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Chronology of the History of Computers

5000-3000 B.C. ABACUS Does no computing - just keeps track of numbers as a person does computing. Widely used in Europe. 1617 Napier's Bones John Napier The Scotch mathematician who invented logarithms also invented a set of rods with multiples of a number on each rod. By placing the rods on an index board you could then add up the partial product to set the answer. 1623 1630


Mechanical Calculator Slide Rule

Wilhelm Schickard William Oughterd Richard Delamain

Arithmetic Machine Blaise Pascal "Pascaline" Blaise was a brilliant child who wrote a geometric theorem at 16. A physics unit of measurement is named after him. At 19 Pascal invented an adding machine to help with job of tax calculations. It could only subtract with complement method. It used gears and ratchets. It did not work or sell well.

1801 Punched card Joseph Jacquard Jacquard invented a loom that used punched cards to create the pattern. The complex ability of the machine was incredible. 1820 Arithmometer First commercial calculator.

Charles Colmar


Charles Babbage

Difference Engine Analytical Engine

A working portion of the Difference Engine was constructed and did work but it was never finished. It was a magnitude above anything of its time. Purpose was to calculate navigation tables. Government paid for most of it. Copies were made that did work. When he started work on the Analytical Engine, Babbage confronted the same problems that the first computer engineers did 100 years later. If they had known of his work they would have found that he came up with the same solutions. It would be programmed with punched cards, an idea from Jacquard. It would have operation cards, variable cards, and number cards. It could make branch decisions. It could do subroutines and loops. It would print out the results on a printing plate (like the difference engine did). It could not store programs. Was a program controlled calculator. Used decimal math. Ada Augusta Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, wrote up Babbage's ideas in great form and detail, which caused them to become well understood and well known. She is credited writing programs for the Analytical Engine and perhaps had some influence on its form.


Boolean Logic

George Boole


First patented Practical Typewriter

1875-1893 commonplace.

Mechanical calculators perfected and start to become

1890 Census Tabulating Machine Herman Holerith Punch cards where used to gather data for the census. Pins pass through holes in the cards and made contact with metal plates. Cut down on the time to take the census from 9 to 7 years. Some of the data was available in just 2 1/2 years. In 1924 this successful company merged with another company and was renamed the International Business Machine Company (IBM) 1906

Three electrode tube or triode


First electric typewriter

Lee De Forest

1926 Voice Coder Bell Labs First voice recognition device. Could analyze the pitch and energy of the speaker. 1938 Z1 First binary calculating machine. 1942


Konrad Zuse

John Atanasoff Clifford Berry Electronic calculating machine using some tubes. Was built as a graduate research project at Iowa State University. Didn't have all the bugs worked out and it wasn't automatic.



Howard Aiken (IBM) Electromechanical automatic sequence controlled calculator. 760,000 moving parts including many relays. Sounded like a room full of people knitting. It performed 3 operations / sec. and was used to produce tables for gun operation. 1943 Colossus Used by the army during WWII to crack German codes. It had over 200,000 tubes.



John W. Mauchly J Presper Ekert Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator. Program controlled calculator. (Not a stored program computer). Weight - 30 tons, Area - 1500 sq. ft, Height - 9 ft., 18,000 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors. To program you had to move wires. Would run for about 30 minutes before breaking down. Finished too late to be used much for the war. Its first job was to simulate the Hbomb. This simulation caused changes to be made in the bomb. 1947

First Transistor

Schockley (Bell Labs) Brattain and Bardeen This invention won the creators the Nobel Prize and is still considered one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century. 1947 Williams Tube Fred Williams First practical RAM. It used a CRT and stored information on the phosphorus screen.

1949 EDSAC First practical stored program computer.

Maurice Wilkes

1951 UNIVAC Sperry-Rand First commercial computer system in America. Purchased by the Census Bureau. They sold 46 of them in the first year. This made other companies like IBM start to take notice that there is money to be made in computer industry. 1951 Whirlwind First real time computer. Used for flight simulation.


1955 IBM 650 IBM Corp. This computer was the "Model T" of the computer industry. The IBM 650 became the standard for business. This computer made IBM what IBM is today.

1957 TX-2 First computer designed to do word processing. 1960 PDP-1 Fast, Small, and used CRT. Cost only $120,000

1962 Space War First computer game. Was played on the PDP-1

MIT Digital Electronic Corp.


1965 PDP-8 Digital Electronic Corp. First successful mini-computer. Sold for $18,000 1968

Intel Corporation is founded


Floppy Disk Microprocessor 4004

IBM Corp. Intel Corp.


Microprocessor 8008 Compact Disc invented

Intel Corp. Philips Corp.

1972 Pong Nolan K Bushnell First video game. Was sold to Atari for 28 million dollars in 1976. 1973

Microprocessor 8080

Intel Corp.

1975 Altair 8800 Popular Electronics First personal computer to be ordered as a kit from popular electronics. Used the 8080 microprocessor from Intel. 1975

MicroSoft founded

Bill Gates & Paul Allen


Apple Computer founded Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

1977 (April)

Pet computer introduced.


1977 (June)

Apple II (first Ad in Byte magazine)

1978 (Oct.)

Atari 800



1979 (Dec.)

MX-80 printer



5.25" disk

Sheugart Assoc.

1980 (May)

Apple III (a flop)

Apple Co.

1981(August) IBM PC IBM Corp. IBM waited before getting into the personal computer business because they felt that personal computers would not catch on. They believed that time sharing was going to be the wave of the future. Also they didn't have a sales force set up to sell small computers. They hurried into the market after they realized that it wasn't going to go away. Better late than never.


First IBM PC clone


1982 (July)

Commodore 64


1983 (Jan.)

Lisa (Apple) and the Apple IIe

Apple Co.

1984 (May)

Apple IIc and the Macintosh

Apple Co.


3.5" disk


1985 (Jan.)

CD-ROM Commercially available

1991 Parallel Super Computer Thinking Machines Corp Can handle 2 trillion operation per second. Takes the space of a small Gym to hold them. 1991

Pen Based Portables (Newton)


1993 (Jan.) IBM has record losses Year end losses for IBM are 4.96 billion. The highest single year loss for any company in U.S. history. 1993 (March) 60-MHz Pentium Chip Intel Intel introduces its 60-MHz Pentium processor. It incorporates 3.2 million transistors. Initial price $878 1995 (August) Windows 95 released Retail stores begin offering Win95.


1996 (Jan.) 166-MHz Pentium Chip Intel announces the availability of a 166-MHz Pentium Chip



Pentium II chip, with speeds up to 450 MHz, is introduced




1999 (Feb.)

Pentium III Chip


COMPLETE THIS TIMELINE: What significant events in computer history have occurred since 1999?

The History of Computers