The evolution of computers

  • 1801

    1801
    Joseph Marie constructed a loom that used a series of punched cards to control the pattern of longitudinal warp threads depressed before each sideways passage of the shuttle. Jacquard later developed a machine where the punched cards were joined to form an endless loop that represented the program for the repeating pattern used for cloth and carpet designs.
    Jacquard's invention allowed patterns to be woven without the intervention of the weaver.
    Early computers would use similar punch cards.
  • 1822

    1822
    The English mathematician Charles Babbage was proposing a steam driven calculating machine the size of a room, which he called the Difference Engine. This machine would be able to compute tables of numbers, such as logarithm tab.
    He also developed the Analytic Engine.
  • 1890

    1890
    Herman Hollerith designs a punch card system to calculate the 1880 census, accomplishing the task in just three years and saving the government $5 million. He establishes a company that would ultimately become IBM.
  • 1936

    1936
    Alan Turing presents the notion of a universal machine, later called the Turing machine, capable of computing anything that is computable. The central concept of the modern computer was based on his ideas.
  • 1937

    1937
    J.V. Atanasoff, a professor of physics and mathematics at Iowa State University, attempts to build the first computer without gears, cams, belts or shafts.
  • 1941

    1941
    Atanasoff and his graduate student, Clifford Berry, design a computer that can solve 29 equations simultaneously. This marks the first time a computer is able to store information on its main memory.
  • UNIVAC

    UNIVAC
    Mauchly and Presper leave the University of Pennsylvania and receive funding from the Census Bureau to build the UNIVAC, the first commercial computer for business and government applications.
  • Transistor

    Transistor
    William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain of Bell Laboratories invent the transistor. They discovered how to make an electric switch with solid materials and no need for a vacuum.
  • COBOL

    COBOL
    Grace Hopper develops the first computer language, which eventually becomes known as COBOL. Thomas Johnson Watson Jr., son of IBM CEO Thomas Johnson Watson Sr., conceives the IBM 701 EDPM to help the United Nations keep tabs on Korea during the war.
  • FORTRAN

    FORTRAN
    The FORTRAN programming language, an acronym for FORmula TRANslation, is developed by a team of programmers at IBM led by John Backus, according to the University of Michigan.
  • Computer chip

    Computer chip
    Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce unveil the integrated circuit, known as the computer chip. Kilby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his work.
  • GUI

    GUI
    Douglas Engelbart shows a prototype of the modern computer, with a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). This marks the evolution of the computer from a specialized machine for scientists and mathematicians to technology that is more accessible to the general public.
  • UNIX

    UNIX
    A group of developers at Bell Labs produce UNIX, an operating system that addressed compatibility issues. Written in the C programming language, UNIX was portable across multiple platforms and became the operating system of choice among mainframes at large companies and government entities. Due to the slow nature of the system, it never quite gained traction among home PC users.
  • Intel 1103

    Intel 1103
    The newly formed Intel unveils the Intel 1103, the first Dynamic Access Memory (DRAM) chip
  • Floppy Disk

    Floppy Disk
    Alan Shugart leads a team of IBM engineers who invent the "floppy disk," allowing data to be shared among computers.
  • Ethernet

    Ethernet
    Robert Metcalfe, a member of the research staff for Xerox, develops Ethernet for connecting multiple computers and other hardware.
  • 1974-1977

    1974-1977
    A number of personal computers hit the market, including Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair, IBM 5100, Radio Shack's TRS-80 — affectionately known as the "Trash 80" — and the Commodore PET.
  • Microsoft

    Microsoft
    Two "computer geeks," Paul Allen and Bill Gates, offer to write software for the Altair, using the new BASIC language. On April 4, after the success of this first endeavor, the two childhood friends form their own software company, Microsoft.
  • Apple I

    Apple I
    Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak start Apple Computers on April Fool's Day and roll out the Apple I, the first computer with a single-circuit board, according to Stanford University.
  • TRS-80

    TRS-80
    Radio Shack's initial production run of the TRS-80 was just 3,000. It sold like crazy. For the first time, non-geeks could write programs and make a computer do what they wished.
  • Apple II

    Apple II
    Jobs and Wozniak incorporate Apple and show the Apple II at the first West Coast Computer Faire. It offers color graphics and incorporates an audio cassette drive for storage.
  • VisiCalc

    VisiCalc
    Accountants rejoice at the introduction of VisiCalc, the first computerized spreadsheet program.
  • WordStar

    WordStar
    Word processing becomes a reality as MicroPro International releases WordStar. "The defining change was to add margins and word wrap," said creator Rob Barnaby in email to Mike Petrie in 2000. "Additional changes included getting rid of command mode and adding a print function. I was the technical brains — I figured out how to do it, and did it, and documented it. "
  • IBM personal computer

    IBM personal computer
    The first IBM personal computer, code-named "Acorn," is introduced. It uses Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system. It has an Intel chip, two floppy disks and an optional color monitor. Sears & Roebuck and Computerland sell the machines, marking the first time a computer is available through outside distributors. It also popularizes the term PC.
  • Apple's Lisa

    Apple's Lisa
    Apple's Lisa is the first personal computer with a GUI. It also features a drop-down menu and icons. It flops but eventually evolves into the Macintosh. The Gavilan SC is the first portable computer with the familiar flip form factor and the first to be marketed as a "laptop".
  • Windows

    Windows
    Microsoft announces Windows.
  • 1985

    he first dot-com domain name is registered on March 15, years before the World Wide Web would mark the formal beginning of Internet history.
  • Deskpro 386

    Deskpro 386
    Compaq brings the Deskpro 386 to market. Its 32-bit architecture provides as speed comparable to mainframes.
  • HTML

    Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at CERN, the high-energy physics laboratory in Geneva, develops HyperText Markup Language (HTML), giving rise to the World Wide Web.
  • PowerBook

    PowerBook
    Apple's Macintosh Portable meets with little success in the marketplace and leads to a complete redesign of Apple's line of portable computers.
  • Intel Paragon

    Intel Paragon
    The Paragon at Caltech was named the fastest supercomputer in the world in 1992. Paragon systems were used in many scientific areas, including atmospheric and oceanic flow studies, and energy research.
  • 1993

    The Pentium microprocessor advances the use of graphics and music on PCs.
  • First Newton

    First Newton
    Apple enters the handheld computer market with the Newton. Dubbed a “Personal Data Assistant” by Apple President John Scully in 1992, the Newton featured many of the features that would define handheld computers in the following decades.
  • RISC PC

    RISC PC
    Replacing their Archimedes computer, the RISC PC from UK's Acorn Computers uses the ARMv3 RISC microprocessor.
  • BeBox

    BeBox
    Using dual PowerPC 603 CPUs, and featuring a large variety of peripheral ports, the first devices were used for software development.
  • ThinkPad 701C

    ThinkPad 701C
    Officially known as the Track Write, the automatically expanding full-sized keyboard used by the ThinkPad 701 is designed by inventor John Karidis. The keyboard was comprised of three roughly triangular interlocking pieces, which formed a full-sized keyboard when the laptop was opened -- resulting in a keyboard significantly wider than the case.
  • VAIO

    VAIO
    Sony had manufactured and sold computers in Japan, but the VAIO signals their entry into the global computer market. The first VAIO, a desktop computer, featured an additional 3D interface on top of the Windows 95 operating system as a way of attracting new users.
  • Super computer Columbia

    Super computer Columbia
    Named in honor of the space shuttle which broke-up on re-entry, the Columbia supercomputer is an important part of NASA's return to manned spaceflight after the 2003 disaster. Columbia was used in space vehicle analysis, including studying the Columbia disaster, but also in astrophysics, weather and ocean modeling.
  • MacBook Air

    MacBook Air
    Apple introduces their first ultra notebook – a light, thin laptop with high-capacity battery. The Air incorporated many of the technologies that had been associated with Apple's MacBook line of laptops, including integrated camera, and Wi-Fi capabilities.
  • China's Tianhe

    China's Tianhe
    With a peak speed of over a petaflop (one thousand trillion calculations per second), the Tianhe 1 (translation: Milky Way 1) is developed by the Chinese National University of Defense Technology using Intel Xeon processors combined with AMD graphic processing units (GPUs).