4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Computer & Calculator Industry Timeline

Theme

1600 – 1650

Adriaan Vlacq Issues the First Complete Set of Modern Logarithms 1628

In 1628 Adriaan Vlacq, a bookseller, publisher, and human computer, computed and issued the first complete set of modern logarithms in Gouda through Petrus Rammaseyn printers. Four years earlier, in 1624, English mathematician Henry Briggs had published Arithmetica logarithma sive logarithmorum chiliades triginta, pro numeris naturali serie crescentibus ab unitate 20,000 et a 90,000 ad 100,000 changing the original logarithms invented by John Napier into common (base 10) logarithms. In 1626 Dutch surveyer and teacher of mathematics Ezechiel de Decker contracted with Vlacq for the publication of several translations of books by John Napier, Edmund Gunter and Henry Briggs. A first book was published in 1626, with several translations done by Vlacq. A second book was made of the logarithms of the first 10000 numbers from Briggs' Arithmetica logarithmica published in 1624. The logarithms were shortened to 10 places. In 1627, De Decker's Het Tweede deel van de Nieuwe telkonst  was published, containing the logarithms of all numbers from 1 to 100000, to 10 places, much of which had been computed by Vlacq. Only very few copies of this book are known and its publication was apparently stopped or delayed.This Tweede deel of 1627 was the first complete table of decimal logarithms. 

In 1628 Vlacq republished the 10 decimal place logarithm tables as Arithmetica logarithma sive logarithmorum chiliades tentum, pro numeris naturali serie crescentibus ab unitate ad 100000. He appears to have had a connection with the Gouda firm of Petrus Rammaseyn and it is this firm that published the work, this time under Vlacq's name. A French translation, Arithmetique logarithmetique, ou, La construction et usage d'une table contenant les logarithms de tous les nombres depuis l'unité jusque 100000 by Vlacq was also published by Petrus Rammaseyn at almost the same time.

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1800 – 1850

The Thomas Arithmometer, the First Commercially Produced Mechanical Calculator 1820

Charles Xavier Thomas' Arithometer.

Charles Xavier Thomas

In 1820 Charles Xavier Thomas of Alsace, an entrepreneur in the insurance industry, invented the arithmometer, the first commercially produced adding machine, presumably to speed up and make more accurate, the enormous amount of daily computation insurance companies required. Remarkably, according to the Wikipedia, Thomas received almost immediate acknowledgement for this invention, as he was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor only one year later, in 1821.  At this time he changed his name to Charles Xavier Thomas, de Colmar, later abbreviated to Thomas de Colmar.

"Initially Thomas spent all of his time and energy on his insurance business, therefore there is a hiatus of more than thirty years in between the first model of the Arithmometer introduced in 1820 and its true commercialization in 1852. By the time of his death in 1870, his manufacturing facility had built around 1,000 Arithmometers, making it the first mass produced mechanical calculator in the world, and at the time, the only mechanical calculator reliable and dependable enough to be used in places like government agencies, banks, insurance companies and observatories just to name a few. The manufacturing of the Arithmometer went on for another 40 years until around 1914" (Wikipedia article on Charles Xavier Thomas, accessed 10-10-2011).

The success of the Arithmometer, which to a certain extent paralleled Thomas's success in the insurance industry, was, of course, in complete contrast to the problems that Charles Babbage faced with producing and gaining any acceptance for his vastly more sophisticated, complex, ambitious and expensive calculating engines during roughly the same time frame. Thomas, of course, produced an affordable product that succeeded in speeding up basic arithmetical operations essential to the insurance industry while Babbage's scientific and engineering goals initially of making mathematical tables more accurate, and later, of automating mathematical operations in general, did not attempt to meet a recognized industrial demand. 

"The [Arithmometer] mechanism has three parts, concerned with setting, counting, and recording respectively. Any number up to 999,999 may be set by moving the pointers to the numbers 0 to 9 engraved next to the six slots on the fixed cover plate. The movement of any of these pointers slides a small pinion with ten teeth along a square axle, underneath and to the left of which is a Leibniz stepped wheel.  

"The Leibniz wheel, a cylinder having nine teeth of increasing length, is driven from the main shaft by means of a bevel wheel, and the small pinion is thus rotated by as many teeth as the cylinder bears in the plane corresponding to the digit set. This amount of rotation is transferred through one of a pair of bevel wheels, carried on a sleeve on the same axis, to the ‘results’ figure wheel on the back row on the hinged plate. This plate also carried the figure wheel recording the number of turns of the driving crank for each position of the hinged plate. The pair of bevel wheels is placed in proper gear by setting a lever at the top left-hand cover to either "Addition and Multiplication" or "Subtraction and Division." The ‘results’ figure wheel is thereby rotated anti-clockwise or clockwise respectively.  

"Use. Multiplying 2432 by 598 may be performed as follows: Lift the hinged plate, turn and release the two milled knobs to bring all the figure wheels to show zero; lower the hinged plate in its position to the extreme left; set the number 2432 on the four slots on the fixed plate; set the lever on the left to "multiplication" and turn the handle eight times; lift the hinged plate, slide it one step to the right, and lower it into position; turn the handle nine times; step the plate one point to the right again and the turn the handle five times. The product 1,454,336 will then appear on the top row, and the multiplier 598 on the next row of figures" (From Gordon Bell's website, accessed 10-12-2011).

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1875 – 1900

Baldwin & Odhner Invent Calculators Using a True Variable-Toothed Gear Circa 1875

Detail of image from Baldwin's Calculating Machine. See larger image and resize image for complete picture.

Frank Stephen Baldwin.

Odhner's arithmometer.

Willgodt Theophil Odhner.

About 1875 engineer Frank S. Baldwin of Philadelphia and Willgot Theophil Odhner, a Swedish engineer and entrepreneur working in St. Petersburg, Russia, independently invented calculators using a true variable-toothed gear. This was the first real advance in mechanical calculating technology since Gottfried Leibniz's stepped drum (1673). These calculators were called "pinwheel calculators."

The greater ease of use of this technology, its general reliability, and the compact size of the equipment incorporating it caused an explosion of sales in the calculator industry.

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The Earliest Exhibition Exclusively of Scientific Instruments 1876

The earliest international exposition exclusively of scientific instruments was held at the South Kensington Museum, London in 1876.  As a record of the exhibition the South Kensington Museum published a Handbook to the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus 1876 (London 1876). The section on calculating machines on pages 23-34 was written by H. J. S. Smith, and included those of Babbage, Scheutz, Thomas de Colmar, and Grohmann. None were illustrated. James Clerk Maxwell contributed two chapters in this guide, Peter Guthrie Tait wrote one, and Thomas Henry Huxley wrote one.  A French translation of this work was published in Paris also in 1876.

The South Kensington Museum was later merged into the Science Museum in London.

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace 369.

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The Burroughs Dependable Key-Driven Printing Adding Machine 1892

In 1892 American inventor William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, founder of the American Arithmometer Company (1886; (Burroughs Adding Machine Company 1904) began commercial production of his dependable key-driven printing adding machine.

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The Millionaire Calculator 1893

Millionaire mechanical calculator.

In 1893 the "Millionaire" mechanical calculator, about the size of a small desk top, was introduced in Switzerland. The "Millionaire" was the first commercially successful calculator that could perform multiplication directly, rather than by repeated addition. It was designed by Otto Steiger, a Swiss engineer and was first patented in Germany in 1892. Patents were issued in France, Switzerland, Canada and the USA in 1893. Production by Hans W. Egli of Zurich started in 1893, and continued to 1935. Most models were driven by hand-crank but some were electrified.

Roughly 4000-5000 Millionaires were sold. 

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1900 – 1910

The Automatic Punched Card Feed 1900

To improve data processing of the 1900 census, American statistician and inventor Herman Hollerith added an automatic card feed to his electric punched card tabulating machine. 

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1910 – 1920

A Mechanical Punched-Card Tabulating System 1911

In 1911 Russian-born James Powers, an engineer hired by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1907 to help the government avoid what were perceived as excessive charges by Herman Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company, managed to avoid patent infringement and created a faster, cheaper electric punched card tabulating machine that was compatible with Hollerith's punched card format. Powers then formed a corporation in Newark, New Jersey to manufacture and sell his device. Originally known as the Powers Tabulating Machine Company, the company changed its name to Powers Accounting Machine Company in order to target a wider market.  

In 1927 Powers' company was merged with the Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex to form Remington Rand.

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Brunsviga Sells 20,000 Variable-Toothed Gear Calculators in One Year 1912

In 1912 Brunsviga of Braunschweig, Germany boasted that they sold twenty thousand calculators based on the variable-toothed gear technology.

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Summarizing the State of the Computer / Calculator Industry Prior to World War I July 24 – July 27, 1914

The Napier Tercentenary Celebration  marking the three hundredth anniversary of the publication of Napier's Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio (1614), was held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh from July 24 to July 27, 1914 — just five days before the start of World War I. Participants in the exhibition included individuals and companies from Scotland, England, France, and Germany. The meeting was intended to include a colloquium on the mathematics of computation, but that was canceled because war was considered imminent.

A celebration of Napier's pivotal role in the history of calculation, the exhibition featured displays of many different types of calculating machines, as well as exhibits of other aids to calculation such as mathematical tables, the abacus and slide rules, planimeters and other integrating devices, and ruled papers and nomograms. These were described in the Napier Tercentenary Celebration. Handbook to the Exhibition, which contained separate sections, with chapters by various contributors, devoted to each type of calculating device. Among the notable chapters is Percy E. Ludgate's "Automatic Calculating Machines" (pp. 124-27): apart from Ludgate's "On a proposed analytical machine" (Scientific Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society 12 [1909]: 77-91), this chapter contains the only discussion of his improvements to Babbage's Analytical Engine (none of which was ever realized). Also of note is W. G. Smith's "Notes on the Special Development of Calculating Ability" (pp. 60-68), discussing human "lightning calculators" and mathematically gifted "idiot savants," such as were employed by Gauss. Prior to the advent of electronic digital computers, these human computers were often faster than their mechanical counterparts.

The most widely used tools for calculation at the time of the Napier tercentenary were mathematical tables, which are thoroughly surveyed, explained, and described in the Handbook (bibliographical descriptions of the rare mathematical tables exhibited were published the following year in the Napier Tercentenary Memorial Volume. The Handbook also contains a large illustrated section on calculating machines, which were divided into four types: (1) stepped-gear machines based on the Leibniz wheel, such as those of Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar; (2) machines with variable-toothed gears, such as the Brunsviga; (3) key-set machines like those made by Burroughs; and (4) key-driven machines such as those made by Felt and Tarrant.

The Handbook was published in two forms: a softcover version presented to those who registered for the exhibition; and a hardcover version issued for sale under the title Modern Instruments and Methods of Calculation. Relatively few copies of the softcover version seem to have been distributed at the exhibition, partly because the exhibition took place in Edinburgh, but mainly because war broke out just after it began. Most copies were bound in cloth and sold in London.

"The events of the First World War caused no less upheaval in the world of computing than in the rest of society. A great many technical changes, such as the ever-increasing use of punched-card accounting machines, were to cause computing to assume a different character in the time between the two World Wars. Thus the Handbook should be viewed as a report on the state of the art just before these changes were to begin taking place" (Williams 1982, [x]).  

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2001) no. 322.

(This entry was last revised on April 28, 2014.)

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800,000 Burroughs Calculators Have Been Sold 1919

800,000 Burroughs calculating machines were sold worldwide by 1919.

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1920 – 1930

IBM is Founded 1924

In 1924 Thomas J. Watson, president of CTR (Computer Tabulating Recording Corporation), of Endicott, New York, changed the name of the company to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

"Encouraged by George F. Johnson, who saw Endicott as the world's first industrial 'park' with a 'Square Deal' for everyone, IBM began building a factory complex in Endicott just to the east of the Endicott-Johnson factories. The original Bundy building (a Binghamton company) was erected on North Street as early as 1906 and stands to this day. Many of the IBM factory buildings, including Factory #1 and the IBM Schoolhouse, still stand to this day. Endicott was the original location of all IBM manufacturing, research, and development from the early 1920s through World War II" (Wikipedia article on Endicott, New York, accessed 02-18-2012).

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IBM Adopts the Eighty-Column Punched Card, Standard for the Next 50 Years 1928

In 1928 IBM adopted the eighty-column punched card, the standard for about the next fifty years, and one of IBM's most profitable products.

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Key Achievements of Leslie J. Comrie, Including Foundation of the First Independent Scientific Computing Service 1928 – 1937

In 1928 English astronomer and mechanical computation pioneer Leslie J. Comrie, working in London, discovered how to use a commercial accounting machine as a difference engine. With this technique Comrie reformed the production of the Nautical Almanac, greatly increasing the accuracy of the navigation tables. 

Comrie used electric punched-card tabulating machines to calculate the motions of the moon. This project, in which twenty million holes were punched into five hundred thousand cards, continued into 1929. It was the first use of punched cards in a purely scientific application.

In 1937 Comrie founded Scientific Computing Service in London. It was the first independent scientific computing service bureau in the world

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1930 – 1940

Foundation of Texas Instruments May 16, 1930

On May 16, 1930 John Clarence Karcher and Eugene McDermott founded Geophysical Service in Newark, New Jersey. This was the origin of Texas Instruments, which would become a key producer of integrated circuits and other electronic components. Geophysical Service was the first independent contractor specializing in the reflection seismograph method of exploration of oil fields in Texas.

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The IBM 601 Multiplying Punch 1931

In 1931 IBM of Endicott, New York began manufacture of the 601 multiplying punch.

"It read two factors up to eight decimal digits in length from a card and punched their product onto a blank field of the same card. It could subtract and add as well as multiply. It had no printing capacity, so was generally used as an offline assistant for a tabulator or accounting machine."

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IBM's German Subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen, Introduces the First Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator September 1935

In September 1935 IBM’s German subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen (Dehomag) introduced the Dehomag D11 tabulator, the first automatic sequence-controlled calculator, incorporating internal instructions programmed with a plug board.

Kistermann, "The way to the first automatic sequence-controlled calculator: The 1935 DEHOMAG D 11 tabulator," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing XVII (1995): 33-49.

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Shannon's "Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits," "The Most Significant Master's Thesis of the 20th Century" August 10, 1937

Claude Shannon, in his master’s thesis entitled A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, submitted to MIT on August 10, 1937, showed that the two-valued algebra developed by George Boole could be used as a basis for the design of electrical circuits. It was first published in a revised and abridged version in Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 57 (1938) 713-23.

This thesis became the theoretical basis for the electronics and computer industries that were developed after World War II. Shannon wrote the thesis while working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City. As examples of circuits that could be built using relays, Shannon appended to the thesis theoretical descriptions of "An Electric Adder to the Base Two," and "A Factor Table Machine." The "Factor Table Machine" was not included in the published version.

Shannon's thesis was later characterized as "the most significant master's thesis of the 20th century."  

♦ In October 2013 I was surprised to learn that as early as 1886 the American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce recognized that logical operations could be carried out by electrical switching circuits, and that circuit diagrams for a logic machine constructed from electrical circuits were produced for one of Peirce's students, Allan Marquand. Neither Peirce nor Marquand published on an electrical logic machine, and the concept seems not to have been pursued by either Peirce or Marquand beyond the drawing stage. Nor have I seen evidence of any further development of the concept until Shannon's thesis.

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1940 – 1950

Key Developments Concerning the ENIAC Patent, the Patent on the General Purpose Electronic Digital Computer January 29, 1944 – October 19, 1973

On January 29, 1944, while Pres Eckert and John Mauchly were working on making the ENIAC operational at the Moore School at the University of Pennsylvania, Eckert wrote a three-page typewritten document entitled Disclosure of Magnetic Calculating Machine. This confidential document, which was not formally published until decades after it was written, very briefly and generally described a theoretical electronic computer that would store its program and data in an electronic memory— a type of magnetic disc or drum. Years later the document was unearthed in the trial over the ENIAC patent, to show that Eckert had conceived elements of the stored program concept before John von Neumann wrote down and distributed a complete theoretical description of a stored-program computer in his First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC

Mostly likely von Neumann and Eckert and Mauchly developed the stored-program computer concept jointly— Eckert from the engineering side and von Neumann from the theoretical side. Because von Neumann first described the design of the stored-program computer, its architecture has come to be known as the von Neumann architecture. In October 2013 I viewed the copy of Eckert's disclosure posted on the website of the Computer History Museum. This copy included an informative cover letter sent by John Mauchly to Donald Knuth on June 22, 1978.

About eight months after Eckert's "Disclosure," on September 27, 1944 Eckert and Mauchly declared that their conception of the ENIAC was complete. Eckert wrote a letter to other members of the project asking them to state written claims to inventions on the project. None was received. Also in September 1944, faced with mathematical computations regarding the Atomic bomb that were impossible for human computers, mathematician and physicist John von Neumann visited the ENIAC two-accumulator system for the first time, well before the computer was operational, and became deeply interested in the project. This visit represented the beginning of von Neumann's interest in electronic computing. As a result of his research, on June 30, 1945 von Neumann privately circulated copies of his First Draft on a Report on the EDVAC to twenty-four people connected with the EDVAC project. This document, written between February and June 1945, provided the first theoretical description of the basic details of a stored-program computer.

On April 8, 1947 Eckert and Mauchly learned from a patent lawyer that John von Neumann’s First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC was a publication barring their patenting the ENIAC because von Neumann's report, which described the theoretical principles of the machine, was issued more than a year before they planned to apply for a patent. Nevertheless, that knowledge did not, however, deter Eckert and Mauchly from applying for the patent. On June 26, 1947 Eckert and Mauchly applied for the broad ENIAC patent, essentially a patent on the stored-program electronic digital computer. They based their description of the machine to a large extent on the government report they issued on November 30, 1945.

While the ENIAC patent was being applied for, on August 21, 1956 Sperry Rand, to whom Eckert and Mauchly had transferred their patent rights, agreed to cross-license patents with IBM, thereby turning over strategic technology. On February 4, 1964 Eckert and Mauchly finally received U.S. patent no. 3,120,606 for the ENIAC—a general patent on the stored-program electronic computer, roughly 18 years after their application. Sperry Rand Univac, owner of the patent, charged a 1.5 percent royalty for all electronic computers sold by all companies except IBM, with which it had previously cross-licensed patents. Since IBM manufactured the majority of computers produced at this time, the royalties on the patent were not as large as they could have been.

On October 19, 1973 Eckert and Mauchly’s ENIAC patent was ruled invalid in the case of Honeywell Inc. v. Sperry Rand Corporation et al, largely because of John von Neumann's prior theoretical description of the machine that was circulated in his First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. and evidence that John Mauchly obtained some of his key ideas for the design of the ENIAC from John Atanasoff's report of 1940.

Norman, From Gutenberg to the Internet, 

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The Fastest Digital Calculators in the U.S. December 1944

In December 1944 IBM produced the Pluggable Sequence Relay Calculator (PSRC) for the United States Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground. This special-purpose punched-card calculator, developed for calculating artillery firing trajectories, was capable of performing a sequence of up to fifty arithmetic steps.

For the rest of the war these punched-card calculators, programmed with plug boards, remained the fastest digital calculators in the United States.

“These are the fastest relay calculators in operation; they perform six multiplications a second together with a great deal of addition, subtraction, reading, writing and consulting tables. They are not as elaborate as the Sequence Calculator at Harvard in that they have less storage capacity and less sequencing facilities; however, they are about twenty times as fast. Consequently, for those problems which can be handled in this way, they will do in one day what the Sequence Calculator will do in twenty days” (W.J. Eckert, 1947).

Because the ENIAC did not become operational until 1945, and stored-program computers following the EDVAC design were a later development, the PSRC has sometimes been called "the missing link between punched card equipment and stored program computers."

"As late as 1947, the Aberdeen machines still had the fastest calculating unit in existence. Their basic operations included addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square root, and column shift. These were the first punched-card machines to support division and square root. There were 36 storage and computing registers, and certain parallel processing capabilities, including the ability to read and process four input card streams simultaneously."

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Eckert & Mauchly Found Electronic Control Co., the World's First Electronic Computer Company March 15, 1946

On March 15, 1946 Pres Eckert and John Mauchly left the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and established their own firm, Electronic Control Company in Philadelphia. Electronic Control Company was the first electronic computer company in the world. Eckert and Mauchly's business plan stated that they expected to sell an electronic computer for between $5000 and $30,000.

In September 1946 the company received a grant of $75,000 from the National Bureau of Standards for a research project involving Eckert's mercury delay line memory system, and tape input/output devices.

"With the prospect of receiving some money," the company rented their first offices at 1215 Walnut Street in Philadelphia and began to hire employees.

(This entry was last revised on 01-01-2015.)

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Kurt Herzstark Invents the Curta, the Most Advanced Small Mechanical Calculator 1947

In 1947 Contina Ltd of Vaduz, Liechtenstein began production of the Curta Model 1 pocket mechanical calculator. The most advanced small mechanical calculator ever built, the Curta was designed by Curt Hertzstark, a calculating machine manufacturer, while he was a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp from 1943 to 1945. The Nazis operating the concentration camp encouraged Hertzstark to complete the design while he was in Buchenwald, and produced a prototype by the end of the war. The Curta calculator was manufactured until 1973.

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The First Large Conference on Electronic Computers is Held in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 7 – January 10, 1947

The first large conference on electronic and electromechanical digital computers was held at Cambridge, Massachusetts from January 7-10, 1947. About 250 people attended. At the conference Samuel H. Caldwell suggested the formation of an organization of people engaged in this new field. This organization was later named the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery. It was the predecessor of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery).

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The EACM, Predecessor of the ACM, Holds its First Meeting September 15, 1947

On September 15, 1947 the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery, predecessor of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), held its first meeting at Columbia University in New York. Seventy-eight people attended. John H. Curtiss was elected president, John Mauchly, vice president, and Edmund Berkeley, secretary.

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Innovative Aspects of the BINAC, the First Electronic Computer Ever Sold October 1947 – September 1950

In October 1947 Northrop Aircraft, Inc. of Hawthorne, California, ordered the BINAC (BINary Automatic Computer) from Pres Eckert and John Mauchly’s Electronic Control Company in Philadelphia. The BINAC consisted of two identical serial computers operating in parallel, with mercury delay-line memories, and magnetic tape as secondary memories and auxiliary input devices.

On September 9, 1948 the second module of the BINAC was completed in Philadelphia. Among its numerous innovations were germanium diodes in the logic processing hardware—probably the first application of semiconductors in computers. Until its delivery to Northrop Aircraft in September 1949, the BINAC remained in Philadelphia for use in numerous sales demonstrations.

In February 1949 Albert A. Auerbach, one of the designers of the BINAC CPU at Pres Eckert and John Mauchly's Electronic Control Company, ran a small test routine for filling memory from the A register. This was the first program run on the first stored-program electronic computer produced in the United States. 

On August 22, 1949 Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation of Philadelphia issued a press release describing the sale of the BINAC. This was the first press release ever issued for the sale of an electronic computer.

In 2014 it was my privilege and pleasure to handle the only known copy of the first manual ever written for a functioning electronic computer: the Operating and Maintenance Manual for the BINAC Binary Automatic Computer Built for Northrop Aircraft CorporationThis 37-page document, reproduced from typescript by Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. in Philadelphia in 1949, was the model for countless numbers of operating manuals for computers that were written in the following decades. As only one BINAC was ever built it is likely that only a handful of copies of the manual were ever produced.

Eckert and Mauchly’s BINAC was the first stored-program computer ever fully operational, since the Moore School’s EDVAC, which was designed to be the first stored-program computer, did not become operational until 1952. The BINAC was also the first stored-program computer that was ever sold.

The BINAC was extremely advanced from a design standpoint: It was a binary computer with two serial CPUs, each with its own 512-word acoustic delay line memory. The CPUs were designed to continuously compare results to check for errors caused by hardware failures. It used approximately 1500 vacuum tubes, making it virtually a mini-computer compared to its predecessor, the large-room-sized ENIAC, which used approximately 18,000 vacuum tubes. The two 512-word acoustic mercury delay line memories were divided into 16 channels each holding 32 words of 31bits, with an additional 11-bit space between words to allow for circuit delays in switching. The clock rate was 4.25 MHz (1 MHz according to one source) which yielded a word time of about 10 microseconds. The addition time was 800 microseconds and the multiplication time was 1200 microseconds. New programs or data had to be entered manually in octal using an eight-key keypad. BINAC was significant for being able to perform high-speed arithmetic on binary numbers, although it had no provisions for storing characters or decimal digits.

In 1946, after developing and building the ENIAC (the first general-purpose electronic computer) for the U. S. Army during World War II, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly founded their own company for the purpose of designing and manufacturing electronic stored-program computers on a commercial basis. In October 1947, needing money to keep their business afloat while working on their UNIVAC machine for the U.S. Census Bureau, Eckert and Mauchly entered into a contract with Northrop Aircraft to build the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC). Northrop, based in Hawthorne, California, was then engaged in a project to build a long-range guided missile for the U.S. Air Force, and had the idea of using electronic computers for airborne navigation; the BINAC, while not designed to work in flight, would perhaps be an initial step toward that eventual goal. Airborne computers did not become feasible until the 1960s, when miniaturized solid-state transistorized components became available.

The BINAC was completed in August, 1949, $178,000 over budget; Eckert and Mauchly absorbed the loss themselves. Built with two serial processors, the BINAC functioned more like two computers than one, with the goal of providing a safety back-up for airplanes. Each part of the device was built as a pair of systems that would check each step. All instructions were carried out once by each unit, and then the result would be compared between the units. If they matched, the next instruction would be carried out; but if there was a discrepancy between the two parts of the machine, it stopped. The processors were only five feet tall, four feet long and a foot wide, tiny for those days. The machine could only do 3,500 additions per second compared to 5,000 on the ENIAC, but it could do 1,000 multiplications per second, compared to only 333 on the ENIAC.

Many histories of computing state that the BINAC never operated successfully; however, Northrop’s “Description of Northrop Computing Center,” an internal company document dated September 16, 1950, which I also handled in 2014, listed the BINAC as one of its three main pieces of computing equipment, and even though the machine was currently “being revised and improved for more reliable operation,” it was still functioning at least somewhat satisfactorily a year after its delivery.

"This machine has solved in seven minutes a problem on the effect of a certain wind pressure on a rubber diaphragm that would have occupied a mathematician for a year. It has solved Poisson’s Equation and obtained a network of 26 solutions in only two hours. For each of these solutions, the BINAC performed 500,000 additions, 200,000 multiplications, and 300,000 transfers of control, all in the space of five minutes. . . . This machine, which is a general purpose computer calculating in the binary system but receiving and emitting its instructions in the octal system, will be demonstrated today on a short test problem (“Description of Northrop Computing Center,” p. 2).

The task of writing the BINAC’s operating manual was assigned to Joseph D. Chapline, an EMCC employee who had helped Eckert and Mauchly on the ENIAC project at the Moore School. Realizing that the BINAC’s users at Northrop would not be electronic computer specialists, Chapline decided to model his BINAC guide on the owner’s manuals issued by automobile companies, rather than on the technical reports written for the Moore School’s ENIAC and EDVAC, which were intended for highly trained engineers and scientists already familiar with the respective machines. Chapline’s Operating and Maintenance Manual provided the BINAC user with a full overview of the machine’s construction, operations and maintenance in a step-by-step, readable manner, with clear diagrams illustrating the BINAC’s various components. Chapline’s instructional, user-oriented approach set the pattern for the millions of computer manuals that would follow it.

Chapline, who also wrote the documentation for the ENIAC, was a pioneer in the field of modern technical writing, which “translate[s] complex technical concepts and instructions into a series of comprehensible steps that enable users to perform a specific task in a specific way” (Wikipedia). Chapline taught over 200 classes in technical writing at the Moore School before leaving the computer profession in 1953 to become the organist and choirmaster at the Unitarian Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Brockman, From Millwrights to Shipwrights to the Twenty-First Century, ch.7.

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First Assemblage of Digital Electronics Replaceable as a Unit 1948

In 1948 IBM produced the 604 Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator (CPC). Based on vacuum-tube technology, and programmed by making wired connections on a plugboard, the mass-produced CPC 604 featured the industry’s first assemblage of digital electronics replaceable as a unit.

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1950 – 1960

"High-Speed Computing Devices," the First Textbook on How to Build an Electronic Computer 1950

In 1950 Engineering Research Associates of St. Paul, Minnesota, published High-Speed Computing Devices, the first textbook on how to build an electronic digital computer. Written in the form of a “cookbook,” the book described available computer components and how they worked. It included extensive bibliographies of the American computing literature and some of the English. 

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The IBM NORC, the First Supercomputer 1950 – 1954

Between 1950 and 1954 IBM developed and built at Columbia University's Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory, 612 West 115th Street location, the Naval Ordnance Research Computer (NORC)—for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance. The NORC was the "first supercomputer," and "the most powerful computer on earth from 1954 to about 1963." The NORC’s multiplication unit remains the fastest ever built with vacuum tube technology.

IBM introduced the input-output channel as a feature on the NORC. This innovation synchronized the flow of data into and out of the computer while computation was in progress, relieving the central processor of that task.

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"Diners Club", the First Credit Card February 1950

Early Diners' Club card.

Early advertisement for Diners' Club card.

In February 1950 the Diners Club issued the first "general purpose" credit card, invented by Diners Club founder Frank X. McNamara. The card allowed members to charge the cost of restaurant bills only.

"The first credit card charge was made on February 8, 1950, by Frank McNamara, Ralph Schneider and Matty Simmons at Major's Cabin Grill, a restaurant adjacent to their offices in the Empire State Building" (Wikipedia article on Diners Club International, accessed 02-28-2012).

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Eckert-Mauchly is Sold to Remington Rand February 6, 1950

On February 6, 1950 Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, the world's first electronic computer company, was sold to Remington Rand.

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Simon, the First Personal Computer May – November 1950

Edmund Berkeley's "Simon," which has been called the first personal computer, developed out of his book, Giant Brains, or Machines That Think, published in November 1949, in which he wrote,

 “We shall now consider how we can design a very simple machine that will think.. Let us call it Simon, because of its predecessor, Simple Simon... Simon is so simple and so small in fact that it could be built to fill up less space than a grocery-store box; about four cubic feet. . . . It may seem that a simple model of a mechanical brain like Simon is of no great practical use. On the contrary, Simon has the same use in instruction as a set of simple chemical experiments has: to stimulate thinking and understanding, and to produce training and skill. A training course on mechanical brains could very well include the construction of a simple model mechanical brain, as an exercise."

One year later in an article published in Scientific American about “Simon,” in November 1950 Berkeley predicted that “some day we may even have small computers in our homes, drawing energy from electric power lines like refrigerators or radios.”

"Who built "Simon"? The machine represents the combined efforts of a skilled mechanic, William A. Porter, of West Medford, Mass., and two Columbia University graduate students of electrical engineering, Robert A. Jensen . . . and Andrew Vall . . . . Porter did the basic construction, while Jensen and Vall took the machine when it was still not in working order and engineered it so that it functioned. Specifically, they designed a switching system that made possible the follow-through of a given problem; set up an automatic synchronizing system; installed a system for indicated errors due to loss of synchronization; re-designed completely the power supply of themachine" (Fact Sheet on "Simon." Public Information Office, Columbia University, May 18, 1950).

"The Simon's architecture was based on relays. The programs were run from a standard paper tape with five rows of holes for data. The registers and ALU could store only 2 bit. The data entry was made through the punched paper or by five keys on the front panel of the machine. The output was provided by five lamps. The punched tape served not only for data entry, but also as a memory for the machine. The instructions were carried out in sequence, as they were read from the tape. The machine was able to perform four operations: addition, negation, greater than, and selection" (Wikipedia article on Simon (computer) accessed 10-10-2011).

In his 1956 article, "Small Robots-Report," Berkeley stated that he had spent $4000 developing Simon. The single machine that was constructed is preserved at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California. Berkeley also marketed engineering plans for Simon, of which 400 copies were sold.

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IBM's First Electronic Computer, the 701, is Designed 1951

In 1951 IBM decided to produce their first electronic computer, the 701. It was a machine for scientific applications based on the Princeton IAS design.

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The First Ferranti Mark I is Delivered February 1951

In February 1951 the first Ferranti Mark I version of the Manchester University machine was delivered to the University of Manchester in England.

With the exception of the unique BINAC delivered to Northrop Aircraft in the United States, the Ferranti Mark I was the first commercially produced electronic digital computer delivered to a customer.

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Bertram V. Bowden, the First Computer Salesman in England July 9 – July 12, 1951

Bertram V. Bowden, the first computer salesman in England, discussed “The application of calculating machines to business and commerce” at the second English electronic computer conference held at the University of Manchester from July 9-12, 1951. (See Reading 10.2.)

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First Stored-Program Computer to Run Business Programs on a Routine Basis November 17, 1951

On November 17, 1951 LEO I (Lyons Electronic Office) ran a program to "evaluate costs, prices and margins of that week's baked output" at tea shop operator J. Lyons and Company in England. The LEO adaptation of the EDSAC was the first stored-program electronic computer to run business programs on a routine basis. “LEO’s early success owed less to its hardware than to its highly innovative systems-oriented approach to programming, devised and led by David Caminer.”

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Vaccuum Tubes Especially Designed for Digital Circuits 1952

In 1952 manufacturers began producing vacuum tubes especially designed for use in digital circuits.

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The First Electronic Computer Produced in France: Not a Stored-Program Computer 1952

In 1952 Compagnie des Machines Bull, the first French electronic computer manufacturer, produced its Gamma 3 electronic calculator. It was not a stored-program computer.

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First West Coast Computer Meeting April 30 – May 2, 1952

From April 30 to May 2, 1952 the first electronic computer symposium on the west coast of the United States was held at UCLA. The proceeds appeared later that year as  Proceedings of the Electronic Computer Symposium . . .  at University of California, Los Angeles.

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 842.

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The First Electronic Computer in Canada September 8 – September 10, 1952

On September 8, 1952 the ACM held a special meeting in Toronto in honor of the installation of the first electronic digital computer in Canada, installed at the University of Toronto. It was a Ferranti Mark I, known as the FERUT computer

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IBM Produces an "Electronic Data Processing Machine" December 1952

In December 1952 IBM introduced the 701, their first stored-program electronic computer for commercial production. Designed by Nathaniel Rochester, and based on the IAS machine at Princeton, the IBM 701 was intended for scientific use. Feeling that the word "computer" was too closely associated with UNIVAC, IBM called the 701 an “electronic data processing machine.” IBM eventually sold nineteen of these machines. (See Reading 8.9.)

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The First Widely Read English Book on Electronic Computing 1953 – 1968

In 1953 English scientist and educationist Bertram V. Bowden, who for a time worked as a computer salesman for Ferranti Limited, and was later made a life peer as Baron Bowden, edited Faster than Thought, the first widely read English book on electronic digital computing.

Reflective of the slow speed of advances in computing at this time, the book remained in print without change until 1968.

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The IBM 650: The First Mass-Produced Computer 1953

In 1953 IBM Endicott, New York, announced the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine. This was the first mass-produced computer. Between 1953 and 1962 almost 2000 systems were produced.

"the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine brought a new level of reliability to the young field of electronic computing. For example, whenever a random processing error occurred, the 650 could automatically repeat portions of the processing by restarting the program at one of a number of breaking points and then go on to complete the processing if the error did not reoccur. That was a big improvement over the previous procedure requiring the user to direct the machine to repeat the process.

"At the time the 650 was announced, IBM said it would be "a vital factor in familiarizing business and industry with the stored program principles." And it certainly did just that.

"The original market forecast for the 650 envisioned that a mere 50 machines would be sold or installed. But by mid-1955, there already were more than 75 installed and operating, and the company expected to deliver "more than 700" additional 650s in the next few years. Just one year later, there were 300 machines installed -- many more times than all of the IBM 700 series large-scale computers combined -- and new 650s were coming off the production line at the rate of one every day. In all, nearly 2,000 were produced before manufacturing was completed in 1962. No other electronic computer had been produced in such quantity.

"In net terms, the development requirement underlying the 650 was for a small, reliable machine offering the versatility of a stored-program computer that could operate within the traditional punched card environment. IBM -- and the industry -- wanted a machine capable of performing arithmetic, storing data, processing instructions and providing suitable read-write speeds at reasonable cost. The magnetic drum concept was seen as the answer to the speed and storage problems.

"Data and instructions were stored in the form of magnetized spots on the surface of a drum four inches in diameter and 16 inches long, which rotated 12,500 times a minute. The drum memory could hold 20,000 digits at 2,000 separate "addresses" (http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/650/650_intro2.html, accessed 10-22-2013).

On September 14, 1956 IBM announced the 355 disk memory unit for the IBM 650.  Systems incorporating the 355 were known as the 650 RAMAC.

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The First Report on the Application of Electronic Computers to Business June 1953

In June 1953 Richard W. Appel and other students at Harvard Business school issued Electronic Business Mchines: A New Tool for Management.

This was the first report on the application of electronic computers to business. The report was issued before any electronic computer was delivered to an American corporation. (See Reading 10.4.)

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IBM 702 September 1953

In September 1953 IBM announced the development of the 702, a version of the 701 designed for business rather than scientific applications.

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The Deuce Computer (After the Pilot ACE, of Course) 1954

In 1954 English Electric constructed a commercial version of Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE called DEUCE.

Thirty-three of the DEUCE machines were sold, the last in 1962.

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First Computer to Incorporate Indexing & Floating Point Arithmetic 1954

In 1954 IBM announced the 704. It was the first commercially available computer to incorporate indexing and floating point arithmetic as standard features. The 704 also featured a magnetic core memory, far more reliable than its predecessors’ cathode ray tube memories. A commercial success, IBM produced one hundred twenty-three 704s between 1955 and 1960.

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Journal of the ACM January 1954

The Journal of the Association of Computing Machinery (Journal of the ACM) began publication in January 1954. At this time the ACM had twelve hundred members.

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The First Stored-Program Computer Produced for Sale in France 1955

Compagnie des Machines Bull launched the first stored-program electronic computer produced for commercial sale in France-- the Gamma ET.

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The First Independent Software Company 1955

Elmer C. Kubie and John W. Sheldon founded Computer Usage Company, the first independent company to specialize in software.  It declared bankrupcy in 1986.

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The First Solid State Computer April 1955 – December 1957

In April 1955 IBM announced the development of the IBM 608 calculator, the first all solid-state (fully transistorized) computer commercially marketed. The machine was first shipped to customers in December 1957. Development of the 608 was preceded by prototyping an experimental all-transistor version of the 604. This was built and demonstrated in October 1954, but was not commercialized.

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The Beginning of Computerization of Banking September 1955

Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, began the computerization of the banking industry by demonstrating a prototype electronic accounting machine using its ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) system.

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The First Full-Scale Programmable Japanese Computer October 1955

ETL-Mark-2, the first full-scale programmable computer in Japan, was produced by the Electrotechnical Laboratory in Roppongi, Tokyo. It was built from 21,000 relays, and did not store a program.

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The First Japanese Stored-Program Computer March 1956

In March 1956 FUJIC, the first Japanese stored-program electronic computer was operational. It was designed and built by essentially one person—Dr. Okazaki Bunji—for the Fuji Photo Film Company in Odawara, western Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The project began in 1949.

"Originally designed to perform calculations for lens design by Fuji, the ultimate goal of FUJIC's construction was to achieve a speed 1,000 times that of human calculation for the same purpose – amazingly, the actual performance achieved was double that number.

"Employing approximately 1,700 vacuum tubes, the computer's word length was 33 bits. It had an ultrasonic mercury delay line memory of 255 words, with an average access time of 500 microseconds. An addition or subtraction was clocked at 100 microseconds, multiplication at 1,600 microseconds, and division at 2,100 microseconds."

FUJIC is preserved in The National Museum Of Nature and Science in Tokyo.

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The First Commercial Computer Designed to Use a Moving Head Hard Drive for Secondary Storage September 4 – September 13, 1956

On September 4, 1956 IBM announced the IBM 350 disk storage unit or 350 RAMAC for the IBM 305 RAMAC, which they introduced on September 13, 1956. The IBM 305 RAMAC was the first commercial computer that used a moving head hard disk drive (magnetic disk storage) for secondary storage. One day later, on September 14, 1956, IBM announced the 650 RAMAC system, which paired an IBM 650 computer with the IBM 355 RAMAC disk storage unit.  However, the 650 RAMAC was a modification of the best-selling IBM 650 system rather than a new system designed specifically to use the RAMAC hard drives. 

"The 305 was one of the last vacuum tube computers that IBM built. It weighed over a ton. The IBM 350 disk system stored 5 million 7-bit (6 data bits plus 1 parity bit) alphanumeric characters (5 MB). It had fifty 24-inch-diameter (610 mm) disks. Two independent access arms moved up and down to select a disk, and in and out to select a recording track, all under servo control. Average time to locate a single record was 600 milliseconds. Several improved models were added in the 1950s. The IBM RAMAC 305 system with 350 disk storage leased for $3,200 per month in 1957 dollars, equivalent to a purchase price of about $160,000. More than 1,000 systems were built. Production ended in 1961; the RAMAC computer became obsolete in 1962 when the IBM 1405 Disk Storage Unit for the IBM 1401 was introduced, and the 305 was withdrawn in 1969.

"The original 305 RAMAC computer system could be housed in a room of about 9 m (30 ft) by 15 m (50 ft); the 350 disk storage unit measured around 1.5 square metres (16 sq ft). The first hard disk unit was shipped September 13, 1956. The additional components of the computer were a card punch, a central processing unit, a power supply unit, an operator's console/card reader unit, and a printer. There was also a manual inquiry station that allowed direct access to stored records. IBM touted the system as being able to store the equivalent of 64,000 punched cards.

"Programming the 305 involved not only writing machine language instructions to be stored on the drum memory, but also almost every unit in the system (including the computer itself) could be programmed by inserting wire jumpers into a plugboard control panel. . . .

"Currie Munce, research vice president for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (which has acquired IBM's hard disk drive business), stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that the RAMAC unit weighed over a ton, had to be moved around with forklifts, and was delivered via large cargo airplanes. According to Munce, the storage capacity of the drive could have been increased beyond five megabytes, but IBM's marketing department at that time was against a larger capacity drive, because they didn't know how to sell a product with more storage" (Wikipedia article on IBM 305 RAMAC, accessed 10-22-2013).

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First Computer Conference in Italy October 17 – October 18, 1956

On October 18 and 18, 1956 the first Italian computer conference was held in Rome.

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First Japanese Conference on Electronic Computers November 1956

I November 1956 the first Japanese conference on electronic computers was held at Waseda University, Shinjuku, Tokyo.  

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So-Called Second Generation of Computers 1957

In 1957 commercial transistorized computers, including the UNIVAC Solid State 80 and the Philco TRANSAC S-2000, were introduced. These solid-state machines inaugurated the so-called second generation of electronic computers.

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There are Forty Computers on American University Campuses 1957

". . . in 1957 there were only 40 computers on unversity campuses across the country [the United States]" (Bowles (ed.), Computers in Humanistic Research [1967] v).

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Invention of the "Planar" Manufacturing Process December 1, 1957 – January 1959

On December 1, 1957, on pages 3-4 of his manuscript patent notebook for Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, California, physicist Jean Hoerni recorded a "Method of protecting exposed p-n junctions at the surface of silicon transistors by oxide masking techniques."  This was his first expression of the planar process, a radically new transistor design in which the oxide layer is left in place on the silicon wafer to protect the sensitive p-n junctions underneath. Focused on getting its first semiconductor devices into production, Fairchild Semiconductor did not pursue Hoerni’s planar approach at that time.

Due to concerns about possible contaminants, conventional wisdom required removing the oxide layer after completion of oxide masking, thus exposing the junctions. Hoerni viewed the oxide instead as a possible solution - his "planar" approach, named after the flat topography of the finished device, would protect these junctions, and two years later it would become an essential element in the manufacturing of Robert Noyce’s 1959 invention of the first commercially manufactured monolithic integrated circuit, the basis for virtually all semiconductor manufacturing today. Therefore Hoerni did not write a patent disclosure for what would become U.S. patent 3025589 until January 1959.

Hoerni, J. A., "Method of Manufacturing Semiconductor Devices," U. S. Patent 3,025,589 (Filed May 1, 1959. Issued March 20, 1962). See also Hoerni’s U.S. Patent No. 3,064,167.  

Hoerni, J. A., "Planar Silicon Diodes and Transistors," paper presented at the 1960 Electron Devices Meeting, Washington, D. C. - October 1960 reprinted as Fairchild Semiconductor Technical Paper TP-14. (1961).

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Seymour Cray Builds the First Transistorized Supercomputer 1958

In 1958 Seymour Cray of Control Data Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, built the first transistorized supercomputer, the CDC 1604.

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The IBM 1401, a Relatively Inexpensive Computer 1958

In 1958 IBM announced their 1401, a relatively inexpensive computer that proved very popular with businesses, and began to compete seriously with existing punched-card tabulating equipment.

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The First Practical Monolithic Integrated Circuit Concept 1959

Independently of Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments, Robert N. Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor, Mountain View, California, invented the first practical monolithic circuit concept.  Based on the "planar" technology invented in 1957 by physicist Jean Hoerni at Fairchild, Noyce's invention consisted of a complete electronic circuit inside a small silicon chip. Noyce's first description of his invention was entitled "Methods of isolating multiple devices," written on January 23, 1959 on pp. 70-71 of his patent notebook for Fairchild Semiconductor.

Noyce filed for a patent on "Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure" on July 30, 1959.  U.S. patent 2,981,877 was granted on April 25, 1961.

Because Kilby and Noyce shared the invention of the integrated circuit Fairchild and Texas Instruments engaged in litigation over integrated circuit patents for many years. The courts eventually ruled in Noyce's, and Fairchild Semiconductor’s favor, but by then the companies had already settled on a cross-licensing agreement that included a net payment to Fairchild.

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ERMA and MICR 1959

Based on technology originally developed at the Stanford Research Institute, in 1959 General Electric delivered the first 32 ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) computing systems to the Bank of America. The system used MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Reading.) ERMA served as the BofA's accounting computer and check handling system until 1970.

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Highlights of the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP Series of Minicomputers December 1959 – 1975

In December 1959, at the Eastern Joint Computer Conference in Boston, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) of Maynard, Massachusetts, demonstrated the prototype of its first computer, the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1), designed by a team headed by Ben Gurley.

"The launch of the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1) computer in 1959 marked a radical shift in the philosophy of computer design: it was the first commercial computer that focused on interaction with the user rather than the efficient use of computer cycles" (http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/decpdp-1/, accessed 06-25-2009).

Selling for $120,000, the PDP-1 was a commercialization of the TX-O and TX-2 computers designed at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. On advice from the venture-capital firm that financed the company, DEC did not call it a “computer,” but instead called the machine a “programmed data processor.” The PDP-1 was credited as being the most important in the creation of hacker culture. 

In 1963 DEC introduced the PDP-5, it's first 12-bit computer. The PDP-5 was later called “the world’s first commercially produced minicomputer.” However, the PDP-8 introduced in 1965 was also given this designation.

Two years later, in 1965 DEC introduced the PDP-8, the first “production model minicomputer.” “Small in physical size, selling in minimum configuration for under $20,000.”

In 1970 DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) of Maynard, Massachusetts, introduced the PDP-11minicomputer, which popularized the notion of a “bus” (i.e.“Unibus”) onto which a variety of additional circuit boards or peripheral products could be placed. DEC sold 20,000 PDP-11s by 1975.

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1960 – 1970

The First Commercially Available General Purpose Computer with Transistor Logic 1960

In 1960 IBM introduced a transistorized version of its vacuum-tube-logic 709 computer, the 7090. The 7090 was the first commercially available general purpose computer with transistor logic. It became the most popular large computer of the early 1960s.

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6000 Computers are Operational in the U.S., Out of 10,000 Worldwide 1960

In 1960 about six thousand computers were operational in the United States, and perhaps ten thousand were operational worldwide.

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COBOL Allows Compatibility Between Computers Made by Different Manufacturers December 6 – December 7, 1960

On December 6 and 7, 1960  essentially the same COBOL program was run on two different makes of computers— an RCA computer and a Remington-Rand Univac computer— demonstrating for the first time that compatibility between computers produced by different manufacturers could be achieved.

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Wesley Clark Builds the LINC, Perhaps the First Mini-Computer May 1961 – 1962

In May 1961 Wesley A. Clark, a computer scientist at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, started building the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer). This machine, which some later called both the first mini-computer and a forerunner of  the personal computer, was first used in 1962. It was small table-top size, “low cost” ($43,000), had keyboard and display, file system and an interactive operating system. It's design was placed in the public domain. Eventually fifty of the machines were sold by Digital Equipment Corporation.

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Texas Instruments Delivers the First Integrated Circuit Computer: An Achievement in Miniaturization October 19, 1961

On October 19, 1961 Texas Instruments delivered the first integrated circuit computer to the U.S. Air Force.

“The advanced experimental equipment has a total volume of only 6.3 cubic inches and weighs only 10 ounces. It provides the identical electrical functions of a computer using conventional components which is 150 times its size and 48 times its weight and which also was demonstrated for purposes of comparison. It uses 587 digital circuits (Solid Circuit™ semiconductor net works) each formed within a minute bar of silicon material. The larger computer uses 8500 conventional components and has a volume of 1000 cubic inches and weight of 480 ounces.”

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Origins of the IBM System/360 December 28, 1961

On December 28, 1961 John W. Haanstra, Chairman, Bob O. Evans, Vice Chairman, and others at IBM issued as a confidential internal document Processor Products—Final Report of SPREAD Task Group.

In the period from 1952 through 1962, IBM produced seven families of systems—the 140, 1620, 7030 (Stretch), 7040, 7070, 7080, and 7090 groups. They were incompatible with one another, and both users and IBM staff recognized problems caused by this incompatibility. The SPREAD report, as adopted by IBM, led to the development of the IBM System/360 family of compatible computers and peripherals, and essentially reformed the company.

"IBM's public commitment to the SPREAD plan was embodied in the System/360, announced in Poughkeepsie on April 7, 1964. Six machines were announced: the 360 Model 30, 40, 50, 60, 62 and 70. Over the next few years, a number of additional systems were added to the 360 family.

"The SPREAD plan eventually allowed IBM to direct substantial resources toward the development of the full system—peripherals, programming, communications, and new applications. The success of System/360 is perhaps best measured by IBM's financial performance. In the six years from January 1, 1966 to December 31, 1971, IBM's gross income increased 2.3 times, from $3.6 billion to $8.3 billion, and net earnings after taxes increrased 2.3 times, from $477 million to $1.1 billion. In 1982 direct descendants of System/360 accounted for more than half of IBM's gross income and earnings.

"Perhaps most important, the SPREAD Report permitted IBM to focus on an excellence not possible with multiple architectures. It resulted in powerful new peripherals, programming, terminals, high-volume applications, and complementary diversifications whose future can only be imagined" (Bob O. Evans, "Introduction to SPREAD Report," Annals of the History of Computing 5 [1983] 5).  The text of the report was reprinted in the same journal issue on pp. 6-26.

Nearly all copies of this confidential report were destroyed. An original copy, donated by one of the authors, Jerome Svigals, is preserved in the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.

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ASCII is Promulgated 1963

In 1963 the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) standard was promulgated, specifying the pattern of seven bits to represent letters, numbers, punctuation, and control signals in computers.

"Historically, ASCII developed from telegraphic codes. Its first commercial use was as a seven-bit teleprinter code promoted by Bell data services. Work on ASCII formally began October 6, 1960, with the first meeting of the American Standards Association's (ASA) X3.2 subcommittee. The first edition of the standard was published during 1963, a major revision during 1967, and the most recent update during 1986. Compared to earlier telegraph codes, the proposed Bell code and ASCII were both ordered for more convenient sorting (i.e., alphabetization) of lists, and added features for devices other than teleprinters. ASCII includes definitions for 128 characters: 33 are non-printing control characters (now mostly obsolete) that affect how text and space is processed; 94 are printable characters, and the space is considered an invisible graphic. The most commonly used character encoding on the World Wide Web was US-ASCII until 2008, when it was surpassed by UTF-8" (Wikipedia article on ASCII, accessed 01-29-2010).

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Compugraphic Develops the First General Typesetting Computers 1963

In 1963 Compugraphic of Brookline, Massachusetts introduced the Linasec I and II, the first general typesetting computers. These automated tape processors produced justified tapes to drive the Linotype machines used in the newspaper industry.

Net production of the Linasec— in excess of 3,600 lines per hour compared to the manually-set 600 lines per hour— enabled newspapers to carry more detailed, late breaking news stories.

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The First Commercial Computers to Use Integrated Circuits 1964

In 1964 RCA announced the Spectra series of computers, which could run the same software as IBM’s 360 machines. The Spectra computers were also the first commercial computers to use integrated circuits.

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Thomas Kurtz & John Kemeny Invent BASIC 1964

In 1964 nearly all computer use required writing custom software, which was something only scientists and mathematicians tended to do. To make programming accessible to a wider range of people, Dartmouth College mathematicians and computer scientists Thomas E. Kurtz and  John G. Kemeny invented BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), a general-purpose, high-level programming language designed for ease of use.

Kurtz and Kemeny designed BASIC to allow students to write mainframe computer programs for the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System, the first large-scale time-sharing system to be implemented successfully, which was operational on May 1, 1964. Developed by Darthmouth students under Kurtz and Kemeny's supervision, BASIC was intended specifically for less technical users who did not have or want the mathematical background previously expected. 

In the mid 1970s and 1980s versions of BASIC became widespread on microcomputers. Microcomputers usually shipped with BASIC, often in the machine's firmware. Having an easy-to-learn language on these early personal computers allowed small business owners, professionals, hobbyists, and consultants to develop custom software on computers they could afford.

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IBM's Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter Begins "Word Processing" 1964

In 1964 IBM introduced the Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter (MT/ST).

"With this, for the first time, typed material could be edited without having to retype the whole text or chop up a coded copy. On the tape, information could be stored, replayed (that is, retyped automatically from the stored information), corrected, reprinted as many times as needed, and then erased and reused for other projects.

"This development marked the beginning of word processing as it is known today. It also introduced word processing as a definite idea and concept. The term was first used in IBM's marketing of the MT/ST as a 'word processing' machine. It was a translation of the German word textverabeitung, coined in the late 1950s by Ulrich Steinhilper, an IBM engineer. He used it as a more precise term for what was done by the act of typing. IBM redefined it 'to describe electronic ways of handling a standard set of office activities -- composing, revising, printing, and filing written documents.' "

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Texas Instruments & Zenith Radio Introduce a Hearing Aid, the First Consumer Product Containing an Integrated Circuit February 14, 1964

On February 14, 1964 Texas Instruments in partnership with Zenith Radio introduced the first consumer product containing an integrated circuit—a hearing aid.

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The IBM System/360 Family is Introduced April 7, 1964

On April 7, 1964 IBM announced the System/360 family of compatible machines.  All IBM System/360 products ran the same operating system—OS/360. Previously products developed by different divisions of IBM were incompatible.

IBM System/360 products were the first IBM computers capable of both commercial and scientific applications that were offered at what was then considered a “reasonable price.” Their architecture incorporated microprogramming.

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Honeywell Produces an Early Home Computer? 1965

In 1965 Honeywell attempted to open the home computer market with its Kitchen Computer. The H316 was the first under-$10,000 16-bit machine from a major computer manufacturer. It was the smallest addition to the Honeywell "Series 16" line, and was available in three versions: table-top, rack-mountable, and self-standing pedestal. The pedestal version, complete with cutting board, was marketed by Neiman Marcus as "The Kitchen Computer.” It came with some built-in recipes, two weeks' worth of programming, a cook book, and an apron.

There is no evidence that any examples were sold.

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Gordon Moore Promulgates "Moore's Law" April 19, 1965

On April 19, 1965, while Director of the Research and Development Laboratory at Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, California, physical chemist Gordon Moore published "Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits" in Electronics Magazine. In this article Moore observed that the number of transistors that could be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubled approximately every two years, and predicted that this trend would continue. In 1970, after Moore had left Fairchild Semiconductor to co-found Intel Corporation, the press called this observation “Moore’s Law.”

"The term "Moore's law" was coined around 1970 by the Caltech professor, VLSI pioneer, and entrepreneur Carver Mead. Predictions of similar increases in computer power had existed years prior. Alan Turing in his 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" had predicted that by the turn of the millennium, we would have "computers with a storage capacity of about 10^9", what today we would call "128 megabytes." Moore may have heard Douglas Engelbart, a co-inventor of today's mechanical computer mouse, discuss the projected downscaling of integrated circuit size in a 1960 lecture. A New York Times article published August 31, 2009, credits Engelbart as having made the prediction in 1959. . . .

"Moore slightly altered the formulation of the law over time, in retrospect bolstering the perceived accuracy of his law. Most notably, in 1975, Moore altered his projection to a doubling every two years. Despite popular misconception, he is adamant that he did not predict a doubling "every 18 months". However, David House, an Intel colleague, had factored in the increasing performance of transistors to conclude that integrated circuits would double in performance every 18 months." (Wikipedia article on Moore' Law, accessed 11-19-2011).

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Semi-Conductor Memory Replaces Magnetic-Core Memory 1966

In 1966 semiconductor memory began to replace magnetic-core memory.

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Douglas Parkhill Issues a Predictive Discussion of the Features of Cloud Computing 1966

In 1966 Canadian technologist Douglas Parkhill issued a book entitled The Challenge of the Computer Utility. In this work Parkhill predicted and explored features of cloud computing that became widely established by the second decade of the twenty-first century. These features included elastic provision, provision as a utility, online, illusion of infinite supply, the comparison to the electricity industry and the use of public, private, government, and community forms.

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Jack Kilby and Texas Instruments Invent the First Hand-Held Electronic Calculator 1967 – June 25, 1974

In 1967 Texas Instruments filed the patent for the first hand-held electronic calculator, invented by Jack S. Kilby, Jerry Merryman, and Jim Van Tassel. The patent (Number 3,819,921) was awarded on June 25, 1974. This miniature calculator employed a large-scale integrated semiconductor array containing the equivalent of thousands of discrete semiconductor devices.

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35,000 Computers Are Operational in the United States 1967

In 1967 there were 35,000 computers operating in the United States.

Bowles (ed.) Computers in Humanistic Research (1967) v,

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The HP 9100A, the First Marketed, Mass-Produced Programmable Calculator, or Personal Computer 1968

In 1968 Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, California, introduced the programmable desk calculator, the HP 9100A.

"HP called it a desktop calculator, because, as Bill Hewlett said, 'If we had called it a computer, it would have been rejected by our customers' computer gurus because it didn't look like an IBM. We therefore decided to call it a calculator, and all such nonsense disappeared.' An engineering triumph at the time, the logic circuit was produced without any integrated circuits; the assembly of the CPU having been entirely executed in discrete components. With CRT display, magnetic-card storage, and printer, the price was around $5000. The machine's keyboard was a cross between that of a scientific calculator and an adding machine. There was no alphabetic keyboard" (Wikipedia article on Hewlett-Packard, accessed 03-10-2010).

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Unbundling at IBM Gives Rise to the Software and Services Industry 1968

In 1968 IBM adopted a new marketing policy of charging separately for most systems engineering activities, future computer programs, and customer education courses. This “unbundling” gave rise to the software and services industry.

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Federico Faggin and Colleagues Invent Silicon Gate Technology at Fairchild Semiconductor February 1968

Silicon Gate Technology, invented in 1968 by Federico Faggin and colleagues at Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, California, was the first process technology used to fabricate commercial MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) integrated circuits that was later widely adopted by the entire industry. Faggin also designed the first integrated circuit using a silicon gate, the Fairchild 3708. From the founding of Intel in July 1968 Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore adopted silicon gate technology, and within a few years it became the core technology for the fabrication of MOS integrated circuits worldwide. 

"In February 1968, Federico Faggin joined Les Vadasz’s group and was put in charge of the development of a low-threshold-voltage, self-aligned gate MOS process technology. Federico Faggin's first task was to develop the precision etching solution for the amorphous silicon gate, and then he created the process architecture and the detailed processing steps to fabricate MOS ICs with silicon gate. He also invented the ‘buried contacts,’ a method to make direct contact between amorphous silicon and silicon junctions, without the use of metal, a technique that allowed a much higher circuit density, particularly for random logic circuits.

"After validating and characterizing the process using a test pattern he designed, Federico Faggin made the first working MOS silicon gate transistors and test structures by April 1968. He then designed the first integrated circuit using silicon gate, the Fairchild 3708, an 8-bit analog multiplexer with decoding logic, that had the same functionality of the Fairchild 3705, a metal-gate production IC that Fairchild Semiconductor had difficulty making on account of its rather stringent specifications.... (Wikipedia article on Self-Aligned gate, accessed 12-02-2013).

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Landmark Products from the Early Years of Intel Corporation July 18, 1968 – 1985

On July 18, 1968 Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andrew Grove from Fairchild Semiconductor founded NM Electronics, later known as Intel. The company's first property was purchased in Santa Clara, California.

1970: The Intel 1103

In 1970 Intel announced the Intel 1103, the world's first commercially available Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chip (1K bit pMOS dynamic RAM ICs).

1971: The Intel 4004

In November 1971 announced the first microprocessor: the  Intel 4004  four-bit central processor logic chip (U.S. Patent #3,821,715). Invented by Intel engineers Federico FagginMarcian Edward "Ted" HoffStanley Mazor and Masatosi Shima, this was the first microprocessor. The size of "a little fingernail," the 4004 contained 2400 transistors and delivered more computing power than the ENIAC, which occupied a large room.

Quoting from:

"The Crucial Role Of Silicon Design In The Invention Of The Microprocessor (A Testimonial from Federico Faggin, designer of the 4004 and developer of its enabling technology)

"Every time there is a new and important invention, there are many people who claim to be their inventor. This is also the case for the microprocessor. What are then the criteria to determine what the invention is and who invented it? What is exactly the microprocessor and what is novel about it? 

"The microprocessor is the central processing unit (CPU) of a general-purpose electronic computer implemented in a single integrated circuit. The Intel 4004 was unquestionably the world’s first commercial microprocessor. No one had commercialized a single-chip CPU prior to Intel. There are people, however, who claim to have built CPUs in more than one chip before the 4004, although they were never commercialized as chip-sets but were used only in proprietary equipment. For example, Raymond Holt claims to have built with his team a three-chip microprocessor in 1969 for the US Navy’s F-14A; Lee Boysel of Four Phase Systems Inc., claims that he and his team created the first microprocessor, which was incorporated as part of a system, in 1969. Although their contributions were remarkable, their CPU implementation, not being a single chip, was not a microprocessor. 

"Why is one chip so much different or better than two or three chips? If we accept to call a microprocessor a three-chip implementation of a CPU, then why shouldn’t a four or five-chip implementation be also called a microprocessor? Pretty soon it would be impossible to distinguish a microprocessor from a CPU board built with conventional components! A single chip is important not only because of its simplicity and elegance, but because a one-chip CPU is the irreducible minimum for a CPU, thus optimizing all the critical requirements of size, speed, cost and energy consumption. The microprocessor changed the world of computing exactly because it reduced to an absolute minimum the size, cost and energy consumption of a CPU while maximizing its speed. 

"The existence of multiple-chip CPU realizations predating the 4004 indicates that the critical contribution of the 4004 in the industry was its implementation in a single chip rather than in multiple chips. This fact places much emphasis on the fundamental role played by the chip design that enabled the integration of the 4004 in a single chip, more than on its architecture. Simple CPU architectures requiring two to three thousand transistors – the same number of transistors used in the 4004 -- were generally known in 1968-1969, however it was not possible to integrate all those transistors in a single chip with the MOS technology available at that time.

"The primary reason for the appearance of the microprocessor in 1971, rather than a few years later and possibly by other companies, was the existence of the MOS Silicon Gate Technology (SGT). With the silicon gate technology, twice as many transistors could be integrated in the same chip size than with conventional metal gate MOS technology, using the same amount of energy, and with a speed advantage of about 4:1. This technology, originally developed by Federico Faggin at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968, had also been adopted by Intel. In 1970, only Fairchild and Intel had been able to master the SGT. The 4004 could be integrated and made to function in a single chip not only because of Faggin’s intimate understanding of the silicon gate technology and his skills as a chip designer, but also because of all the additional technological and circuit innovations he created to make it possible (new methodology for random logic using silicon gatebootstrap loadburied contact, power-resettable flip-flop - US patent 3.753.011-, new flip-flop design used in a novel static MOS shift register). 

"There is a very specific and quite striking example showing that the chip design, more than its architecture, was the key to the creation of the microprocessor -- it is the CPU used in the Datapoint 2200 terminal. Conceived in 1969 by Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC), Texas Instruments attempted to integrate this CPU in a single chip in 1971, as a custom project commissioned by CTC. Described in the press in mid-1971, only a few months after the 4004 completion, this chip never functioned and it was never commercialized. In early 1972, exactly the same CPU that Texas Instruments failed to make viable, was integrated at Intel (assigned to Hal Feeney, under Faggin’s supervision) using the silicon gate technology and the CPU design methodology created by Federico Faggin. This CPU became the Intel 8008 microprocessor, and was first commercialized in April 1972. The 8008 chip size was about half the size of Texas Instrument’s chip and it worked perfectly" (http://www.intel4004.com/hyatt.htm, accessed 12-02-2013). 

1972:  The Intel 8008

In April 1972 Intel introduced the 8008 microprocessor, the first 8-bit microprocessor. With an external 14-bit address bus that could address 16KB of memory, it became the CPU for the first commercial, non-calculator personal computers: the US SCELBI kit and the pre-built French Micral N and Canadian MCM/70, and the Datapoint 2200.

"Originally known as the 1201, the chip was commissioned by Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) to implement an instruction set of their design for their Datapoint 2200 programmable terminal. As the chip was delayed and did not meet CTC's performance goals, the 2200 ended up using CTC's own TTL based CPU instead. An agreement permitted Intel to market the chip to other customers after Seiko expressed an interest in using it for a calculator" (Wikipedia article on Intel 8008, accessed 12-02-2013). 

1974:  The Intel 8080

In April 1974 Intel released the 8080 eight-bit microprocessor, considered by many to be the first general-purpose microprocessor. It featured 4,500 transistors and about ten times the performance of its predecessors. Within a year the 8080 was designed into hundreds of different products, including the MITS Altair 8800 designed by H. Edward Roberts. 

"The 8080 also changed how computers were created. When the 8080 was introduced, computer systems were usually created by computer manufacturers such as Digital Equipment CorporationHewlett Packard, or IBM. A manufacturer would produce the entire computer, including processor, terminals, and system software such as compilers and operating system. The 8080 was actually designed for just about any application except a complete computer system. Hewlett Packard developed the HP 2640series of smart terminals around the 8080. The HP 2647 was a terminal which ran BASIC on the 8080. Microsoft would market as its founding product the first popular programming language for the 8080, and would later acquire DOS for the IBM-PC" (Wikipedia article on Intel 8080, accessed 12-02-2013).

1978:  The Intel 8086

In 1978 Intel introduced the 8086 sixteen-bit microprocessor. The 8086 gave rise to the x86 architecture which eventually turned out as Intel's most successful line of processors.

1979: The Intel 8088

On July 1, 1979 Intel introduced the 8088 microprocessor, a low-cost version of the 8086 using an eight-bit external bus instead of the 16-bit bus of the 8086, allowing the use of cheaper and fewer supporting logic chips. It was the processor used in the original IBM PC.

1985:  The Intel 386

In 1985 Intel introduced the 32-bit 386 microprocessor. It featured 275,000 transistors— more than 100 times as many as the first Intel microprocessor, the 4004, developed in 1971.

(This entry was last revised on 01-18-2015.)

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The Term Software Engineering is Coined October 7 – October 11, 1968

The term “software engineering” was coined at a NATO conference held from October 7-11, 1968 in Garmisch, Germany. The conference was held in response to the perception that computer programming had not kept up with advances in computer hardware.

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The First ATM is Installed at Chemical Bank in New York Circa 1969 – 1970

In 1969 or 1970 the first automatic teller machine (ATM) was installed. Dates conflict as to whether this was in 1969 or slightly later. The first machine installed at Chemical Bank in New York may have been only a cash dispenser.

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The Datapoint 2200: Precursor of the Personal Computer and the Microprocessor 1969 – 1971

In 1971 Phil Ray and Gus Roche of Computer Terminal Corporation of San Antonio, Texas, later known as Datapoint Corporation, began shipping the Datapoint 2200, a mass-produced programmable terminal, which could be used as a simple stand-alone personal computer.

"It was intended by its designers simply to be a versatile, cost-efficient terminal for connecting to a wide variety of mainframes by loading various terminal emulations from tape rather than being hardwired as most terminals were. However, enterprising users in the business sector (including Pillsbury Foods) realized that this so-called 'programmable terminal' was equipped to perform any task a simple computer could, and exploited this fact by using their 2200s as standalone computer systems. Equally significant is the fact that the terminal's multi-chip CPU (processor) became the embryo of the x86 architecture upon which the original IBM PC and its descendants are based.

"Aside from being one of the first personal computers, the Datapoint 2200 has another connection to computer history. Its original design called for a single-chip 8-bit microprocessor for the CPU, rather than a conventional processor built from discrete TTL modules. In 1969, CTC contracted two companies, Intel and Texas Instruments, to make the chip. TI was unable to make a reliable part and dropped out. Intel was unable to make CTC's deadline. Intel and CTC renegotiated their contract, ending up with CTC keeping its money and Intel keeping the eventually completed processor.

"CTC released the Datapoint 2200 using about 100 discrete TTL components (SSI/MSI chips) instead of a microprocessor, while Intel's single-chip design, eventually designated the Intel 8008, was finally released in April 1972. The 8008's seminal importance lies in its becoming the ancestor of Intel's other 8-bit CPUs, which were followed by their assembly language compatible 16-bit CPU's—the first members of the x86-family, as the instruction set was later to be known. Thus, CTC's engineers may be said to have fathered the world's most commonly used and emulated instruction set architecture from the mid-1980s to date" (Wikipedia article on Datapoint 2200, accessed 09-12-2012).

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Jerry Sanders and Colleagues from Fairchild Semiconductor Found AMD May 1, 1969

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was founded by Jerry Sanders and seven others from Fairchild Semiconductor on May 1, 1969. It began operations as a producer of logic chips.

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1970 – 1980

Xerox PARC is Founded 1970

In 1970 Xerox opened the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). PARC became the incubator of the Graphical User Interface (GUI), the mouse, the WYSIWYG text editor, the laser printer, the desktop computer, the Smalltalk programming language and integrated development environment, Interpress (a resolution-independent graphical page description language and the precursor to PostScript), and Ethernet.

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The Kenback-1, the First Stored-Program "Personal Computer" 1970 – 1971

In 1970 John Blankenbaker of Kenback Corporation, Northridge, California, designed and produced the Kenbak-1.  The machines, of which only forty were ever built, were designed as educational tools and offered for sale in Scientific American and Computerworld for $750 in 1971.  The company folded in 1973.

Unlike many earlier machines and calculating engines, the Kenbak-1 was a true stored-program computer that offered 256 bytes of memory, a wide variety of operations and a speed equivalent to nearly 1MHz. It was thus the first stored-program personal computer.

"Since the Kenbak-1 was invented before the first microprocessor, the machine didn't have a one-chip CPU but instead was based purely on discrete TTL chips. The 8-bit machine offered 256 bytes of memory (=1/4096 megabyte). The instruction cycle time was 1 microsecond (equivalent to an instruction clock speed of 1 MHz), but actual execution speed averaged below 1000 instructions per second due to architectural constraints such as slow access to serial memory.

"To use the machine, one had to program it with a series of buttons and switches, using pure machine code. Output consisted of a series of lights" (Wikipedia article on Kenbak-1, accessed 09-19-2013).

In 2013 John Blankenbaker's detailed account of the design, production, and operation of the Kenbak-1 was available from his website, www.kenbak.-1.net.

Also in 2013, "Official Kenbak-1 Reproduction Kits" were available from www.kenbakkit.com.

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Rand Issues the First Systematic Review of Computer Security Issues February 1970

In February 1970 The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, published the classified report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Computer Security, Security Controls for Computer Systems.

Security Controls for Computer Systems was the first systematic review of computer security problems.

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The IBM System/370 Uses Semiconductor Memory June 30, 1970

On June 30, 1970 IBM announced the System/370, an upgrade for the 360, using semiconductor memory in place of magnetic cores.

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Gilbert Hyatt Files the First General Patent on the Microprocessor, Later Invalidated December 1970

In December 1970 Gilbert Hyatt filed a patent application entitled Single Chip Integrated Circuit Computer Architecture based on work begun in 1968. This was the first patent application for a microprocessor. The patent was granted in 1990 but later invalidated.

"A patent on the microcontroller [microprocessor], predating the only two Intel patents related to the MCS-4, was granted to Gilbert Hyatt in 1990. This patent described the architecture and logic design of a microcontroller, claiming that it could be integrated into a single chip. This patent was later invalidated in a patent interference case brought forth by Texas Instruments, on account that the device it described was never implemented and was not implementable with the technology available at the time of the invention" (http://www.intel4004.com/hyatt.htm, accessed 12-02-2013). 

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IBM Introduces Speech Recognition Technology 1971

IBM’s first operational application of speech recognition enabled customer engineers servicing equipment to “talk” to and receive “spoken” answers from a computer that could recognize about 5,000 words.

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Expensive Electronic Calculators Flood the Market 1972 – 1974

As a result of cheap integrated circuits, from 1972 to 1974 nexpensive electronic calculators flooded the market for the first time.

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The Xerox Alto: Conceptually, the First Personal Computer System 1973

In 1973 the Alto computer system was operational at Xerox PARC. Conceptually the first personal computer system, the Alto eventually featured the first WYSYWG (What You See is What You Get) editor, a graphic user interface (GUI), networking through Ethernet, and a mouse. The system was priced $32,000.

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The First Electronic Pagination System, Forerunner of Email and Instant Messaging 1973

Atex, founded in Massachusetts in 1973, worked with the Minneapolis Star newspaper to develop the first electronic pagination system that allowed the creation and output of full editorial pages, eliminating the need for manual paste-up of strips of film.

The Atex system featured "Atex Messaging" which is widely believed to be the forerunner of both email and instant messenger applications. Atex publishing systems were "based on highly modified Dec PDP-11 minicomputers, designed to produce news sections of newspapers. The systems included clustered CPUs, a distributed file system and dumb terminals that displayed memory-mapped video and featured keyboards with up to 140 keys: Distinctively, the cursor keys were on the left-hand side. A custom operating system tied everything together."

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Gary Kildall Develops the CP/M Operating System for Microcomputers 1973 – 1974

From 1973-74 American computer scientist and microcomputer entrepreneur Gary Kildall, one of the first people to view microprocessors as full-featured computers rather than equipment controllers, developed the operating system, CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers) through his company, Digital Research, in Pacific Grove, California.

". . .Kildall originally developed CP/M during 1973-74, as an operating system to run on an Intel Intellec-8 development system, equipped with an Shugart Associates 8-inch floppy disk drive interfaced via a custom floppy disk controller. It was written in Kildall's own PL/M (Programming Language for Microcomputers). Various aspects of CP/M were influenced by the TOPS-10 operating system of the DECsystem-10 [PDP-10] mainframe computer, which Kildall had used as a development environment" (Wikipedia article on CP/M, accessed 02-06-2010).

"By 1981, at the peak of its popularity, CP/M ran on 3,000 different computer models and DRI had $5.4 million in yearly revenues" (Wikipedia article on Gary Kildall, accessed 02-06-2010).

On October 1, 2014, marking the 40th anniversary of the introduction of CP/M, the Computer Museum in Mountainview, California made available, for non-commercial use, the source code of several early releases of CP/M.

"The museum is releasing scanned printer listings and/or machine-readable source code for four early versions of CP/M dating from 1975 to 1979. These include the earliest source code for CP/M we have been able to locate, dating from before there were official version numbers. It was used at Lawrence Livermore Labs for their Octopus network system. Version 1.3 in 1976 was the first release to include the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) code that made it easy to modify the software for different computers. This includes an amazing 48-page reverse-engineered source code listing with a hand-annotated disassembly of the object code. Versions 1.4 and 2.0 allowed compilation and assembly on personal computers and considerably expanded and generalized access to disks."

 

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The Earliest Commercial, Non-Kit Personal Computer Based on a Microprocessor February 1973

In February 1973 the French company Réalisation d'Études Électroniques (R2E), founded by Paul Magneron and André Truong Trong Thi, offered the Micral N personal computer for sale. The Micral N was the earliest commercial, non-kit personal computer or microcomputer based on a microprocessor, specifically the Intel 8008.

"The software was developed by Benchetrit, with Alain Lacombe and Jean-Claude Beckmann working on the electrical and mechanical aspects. [François] Gernelle invented the Micral N, which was much smaller than existing minicomputers. The January 1974 Users Manual called it "the first of a new generation of mini-computer whose principal feature is its very low cost'....

"The computer was to be delivered in December 1972, and Gernelle, Lacombe, Benchetrit and Beckmann had to work in a cellar in Châtenay-Malabry for 18 hours a day in order to deliver the computer in time. The software, the ROM-based MIC 01 monitor and the ASMIC 01 assembler, was written on an Intertechnique Multi-8 minicomputer using a cross assembler. The computer was based on an Intel 8008 microprocessor clocked at 500 kHz. It had a backplane bus, called the Pluribus with 74-pin connector. 14 boards could be plugged in a Pluribus. With two Pluribus, the Micral N could support up to 24 boards. The computer used MOS memory instead of core memory. The Micral N could support parallel and serial input/output. It had 8 levels of interrupt and a stack. The computer was programmed with punched tape, and used a teleprinter or modem for I/O. The front panel console was optional, offering customers the option of designing their own console to match a particular application. It was delivered to the INRA in January 1973, and commercialized in February 1973 for FF 8,500 (about $1,750) making it a cost-effective replacement for minicomputers which augured the era of the PC" (Wikipedia article on Micral N, accessed 12-02-2013). 

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First Use of the Term "Mainframe" 1974

The term “mainframe” was first used in 1974 in a Scientific American article to distinguish the main computer in a laboratory from other computers.

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Probably the First Advertised Personal Computer Sold in Kit Form March 1974

In March 1974 Computer Consulting of Milford, Connecticut advertised the SCELBI-8H (SCientific ELectronic BIological, pronounced "sell-bee") personal computer. Based on the first 8-bit microprocessor from Intel, the 8008, the 8H came with 1K of random-access memory and was available either fully assembled or in a kit (consisting of circuit boardspower supply, etc. that the purchaser assembled). The company placed ads in QSTRadio-Electronics and later in BYTE magazine. Though the 8H was preceded by the Micral N produced in France, some have called it the first personal computer advertised in kit form.

"No high-level programming language was available for the 8H in the beginning. Wadsworth wrote a book, Machine Language Programming for the 8008 and Similar Microcomputers, that taught the assembly language and machine language programming techniques needed to use the 8H. The book included a listing of a floating point package, making it one of the first examples of non-trivial personal-computer software distribution in the spirit of what would much later become known as open source. Because of the similarities between the 8008 and the 8080, this book was purchased by many owners of non-SCELBI hardware" (Wikipedia article on SCELBI, accessed 12-02-2013).

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An Antitrust Suit to Break up AT&T November 20, 1974

On November 20, 1974 the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit for the breakup of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), alleging anticompetitive behavior.

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200,000 Computers are Operating in the U. S. 1975

It was estimated that 200,000 computers were operating in the United States in 1975. Nearly all of these were mainframes and minicomputers.

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The MITS Altair, the First Personal Computer to Get "Wide Notice" Among Enthusiasts January 1975 – 1976

In January 1975 H. Edward Roberts, working in Albuquerque, New Mexico, announced the MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems) Altair personal computer kit in an article in Popular Electronics magazine. The MITS Altair was first personal computer based on the Intel 8080 general-purpose microprocessor, and the first personal computer to get "wide notice" among enthusiasts. It also had an open architecture. The basic Altair 8800 sold for $397.

In March 1976 the first (and only) World Altair Computer Convention, took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Organized by David Bunnell of MITS, it was the world's first personal computer conference, and was an overwhelming success, with 700 people from 46 states and seven countries attending.

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The Homebrew Computer Club Holds its First Meeting March 1975

The Homebrew Computer Club held its first meeting at a garage in Menlo Park, California. At this and other informal meetings of "tech-type" people Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak learned about computing. The first issue of the Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter was published on March 15, 1975. It continued through several designs, ending after 21 issues in December 1977. The newsletter was published from a variety of addresses in the early days, but later submissions went to a P.O. box address in Mountain View, California.

"The Apple I and II were designed strictly on a hobby, for-fun basis, not to be a product for a company. They were meant to bring down to the club and put on the table during the random access period and demonstrate: Look at this, it uses very few chips. It's got a video screen. You can type stuff on it. Personal computer keyboards and video screens were not well established then. There was a lot of showing off to other members of the club. Schematics of the Apple I were passed around freely, and I'd even go over to people's houses and help them build their own" (Wozniak).

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Landmarks in the Prehistory and Early History of Microsoft April 4, 1975 – November 20, 1985

In Seattle, Washington, from 1973-74 high school students Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and Paul Gilbert founded a partnership called Traf-O-Data. The objective was to read the raw data from roadway traffic counters and create reports for traffic engineers. Even though this initial project was not a success, the experience that Gates and Allen gained in writing software for a non-existent computer they applied shortly thereafter in writing software for the MITS Altair. 

"Bill Gates and Paul Allen were high school students at Lakeside School in Seattle. The Lakeside Programmers Group got free computer time on various computers in exchange for writing computer programs. Gates and Allen thought they could process the traffic data cheaper and faster than the local companies. They recruited classmates to manually read the hole-patterns in the paper tape and transcribe the data onto computer cards. Gates then used a computer at the University of Washington to produce the traffic flow charts. (Paul Allen's father was a librarian at UW.) This was the beginning of Traf-O-Data.

"The next step was to build a device to read the traffic tapes directly and eliminate the tedious manual work. The Intel 8008 microprocessor was announced in 1972 and they realized it could read the tapes and process the data. Allen had graduated and was enrolled at Washington State University. Since neither Gates nor Allen had any hardware design experience they were initially stumped. The computer community in Seattle at that time was relatively small. Gates and Allen had a friend, Paul Wennberg who like them had hung around CDC Corporation near the University of Washington cadging open time on the mainframe. Wennberg, founder of the Triakis Corporation, was then an electrical engineering student at the University of Washington. In the course of events Gates and Allen mentioned they were looking for somebody to build them a computer for free. They needed somebody good enough to build a computer from parts and the diagrams found in a computer magazine. It was Wennberg who came up with the man to do just that. After discussion with another friend, Wes Prichard, Prichard suggested to Wennberg that Gates and Allen head over UW Physics building to where Gilbert, another EE student worked in the high-energy tracking lab. It was there that Paul Gilbert was approached by the duo to become a partner in Traf-O-Data. That year Gilbert, piece by piece, wire wrapped, soldered and, assembled from electrical components the (world's first?) working microcomputer. Miles Gilbert, Paul Gilbert's brother, a graphic designer and draftsman, helped the fledgling company by designing the company's logo. Gates and Allen started writing the software. To test the software while the computer was being designed, Paul Allen wrote a computer program on WSU's IBM 360 that would emulate the 8008 microprocessor.

"The computer system was completed and Traf-O-Data produced a few thousand dollars of revenue. Later the State of Washington offered free traffic processing services to cities, ending the need for private contractors, and all three principals moved on to other projects. The real contribution of Traf-O-Data was the experience that Gates and Allen gained developing software for computer hardware that did not exist. Paul Gilbert, sometimes referred to as "the hardware guy", was the man who made Traf-O-Data work. Without his efforts in the construction of this computer, and the day-to-day running of this pioneering company, the rise of what became Microsoft might have been delayed" (Wikipedia article on Traf-O-Data, accessed 07-13-2011).

On April 4, 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen officially founded Micro-Soft (Microsoft) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Gates as CEO. Allen invented the original  company name, "Micro-Soft."  The initial purpose of the company was to develop an implementation of the programming language BASIC for the MITS Altair personal computer. Revenues of the company totaled $16,005 by the end of 1976.

"Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name "Microsoft" was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico." (Wikipedia article on Bill Gates, accessed 07-13-2011).

Early in 1975 Gates, Allen, and Monte Davidoff wrote a version of the Basic programming language that ran on the MITS Altair 8800.

"After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS's interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS's offices in Albuquerque, was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC." (Wikipedia article on Bill Gates, accessed 07-13-2011).

Called Altair Basic, or in its first iteration, MITS 4K Basic, the program was written without access to an Altair computer or even an 8080 CPU. Altair Basic was the first computer language written for a personal computer, and the first product of "Micro-Soft," which in 1976 was renamed Microsoft.

On February 3, 1976 Gates, in his role as "General Partner Micro-Soft", Albuquerque, New Mexico, wrote An Open Letter to Hobbyists, making the distinction between proprietary and open-source software.

Gates's one page letter was first pubished in Computer Notes1, #9 (February 1976). Computer Notes was the house journal of MITS, the company that developed the MITS Altair 8800 and licensed Micro-Soft's version of BASIC.

In December 1980 IBM hired Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft, then in Bellevue, Washington, to create an operating system (OS) for the new IBM personal computer under development.

Because Microsoft had no OS at the time, they purchased a non-exclusive license to sell a CP/M clone called QDOS ("Quick and Dirty Operating System") from Tim Patterson of Seattle Computer Products for $25,000.

In September 1983 Microsoft introduced Microsoft Word 1.0 for MS-DOS. This was the first word processor to make extensive use of the computer mouse.

On November 20, 1985 Microsoft introduced Windows 1.0 for the PC. Rather than a completely new operating system, Windows 1.0 was a graphical user interface (GUI) multi-tasking operating environment extension of MS-DOS.

My thanks to Chris Morgan for drawing my attention to Gates and Allen's early experience with Traf-O-Data.

(This entry was last revised on 01-18-2015.)

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The Antitrust Case, U.S. v. IBM, is Tried and Eventually Withdrawn May 19, 1975 – January 8, 1982

On May 19, 1975 the Federal Government’s antitrust suit against IBM went to trial. The complaint for the case U.S. v. IBM had been filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York on January 17, 1969 by the Justice Department. The suit alleged that IBM violated the Section 2 of the Sherman Act by monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the general purpose electronic digital computer system market, specifically computers designed primarily for business.

After thousands of hours of testimony (testimony of over 950 witnesses, 87 in court, the remainder by deposition), and the submission of tens of thousands of exhibits, on January 8, 1982 the anti-trust case U.S. v. IBM was withdrawn on the grounds that the case was "without merit."

30,000,000 pages of documents were generated in the course of this anti-trust case.

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IBM's First "Portable" Computer: $19,975 September 1975

In September 1975 IBM introduced the 5100 Portable Computer for corporate users. More luggable than portable, or perhaps portable only with a hand-cart, the machine weighed 50 pounds. The price, fully configured, was $19,975.

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First Print-to-Speech Reading Machine 1976

In 1976 Raymond Kurzweil introduced the Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first practical application of OCR technology. The Kurzweil Reading Machine combined omni-font OCR, a flat-bed scanner, and text-to-speech synthesis to create the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. It was the first computer to transform random text into computer-spoken words, enabling blind and visually impaired people to read any printed materials. 

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Foundation of Apple Computer and the Origin of the Name April 1, 1976 – December 13, 2011

On April 1, 1976 Steve JobsSteve "The Woz" Wozniak and Ronald G. Wayne signed the contract founding Apple Computer, then designated as Apple Computer Company.

Wayne relinquished his 10% stake in the company for $800, only 12 days later, on April 12, 1976.

In an interview done in the mid-1980s Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs recalled how they named their upstart computer company some 35 years ago.

" 'I remember driving down Highway 85,' Wozniak says. 'We're on the freeway, and Steve mentions, 'I've got a name: Apple Computer.' We kept thinking of other alternatives to that name, and we couldn't think of anything better.'

"Adds Jobs: 'And also remember that I worked at Atari, and it got us ahead of Atari in the phonebook.' " (http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=52707, accessed 12-30-2011).

In November 1997 Stanford University acquired the historical archives for the early history of Apple Computer.

♦ On December 13, 2011 Sotheby's sold as lot 244 in their Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in New York Wayne's copy of the original contract document for $1,594,500, including buyer's premium, to Cisneros Corporation CEO Eduardo Cisneros. This was the highest price paid to date for anything related to the history of computing.

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The Apple I is Released July 1976

The first Apple Computer, designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, and known retrospectively as the Apple I (Apple 1) was demonstrated at the Homebrew Computer Club in Menlo Park, California in July 1976. Wozniak's friend Steve Jobs had the idea of manufacturing the computer for sale. Together they founded the Apple Computer Company, and to finance the production of their first product Jobs sold his only means of transportation, a VW van, and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500. They built the Apple I in the garage of Jobs's parents' house in Palo Alto.  

"The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 at a price of US$666.66, because Wozniak liked the repeating digits and because they originally sold it to a local shop for $500 for the one-third markup. About 200 units were produced. Unlike other hobbyist computers of its day, which were sold as kits, the Apple I was a fully assembled circuit board containing about 60+ chips. However, to make a working computer, users still had to add a case, power supply transformers, power switch, ASCII keyboard, and composite video display. An optional board providing a cassette interface for storage was later released at a cost of $75" (Wikipedia article on Apple I, accessed 11-26-2011).

♦ Of the approximately 200 Apple 1s built, 43 were thought to survive in 2012.  Of those six were then thought to be in working order. For sales of original examples beginning in 2010 see the related database entry.

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Apple I: The First Personal Computer Sold as a Fully Assembled Product 1977

In 1977 Apple Computer introduced the Apple II, the first personal computer sold as a fully assembled product, and the first with color graphics. When the first spreadsheet program, Visicalc, was introduced for the Apple II in 1979 it greatly stimulated sales of the computer as people bought the Apple II just to run Visicalc.

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Wang Inaugurates the Concept of Office Automation 1977

In 1977 Wang Laboratories, Lowell, Massachusetts, introduced its VS minicomputer system, which became, for a time, one of the most popular office systems, "inaugurating the concept of office automation."

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The First Silicon Compiler January 1979

In January 1979 the first Caltech Conference On Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) took place at Caltech in Pasadena. At this meeting
David L. Johannsen, a graduate student of Carver Mead, presented a paper entitled "Bristle Blocks: A Silicon Compiler," describing his research on silicon compilation. This was the first use of the term to describe a software system that takes a user's specifications and automatically generates an integrated circuit (IC), translating the electronic design of a chip into the layout of the logic gates, including the actual masking from one transistor to another. The process is sometimes referred to as hardware compilation. Silicon compilation eventually created a new business model for the semiconductor industry, called fabless manufacturing.

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1980 – 1990

The Xerox Star: The "Office of the Future" 1981

In 1981 Xerox introduced the 8010 Star Information System, the first commercial system to incorporate a bitmapped display, a windows-based graphical user interface, icons, folders, mouse, Ethernet networking, file servers, printer servers and e-mail.

Xerox's 8010 Star was developed at Xerox's Systems Development Department (SDD) in El Segundo, California. A section of SDD ("SDD North") was located in Palo Alto, California, and included some people borrowed from Xerox's PARC. SDD's mission was to design the "Office of the Future"—a system, easy to use, that would incorporate the best features of the Xerox Alto, and could automate many office tasks.

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The Osborne 1: The First Commercially Successful "Portable" Computer April 1981

In April 1981 writer and computer entrepreneur Adam Osborne and Osborne Computer Corporation, Hayward, California, produced the first commercially successful "portable" computer, the Osborne 1. It weighed twenty-three pounds, ran the CP/M operating system, and sold for $1795, with $2000 worth of software included. Its main deficiencies were a tiny 5 inch (13 cm) display screen and use of single sided, single density floppy disk drives which could not contain sufficient data for practical business applications. Its 23 pound weight meant that the computer was more "luggable" than portable.

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Quick and Dirty Operating System Becomes MS-DOS July 1981

In July 1981 Microsoft bought all rights to 86-DOS, otherwise known as QDOS, for Quick and Dirty Operating System, from Seattle Computer Products for $50,000 or $75,000, depending on how the cost is calculated. They renamed it MS-DOS. 

"IBM PC-DOS (and the separately sold MS-DOS, which was licensed therefrom), and its predecessor, 86-DOS, were loosely inspired by CP/M (Control Program / [for] Microcomputers) from Digital Research, which was the dominant disk operating system for 8-bit Intel 8080 and Zilog Z80 based microcomputers. However, PC-DOS never ran on less than an 8088 (16-bit).

"When IBM introduced their first microcomputer in 1980, built with the Intel 8088 microprocessor, they needed an operating system. Seeking an 8088-compatible build of CP/M, IBM initially approached Microsoft CEO Bill Gates (possibly believing that Microsoft owned CP/M due to the Microsoft Z-80 SoftCard, which allowed CP/M to run on an Apple II. IBM was sent to Digital Research, and a meeting was set up. However, the initial negotiations for the use of CP/M broke down—Digital Research wished to sell CP/M on a royalty basis, while IBM sought a single license, and to change the name to 'PC DOS'. DR founder Gary Kildall refused, and IBM withdrew.

"IBM again approached Bill Gates. Gates in turn approached Seattle Computer Products. There, programmer Tim Paterson had developed a variant of CP/M-80, intended as an internal product for testing SCP's new 16-bit Intel 8086 CPU card for the S-100 bus. The system was initially named "QDOS" (Quick and Dirty Operating System), before being made commercially available as 86-DOS. Microsoft purchased 86-DOS, allegedly for $50,000. This became Microsoft Disk Operating System, MS-DOS, introduced in 1981.

"Microsoft also licensed their system to multiple computer companies, who supplied MS-DOS for their own hardware, sometimes under their own names. Microsoft later required the use of the MS-DOS name, with the exception of the IBM variant. IBM continued to develop their version, PC DOS, for the IBM PC. Digital Research became aware that an operating system similar to CP/M was being sold by IBM (under the same name that IBM insisted upon for CP/M), and threatened legal action. IBM responded by offering an agreement: they would give PC consumers a choice of PC DOS or CP/M-86, Kildall's 8086 version. Side-by-side, CP/M cost almost $200 more than PC DOS, and sales were low. CP/M faded, with MS-DOS and PC DOS becoming the marketed operating system for PCs and PC compatibles" (Wikipedia article on DOS, accessed 02-05-2010).

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IBM Introduces the IBM 5150- The IBM PC August 12, 1981

On August 12, 1981 IBM introduced their open architecture personal computer (PC) based on the Intel 8088 processor. The IBM PC  ran PC-DOS, the IBM-branded version of the 16-bit operating system, MS-DOS, provided by Microsoft. The machine was originally designated as the IBM 5150, putting it in the "5100" series, though its architecture was not directly descended from the IBM 5100.

On August 1, 1981 a review of the IBM PC appeared on USENET (accessed 10-16-2009).

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Lotus Development Corporation is Founded 1982

In 1982 Mitchell Kapor, previously head of development at Visicorp, and Jonathan Sachs, with backing from Ben Rosen, founded Lotus Development Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kapor, who had been a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, named the company after 'The Lotus Position' or "Padmasana.''

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The First "Clamshell" Laptop? 1982

The GRiD Compass 1100, introduced by Grid Systems Corporation in 1982, was probably the first commercial computer created in a "clamshell" laptop format, and one of the first truly portable machines.

The 1100 included a magnesium clamshell case with a screen that folded flat over the keyboard, a switching power supply, electro-luminescent display, non-volatile bubble memory, and a built-in modem.

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Sun Microsystems Announces its First Workstation February 24, 1982

In May 1982 SUN Microsystems announced its first UNIX workstation, the Sun 1. The company had been founded in Santa Clara, California only three months earlier, on February 24, 1982, by Vinod Khosla, Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy, and Scott McNealy—students at Stanford who worked on the Stanford University Network

"The initial design for what became Sun's first Unix workstation,  was conceived by Andy Bechtolsheim when he was a graduate student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He originally designed the SUN workstation for the Stanford University Network communications project as a personal CAD workstation. It was designed as a 3M computer: 1 MIPS, 1 Megabyte and 1 Megapixel. It was designed around the Motorola 68000 processor with an advanced Memory management unit (MMU) to support the Unix operating system with virtual memory support. He built the first ones from spare parts obtained from Stanford's Department of Computer Science and Silicon Valley supply houses" (Wikipedia article on Sun Microsystems, accessed 06-12-2009).

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The First IBM PC Compatible Computer June 1982

In June 1982 Columbia Data Products (CDP) of Columbia, Maryland, introduced the MPC 1600 "Multi Personal Computer," an exact functional copy of the IBM PC model 5150 except for the BIOS, which was developed by a "clean room" reverse engineering process, thus avoiding copyright infringement. IBM had published the bus and BIOS specifications, wrongly assuming that this would be enough to encourage the add-on market, and prevent unlicensed copying of the design.

"As the first IBM PC clone, the MPC was actually superior to the IBM original. It came with 128 KiB RAM standard, compared to the IBM's 64 KiB maximum. The MPC had eight PC expansion slots, with one filled by its video card. Its floppy disk drive interface was built into the motherboard. The IBM PC, in contrast, had only five expansion slots, with the video card and floppy disk controller taking two of them. The MPC also included two floppy disk drives, one parallel and two serial ports, which were all optional on the original IBM PC. The MPC was followed up with a portable PC, the 32 pound (15 kg) "luggable" Columbia VP in 1983" (Wikipedia article on Columbia Data Products, accessed 01-01-2013).

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The First Cheap Home Computer, and the Best-Selling Computer of its Time August 1982

In August 1982 Commodore International, West Chester, Pennsylvania, issued the Commodore 64—"the first cheap home computer" at the price of $595. The Commodore 64 looked like a bulky keyboard, but included color graphics, and excelled at playing early video games. Between 1982 and 1984 30,000,000 units were sold, making it the best-selling personal computer model of this era. Roughly 10,000 commercial programs were produced for this computer.

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The First Scanner? November 1982

In November 1982 IBM introduced the Scanmaster 1, a mainframe computer terminal designed to scan, transmit and store images of documents electronically.

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The "Trash" 80: The First Notebook Computer? 1983

In 1983 the TRS-80, Model 100, made by Kyocera, Kyoto, Japan, and marketed in the U.S. in Radio Shack stores owned by Tandy Corporation of Fort Worth, Texas, introduced the concept of a "notebook" computer. More than 6,000,000 TRS-80s were sold; the introductory price was $1099.00.

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Oracle Corporation 1983

In 1983 Lawrence Ellison's Relational Software, Menlo Park, California, renamed itself Oracle Systems to align itself with its flagship relational database management system (DBMS), Oracle version 3. This was the first RDBMS with a portable codebase that allowed companies to run their DBMSs on a range of hardware and operating systems, including mainframes, mincomputers, workstations and personal computers.

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6,000,000 Personal Computers are Sold in the U.S. 1983

In 1983 six million personal computers were sold in the United States.

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The First Commercially Available IBM PC Compatible ROM Bios 1983 – May 1984

During 1983 and the first part of 1984 Phoenix Technologies, then in Boston, Massachusetts, created the first commercially available IBM PC compatible ROM Bios. Licensability of this firmware interface, which would allow a computer to run the same operating system and the same applications as the IBM PC, enabled the rapid expansion of the IBM PC compatible computer industry. 

To defend against the inevitable copyright infringement suits expected to be brought by IBM, Phoenix engineers reverse-engineered the Bios using clean-room design, in which the software engineers had never read IBM's reference manuals: 

"Phoenix developed a 'clean room' technique that isolated the engineers who had been contaminated by reading the IBM source listings in the IBM Technical Reference Manuals. The contaminated engineers wrote specifications for the BIOS APIs and provided the specifications to 'clean' engineers who had not been exposed to IBM BIOS source code. Those 'clean' engineers developed code from scratch to mimic the BIOS APIs. This technique provided Phoenix with a defensibly non-infringing IBM PC-compatible ROM BIOS. Because the programmers who wrote the Phoenix code had never read IBM's reference manuals, nothing they wrote could have been copied from IBM's code, no matter how closely the two matched" (Wikipedia article on Phoenix Technologies, accessed 01-01-2013).

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A Computer's Operating System Can be Protected by Copyright 1983

In the 1983 decision Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., 714 F.2d 1240 (3d Cir. 1983) an appellate level court in the United States held for the first time that a computer's operating system could be protected by copyright.

"Franklin Computer Corporation [Burlington, New Jersey] introduced the Franklin Ace 100, a clone of Apple Computer's Apple II, in 1982. Apple quickly determined that substantial portions of the Franklin ROM and operating system had been copied directly from Apple's versions, and on May 12, 1982, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It cited the presence of some of the same embedded strings, such as the name "James Huston" (an Apple programmer), and "Applesoft," on both the Apple and Franklin system disks.

"Franklin admitted that it had copied Apple's software but argued that it would have been impractical to independently write its own versions of the software and maintain compatibility, although it said it had written its own version of Apple's copy utility and was working on its own versions of other software. Franklin argued that because Apple's software existed only in machine-readable form, and not in printed form, and because some of the software did not contain copyright notices, it could be freely copied. The Apple II firmware was likened to a machine part whose form was dictated entirely by the requirements of compatibility (that is, an exact copy of Apple's ROM was the only part that would "fit" in an Apple-compatible computer and enable its intended function), and was therefore not copyrightable.

"The district court found in favor of Franklin. However, Apple appealed the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which, in a separate case decided three days after Franklin won at the lower level, determined that both a program existing only in a written form unreadable to humans (e.g. object code) and one embedded on a ROM were protected by copyright. (See Williams Elec., Inc., v. Artic Int'l, Inc., 685 F.2d 870 (1982)). The Court of Appeals overturned the district court's ruling in Franklin by applying its holdings in Williams and going further to hold that operating systems were also copyrightable" (Wikipedia article on Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., accessed 01-01-2013).

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Time Magazine's 1983 "Machine of the Year" is a Personal Computer January 3, 1983 – January 3, 2013

Time Magazine's January 3, 1983 issue, published in print at the end of 1982, featured the personal computer as "Machine of the Year", in distinction to its traditional feature known as "Man of the Year." The cover of the issue depicted a white plaster man by sculptor George Segal contemplating a concept persdonal computer which Time commissioned from a design firm. 

Thirty years later, on January 3, 2013, Time reissued the January 3, 1983 issue as a downloadable bonus for its iPad, Android, Kindle and Nook subscribers, with a new introduction by Henry McCracken. That the reissue was produced in electronic form, rather than print, summarized the enormous changes that occurred in the creation, distribution, and storage of information during those three decades. McCracken summarized his introduction to the reissue in his "Technologizer" column of January 4, 2013, from which I quote:

"When TIME put together the issue, the PC revolution was still young. (The vast majority of homes didn’t yet have one.) But it wasn’t that young: The MITS Altair 8800, the first PC that mattered, came out in 1975. In 1977, it was followed by the Apple II, Commodore’s PET 2001 and Radio Shack’s TRS-80, the first truly consumery, ready-to-use machines. And another half-decade of evolution occurred before TIME commemorated the PC’s arrival so memorably.

"In retrospect, what the 21-page Machine of the Year cover package captures isn’t the beginning of the PC so much as the end of the beginning. The industry still had room for a bevy of hobbyist-oriented, sometimes downright rudimentary computers from Apple, Atari, Commodore, Osborne, Radio Shack, Texas Instruments, Timex (!) and others. None of them had futuristic features like a graphical user interface and a mouse; most ran their own operating systems and weren’t compatible with anything else on the market.

"Here and there, though, the issue hints at the changes which would really get underway in 1983. It mentions the IBM PC, which had shipped in 1981, and says that it’s setting standards for the whole industry. But it doesn’t talk about the phenomenon which would dominate the business by the middle of the decade: IBM PC-compatible “clones” which could run the same software as Big Blue’s system. That’s because there was only one clone in existence. (The second, Compaq’s massively successful, sewing machine-sized 'portable,' showed up in March 1983.)....

"As I wrote in my introduction for the tablet reissue, much has changed about computers since 1983. But one of the striking things about the issue is that it’s jam-packed with reminders of what hasn’t changed. Most of the things we do with PCs, tablets and phones in 2013 are in there: e-mail, games, word processing, learning, personal finance, music and cloud services. (O.K., in the 1980s, they weren’t called cloud services — they were known as 'mainframes.')"

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Steve Jobs Introduces the "Mac" January 24, 1984

On January 24, 1984 Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh (Mac), with a graphical user interface (GUI) based on the Xerox Star system.

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Michael Dell Founds "PC's Limited" May 3, 1984

On May 3, 1984, at the age of 19, Michael Dell founded a company called "PC's Limited," building PC clones out of his dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1987 the company changed its name to Dell Computer Corporation.

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Cisco Systems is Founded December 1984

In December 1984 computer scientists Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner from Stanford University founded Cisco Systems. They named the company for San Francisco, gateway to the Pacific Rim. Beginning to experiment with connecting detached networks, Bosack and Lerner ran network cables between two different buildings on the Stanford campus, connecting them first with bridges, and then with routers.

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The First Laserprinter for a Microcomputer January 1985

In January 1985 Apple Computer introduced the LaserWriter laser printer. It cost $6,995. The Mac's ability to run PageMaker for "desktop publishing" in association with Apple's LaserWriter printer caused sales of the Mac to take off.

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The First Hand-Held Electronic Book, or e-Book 1986

In 1986 Franklin Computer Corporation, Burlington, New Jersey, introduced Spelling Ace, an electronic spelling corrector. This may be considered the first handheld electronic book or e-book (eBook).

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25,000,000 PCs Have Been Sold in the U.S. 1987

By 1987 25,000,000 PC’s were sold in the United States.

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1990 – 2000

One of the First U.S. Cases in Cyberspace Law October 29, 1991

On October 29, 1991 one of the first U.S. cases related to Cyberspace law was decided: Cubby v. CompuServe, 776 F. Supp. 135 (1991). It "suggested that online companies would not be liable for the acts of their customers. CompuServe exerted no control whatsoever over the presumably false and defamatory statements which were the subject of the suit; their forum sysops were independent entrepreneurs. Prior to this decision, the liability risk was largely undecided."

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2000 – 2005

Climax of the Dot-Com Bubble March 10, 2000

The Netscape logo

The dot-com bubble, thought to have begun with the IPO of Netscape on August 9, 1995, reached its climax on March 10, 2000 with the NASDAQ peaking at 5132.52.

After this date the dot-com bubble began to burst.

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The ASCI White Supercomputer Becomes Operational June 29, 2000

A technician monitors IBM's ASCI White Supercomputer in 2000

The exterior patio of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 

A sign outside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The ASCI White supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California became operational on June 29, 2000. An IBM system, it covered a space the size of two basketball courts and weighed 106 tons. It contained six trillion bytes (TB) of memory— almost 50,000 times greater than the average personal computer at the time—and had more than 160 TB of Serial Disk System storage capacity—enough to hold six times the information stored in the 29 million books in the Library of Congress.

♦ In December 2013 I decided that the ASCI White would be the last supercomputer documented in From Cave Paintings to the Internet. The merits of supercomputers are mainly appreciated for their abilities to perform the most complex of calculations, and without the time and space and the ability to explain such calculations, descriptions of the ever-advancing magnitudes of supercomputers seemed beyond the scope of this project. Readers can follow the development of supercomputers through the Wikipedia article on supercomputer and through other websites, such as the TOP500 twice-annual ranking of the world's supercomputers. To review progress to 2000 and a bit afterward, I quote the section on Applications of Supercomputers from the Wikipedia article as it read in December 2013:

"Applications of supercomputers

"The stages of supercomputer application may be summarized in the following table:

DecadeUses and computer involved
1970s Weather forecasting, aerodynamic research (Cray-1).
1980s Probabilistic analysis, radiation shielding modeling (CDC Cyber).
1990s Brute force code breaking (EFF DES cracker),
2000s 3D nuclear test simulations as a substitute for legal conduct Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (ASCI Q).
2010s Molecular Dynamics Simulation (Tianhe-1A)

"The IBM Blue Gene/P computer has been used to simulate a number of artificial neurons equivalent to approximately one percent of a human cerebral cortex, containing 1.6 billion neurons with approximately 9 trillion connections. The same research group also succeeded in using a supercomputer to simulate a number of artificial neurons equivalent to the entirety of a rat's brain.

"Modern-day weather forecasting also relies on supercomputers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses supercomputers to crunch hundreds of millions of observations to help make weather forecasts more accurate."

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IBM Forms a Life Sciences Division August 2000

Reflective of rapid advancements in computational biology and genomics, in August 2000 IBM formed a Life Sciences Solutions division, incorporating its Computational Biology Center.

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IBM and the Holocaust 2001

Edwin Black

In 2001 Edwin Black issued IBM and the Holocaust.

This book documented:

"how IBM's New York headquarters and CEO Thomas J. Watson acted through its overseas subsidiaries to provide the Third Reich with punch card machines that could help the Nazis to track down the European Jewry (especially in newly conquered territory). The book quotes extensively from numerous IBM and government memos and letters that describe how IBM in New York, IBM's Geneva office and Dehomag, its German subsidiary, were intimately involved in supporting Nazi oppression. The book also includes IBM's internal reports that admit that these machines made the Nazis much more efficient in their efforts. Several documentaries, including the 2003 film The Corporation Screened, C-SPAN broadcast and The Times, the Village Voice, the JTA and numerous other publications published close-ups of several documents demonstrating IBM's involvement in the Holocaust. These included IBM code sheets for concentration camps taken from the files of the National Archives. For example, IBM's Prisoner Code listed 8 for a Jew and Code 11 for a Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz, Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was executed by order, code 6 was gas chamber. One extensively quoted IBM report written by the company's European manager during WWII declared “in Germany a campaign started for, what has been termed … ‘organization of the second front.’ ” The memo added, “In military literature and in newspapers, the importance and necessity of having in all phases of life, behind the front, an organization which would remain intact and would function with ‘Blitzkrieg’ efficiency … was brought out. What we had been preaching in vain for years all at once began to be realized.”

"The book documents IBM's CEO Thomas J. Watson as being an active Nazi supporter. Watson made numerous statements in numerous venues that the international community ought to give Nazi Germany a break from the economic sanctions. As head of the International Chamber of Commerce, Watson engineered an annual meeting to be held in Berlin, where he was witnessed to publicly give a Nazi salute to Hitler in the infamous "Seig, Heil" fashion. Watson traveled to Germany numerous times after the Nazis took power in 1933, but it was on the Commerce trip that he received an honor medal from Hitler himself. Watson also dined privately with Hitler, and attended lavish dinners with many infamous Nazi officials at the same time that Jews were being officially robbed and driven from their homes.

"There was an IBM customer site, the Hollerith Abteilung, in almost every concentration camp, that either ran machines, sorted cards or prepared documents for IBM processing. The Auschwitz tattoo began as an IBM number.

"Although IBM actively worked with the Hitler regime from its inception in 1933 to its demise in 1945, IBM has asserted that since their German subsidiary came under temporary receivership by the Nazi authorities from 1941 to 1945, the main company was not responsible for its role in the latter years of the holocaust. Shortly after the war, the company worked aggressively to recover the profits made from the many Hollerith departments in the concentration camps, the printing of millions of punchcards used to keep track of the prisoners, the custom-built punchcard systems, and its servicing of the Extermination through labour program. The company also paid its employees special bonuses based on high sales volume to the Nazis and collaborator regimes. As in many corporate cases, when the US entered the war, the Third Reich left in place the original IBM managers who continued their contacts via Geneva, thus company activities continued without interruption" (Wikipedia article on IBM and the Holocaust, accessed 05-23-2009).

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Microsoft's Xbox is Launched November 15, 2001

The original Xbox

The coverart for Smartbomb

The Microsoft logo

On November 15, 2001 Microsoft launched the Xbox game console, its first entry into the gaming console market.

"According to the book Smartbomb, by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby, the remarkable success of the upstart Sony PlayStation worried Microsoft in late 1990s. The growing video game market seemed to threaten the PC market which Microsoft had dominated and relied upon for most of its revenues. Additionally, a venture into the gaming console market would diversify Microsoft's product line, which up to that time had been heavily concentrated on software."

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2005 – 2010

PC Magazine Becomes an Online-Only Publication November 19, 2008

On November 19, 2008 PC Magazine announced that the January 2009 issue (Volume 28, Issue 1) would be the last printed edition of this "venerable publication," after which it moved to an online only format.

"While most magazines make most of their money from print advertising, PC Magazine derives most of its profit from its Web site. More than 80 percent of the profit and about 70 percent of the revenue come from the digital business, Mr. Young said, and all of the writers and editors have been counted as part of the digital budget for two years" (NY Times online 11-19-08).

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2010 – 2012

Steve Jobs Introduces the iPad, the First Widely Sold Tablet Computer January 27, 2010

On January 27, 2010 Steve Jobs of Apple introduced the iPad, the first widely sold tablet computer. The first iPad was one-half inch thick, with a 9.7 inch, high resolution color touchscreen (multi-touch) diagonal display, powered by a 1-gigahertz Apple A4 chip and 16 to 64 gigabytes of flash storage, weighing 1.5 pounds and capable of running all iPhone applications, except presumably, the phone. The battery life was supposed to be 10 hours, and the device was supposed to hold a charge for 1 month in standby. The price started at $499.00.

"The new device will have to be far better than the laptop and smartphone at doing important things: browsing the Web, doing e-mail, enjoying and sharing photographs, watching videos, enjoying your music collection, playing games, reading e-books. Otherwise, 'it has no reason for being.'" (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/live-blogging-the-apple-product-announcement/?hp, accessed 01-27-2010).

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Apple 1 Computers Sell for $210,000 in 2010, for $671,400 in 2013, for $905,000 and $365,000 in 2014 November 23, 2010 – October 22, 2014

An original Apple 1 personal computer in excellent condition but with a few later modifications, sold for 110,000 pounds or $174,000 hammer at a Christie's book and manuscript auction in London. (Christie's sale 7882, lot 65).

Associated Press reported that the purchaser was businessman and collector Marco Boglione of Torino, Italy, who bid by phone. His total cost came to 133,250 pounds or about $210,000 after the buyer's premium. Prior to the auction, Christie's estimated the computer would sell for between $160,000-$240,000. When it was released in 1976, the Apple I sold for $666.66.

Only about 200 Apple 1's were built, of which perhaps "30 to 50" remain in existence. The auctioned example came in its original box with a signed letter from Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.

Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who hand-built each of the Apple 1's, attended the auction, and offered to autograph the computer.  

See also: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_16695428?source=rss&nclick_check=1, accessed 11-23-2010.

At Sotheby's in 2012 another Apple 1 sold for $374,500. In November 2012 still another Apple 1 sold for $640,000 at Auction Team Breker in Cologne, Germany.

On May 25, 2013 Uwe Breker auctioned another Apple 1 for $671,400.

On October 22, 2014 Bonhams in New York sold another Apple 1 for $905,000. The buyer was the Henry Ford Museum in Deerborn Michigan. "In addition to the beautifully intact motherboard, this Apple-1 comes with a vintage keyboard with pre-7400 series military spec chips, a vintage Sanyo monitor, a custom vintage power supply in wooden box, as well as two vintage tape-decks. The lot additionally includes ephemera from the Cincinnati AppleSiders such as their first newsletter "Poke-Apple" from February of 1979 and a video recording of Steve Wozniak's keynote speech at the 1980 'Applevention.' "

On December 11 Christie's in New York offered The Ricketts’ Apple-1 Personal Computer in an online auctionNamed after its first owner Charles Ricketts, this example was the only known surviving Apple-1 documented to have been sold directly by Steve Jobs to an individual from his parents’ garage.

"23 years after Ricketts bought the Apple-1 from Jobs in Los Altos, it was acquired by Bruce Waldack, a freshly minted entrepreneur who’d just sold his company DigitalNation.  The Ricketts Apple-1 was auctioned at a sheriff’s sale of Waldack’s property at a self-storage facility in Virginia in 2004, and won by the present consigner, the American collector, Bob Luther.

  • The Ricketts Apple-1 is fully operational, having been serviced and started by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen in October 2014. Mr. Cohen ran the standard original software program, Microsoft BASIC, and also an original Apple-1 Star Trek game in order to test the machine.
  • The computer will be sold with the cancelled check from the original garage purchase on July 27, 1976 made out to Apple Computer by Charles Ricketts for $600, which Ricketts later labeled as “Purchased July 1976 from Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage in Los Altos”. 
  • A second cancelled check for $193 from August 5, 1976 is labeled “Software NA Programmed by Steve Jobs August 1976”. Although Jobs is not usually thought of as undertaking much of the programming himself, many accounts of the period place him in the middle of the action, soldering circuits and clearly making crucial adjustments for close customers, as in this case.
  • These checks were later used as part of the evidence for the City of Los Altos to designate the Jobs family home at 2066 Crist Drive as a Historic Resource, eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and copies can be found in the Apple Computer archives at Stanford University Libraries."

The price realized was $365,000, which was, of course, diaappointing compared to the much higher price realized on Bonhams only two months earlier.

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$1,300,000,000 Verdict in Software Copyright Infringement Suit Partially Vacated November 23, 2010 – September 1, 2011

In U.S. Federal Court in Oakland, California Oracle Corporation, based in Redwood Shores, California, won a $1,300,000,000 copyright infringement judgment against SAP AG, headquartered in Walldorf, Germany.

The judgment—an indication of the size and scale of the software industry— was a result of a lawsuit filed by Oracle in 2007 claiming that a unit of SAP U.S. made hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads and several thousand copies of Oracle’s software to avoid paying licensing fees, and in an attempt to steal customers. 

"The verdict, which came after one day of deliberations, is the biggest ever for copyright infringement and the largest U.S. jury award of 2010, according to Bloomberg data. The award is about equal to SAP’s forecasted net income for the fourth quarter, excluding some costs, according to the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. . . .

"The verdict is the 23rd-biggest jury award of all time, according to Bloomberg data. The largest jury award in a copyright-infringement case previously was $136 million verdict by a Los Angeles jury in 2002 in a Recording Industry Association of America lawsuit against Media Group Inc. for copying and distributing 1,500 songs by artists including Elvis Presley, Madonna and James Brown, according to Bloomberg data" (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-11-24/oracle-wins-1-3-billion-from-sap-in-downloading-case.html, accessed 11-24-2010).

On July 13, 2011, SAP filed a motion seeking judgment that actual damages should not be based on hypothetical licenses, and for a new trial for the amount of damages.

"On September 1, 2011, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the judgment as a matter of law on the hypothetical license damages, and vacated the $1.3 billion award amount. In her ruling Judge Hamilton stated:

" 'Oracle’s suggestion – that upon proof of infringement, copyright plaintiffs are automatically entitled to seek “hypothetical” license damages because they are presumed to have suffered harm in the form of lost license fees – has no support in the law.'

"SAP's motion for a new trial was granted, conditioned on Oracle rejecting a remittitur of $272 million, the 'maximum amount of lost profits and infringer’s profits sustainable by the proof.' Judge Hamilton further stated:

" 'Determining a hypothetical license price requires an 'objective, not a subjective” analysis, and '[e]xcessively speculative' claims must be rejected.' " (Wikipedia article on Oracle Corporation v. SAP AG, accessed 04-24-2013).

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More than Ten Billion Apps are Downloaded from the Apple App Store January 22, 2011

On January 22, 2011 the Apple App Store completed its countdown for its Ten Billionth App downloaded from the Apple App Store.

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Steve Jobs Dies October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, one of the most influential and daring innovators in the history of media, and arguably the most innovative and influential figure in the computer industry since the development of the personal computer, died at the age of 55 after a well-publicized battle with pancreatic cancer. Responsible, as inspirational leader, for building the first commercially successful personal computer (Apple II), for developing and popularizing the graphical user interface (Macintosh) which made personal computers user friendly, for developing desktop publishing, for making music truly portable (iPod, iTunes), for bringing all the elements of the personal computer to cell phones (iPhone), for causing the widespread acceptance of tablet computers (iPad), Jobs not only rescued Apple Computer from near failure and made it for a time the most valuable company in the S&P 500, but also achieved great success through his ownership of Pixar Animation Studios, which he eventually sold to The Walt Disney Company. Characteristics of Jobs' style were exceptional boldness in the conception of products, high quality and ease of use, and elegance of industrial design.

"Mr. Jobs even failed well. NeXT, a computer company he founded during his years in exile from Apple, was never a commercial success. But it was a technology pioneer. The World Wide Web was created on a NeXT computer, and NeXT software is the core of Apple’s operating systems today" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/business/steve-jobs-and-the-power-of-taking-the-big-chance.html?hp).

An article published in The New York Times on October 8, 2011 compared and contrasted the lives and achievements of Steve Jobs with that earlier great American inventor and innovator, Thomas Alva Edison.

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2012 – 2016

"Information Technology Dividends Outpace All Others" January 11, 2013

"For what appears to be the first time ever, information technology companies in the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks are paying more in dividends than companies in any other sector, S.&P. reported this week. Multimedia

"Off the Charts: High Tech, High Dividends S.&P. Dow Jones Indices reported that in 2012 the technology sector accounted for 14.7 percent of all dividends paid to investors in the 500 companies, up from 10.3 percent in 2011 and from a little over 5 percent back in 2004. It replaced the consumer staples sector, which had been the largest payer of dividends for the previous three years.  

"The change was largely because of the decision by Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, to begin paying dividends last year. The company had been public for more than three decades before it announced plans in March to begin making payouts. Four other technology companies in the index — all but one of which had been public for more than two decades without paying a dividend — later joined in making payments to shareholders.  

"With those changes, 60 percent — 42 — of the 70 technology stocks in the index are now dividend payers. The dividends from many technology companies are relatively small, however, and of the other sectors, only health care comes close to having as large a share of companies that do not pay dividends" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/business/information-technology-dividends-surge-past-consumer-staples-sector.html, accessed 01-12-2013).

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Smartphone Interactive Reading Device Will Track Eyes to Scroll Pages March 4, 2013

A much-anticipated new smartphone by Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, purports to incorporate a radically new interactive reading device:

"Samsung’s next big smartphone, to be introduced this month, will have a strong focus on software. A person who has tried the phone, called the Galaxy S IV, described one feature as particularly new and exciting: Eye scrolling.

"The phone will track a user’s eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.

"The source would not explain what technology was being used to track eye movements, nor did he say whether the feature would be demonstrated at the Galaxy S IV press conference, which will be held in New York on March 14. The Samsung employee said that over all, the software features of the new phone outweighed the importance of the hardware.

"Samsung’s booth at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Indeed, Samsung in January filed for a trademark in Europe for the name “Eye Scroll” (No. 011510674). It filed for the “Samsung Eye Scroll” trademark in the United States in February, where it described the service as “Computer application software having a feature of sensing eye movements and scrolling displays of mobile devices, namely, mobile phones, smartphones and tablet computers according to eye movements; digital cameras; mobile telephones; smartphones; tablet computers" (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/samsungs-new-smartphone-will-track-eyes-to-scroll-pages/?hp, accessed 03-05-2013).

When I wrote this entry in March 2013 the Wikipedia article on Samsung stated that Samsung Electronics was the "world's largest information technology company" measured by 2012 revenues. It had retained the number one position since 2009. It was also the world's largest producer of mobile phones, and the world's second largest semiconductor producer after Intel Corporation.

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Evolution of "Apple" from Primarily a Computer Manufacturer to Primarily a Phone and Tablet Company December 2013

By the end of 2013 Apple, which abandoned the word "computer" in its official name in early 2007, was only incidentally a personal computer manufacturer. In the third quarter of 2013 Mac revenue was $5.6 billion, or just 15% of the companies total revenue. At this point, Apple was primarily a smartphone company. In the same quarter, iPhone revenue topped $19.5 billion, accounting for 52% of the total for the three months.

Source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9244875/Dark_tower_Mac_Pro_goes_on_sale_Thursday_?source=CTWNLE_nlt_wktop10_2013-12-20, accessed 12-20-2013.

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