. The Mouse was not to become popular until 1983 with Apple Computer's Lisa and Macintosh and not adopted by IBM until 1987 – although compatible computers such as the Amstrad PC1512 were fitted with mice before this date.
Project MAC begun at MIT by J.C.R. Licklider: several terminals all across campus will be connected to a central computer, using a timesharing mechanism. Bulletin boards and email are popular applications.
Moore's law published by Gordon Moore. Originally suggesting processor complexity doubled every year. It was published in the 35th Anniversary edition of Electronics magazine. The law was revised in 1975 to suggest a doubling in complexity every two years.
Programming language BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) developed at Dartmouth College, USA, by Thomas E. Kurtz and John George Kemeny. BASIC was not implemented on microcomputers until 1975. This was the first language designed to be used in a time-sharing environment, such as DTSS (Dartmouth Time-Sharing System), or GCOS.
The first supercomputer, the Control Data CDC 6600, was developed at CERN.
Packet switching, funded by ARPA was developed. This makes reliable computer networking possible. The first computer-to-computer login does not occur until November 21, 1969, between Stanford and UCLA.
The floppy disk is invented at IBM by David Noble, under the direction of Alan Shugart, for use with the System/370. License royalties are paid to Doctor Yoshiro Nakamatsu in Tokyo, who claimed he got the idea for the floppy disk in 1950.
Intel founded by Robert Noyce and a few friends.
ARPANET begun by the United States Department of Defense for research into networking. It is the original basis for what now forms the Internet. It was opened to non-military users later in the 1970s and many universities and large businesses went on-line.
Development of UNIX operating system begun. It was later released as C source code to aid portability, and subsequently versions are obtainable for many different computers, including the IBM PC. It and its clones (such as GNU/Linux) are still widely used on network servers and scientific workstations. Originally developed by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie.
The Intel 4004, the first commercially available microprocessor, is released. It contains the equivalent of 2,300 transistors and was a 4-bit processor. It is capable of around 60,000 instructions per second (0.06 MIPS), running at a maximum clock speed of 740 kHz.
Atari founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney.
Pong released – widely recognised as the first popular arcade video game. It was invented by Allan Alcorn.
Programming language C was developed at The Bell Laboratories in the USA. Dennis Ritchie, one of the inventors of the Unix operating system, simplifies BCPL into a language he calls B, then iterates B into C. It is a very popular language, especially for systems programming – as it is flexible and fast. C was considered a refreshing change in the computing industry because it helped introduce structured programming.
Microcomputer Micral N, created in 1973 by Frenchman François Gernelle, of the company R2E. It will be officially recognized the as "the first microcomputer marketed in the world" by Steve Wozniak (Creator of Apple 1) who was in 1986 a member of jury of an international competition in United States.
English mathetatician and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing dies.
The first practical silicon solar cell was publicly demonstrated at Bell Laboratories.
The first international connections to ARPANET are established. ARPANET later became the basis for what we now call the Internet.
The first digital computers became operational
Sputnik 1, the first satellite was launched by the Soviet Union.
The quicksort algorithm was developed in 1959 by Tony Hoare in the Soviet Union.
Lunar 2, the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon, launched by the Soviet Union.
Theodore H. Maiman created the first functioning laser.
First functional semiconductor integrated circuit created by Jay Last.
Telstar 1, the first satellite to relay television pictures and telephone calls.
Nick Holonyak, Jr. developed the first visible-spectrum LED in 1962.
The compact cassette format was presented by Philips.
Programma 101 by Olivetti was the first commercially available PC.
Manfred Börner demonstrated the first working fiber-optical data transmission system.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon during the US Apollo 11 program.
The first successful message was sent on the ARPANET.
Salyut 1: The first Space station, launched by the Soviet Union.
Lunokhod 1, the first remote-controlled lunar rover was landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union.
IBM made the first floppy discs commercially available.
Videocassette recorders by Sony became commercially available.
Magnavox Odyssey, was an early commercially available home video game console.
Apollo 17, the final mission that landed humans on the Moon.
Development of the TCP/IP protocol suite by a group headed by Vinton Cerf and Robert E. Kahn. These are the protocols used on the internet.
Ethernet was invented at Xerox PARC. This became a popular way of connecting PCs and other computers together – to enable them to share data, and devices such as printers. A group of machines connected together in this way is known as a LAN.
The first touchscreen display was developed at CERN.
Martin Cooper of Motorola transmitted the first mobile phone call.
The first email protocol was created (RFC 561).
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