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

Timeline Outline ViewEra: All Eras   |   Theme: Data Processing / Computing


Circa 2,600 BCE
The world’s oldest datable mathematical table, from Shuruppag, c. 2600 BCE.  The first two columns contain identical lengths in descending order from 600 to 60 rods (c. 3600–360 m) and the final column contains the square area of their product.
The First Securely Datable Mathematical Table in World History
Circa 440 BCE
Herodotus of Halicarnassus. (View Larger)
The Egyptians Reckon with Pebbles and Probably Use the Sandboard Abacus
Circa 300 BCE
The Salamis Tablet. (View Larger)
The Earliest Surviving Counting Board
Circa 150 BCE – 100 BCE
The Earliest Surviving Analog Computer: the Antikythera Mechanism
Circa 150 BCE
Probably the First Trigonometric Table
Circa 150 BCE – 100 BCE
A portrait of Hipparchus from the title page of William Cunningham's Cosmographicall Glasse (1559). (View Larger)
Invention of the Astrolabe
Circa 100 CE – 178 CE
At Alexandria Ptolemy Writes the Almagest, the Cosmographia, and the Tetrabiblos
525Computus, Root of the Modern Word "Computer" 688
A chart of the positions used in finger notation. (View Larger)
Perhaps the Earliest Extant Treatise on Finger Reckoning
A portrait of the Venerable Bede, by John Doyle Penrose, c. 1902.
Finger Reckoning and Computus in the Eighth Century
Circa 825
A portrait of al-Khwarizmi on a postage stamp from the former USSR. (View Larger)
Algorithm Invented; Introduction of the Decimal Positional Number System…
Circa 1000
Gerbert d'Aurillac, scholar, teacher, tutor, and counsellor to Otto II and Pope Sylvester II. (View Larger)
The Mathematician Pope Reintroduces the Abacus and Armillary Sphere
Circa 1200
A scence from the long scroll 'Along the River During Qing Ming Festival,' in which a fifteen column saunpan is visible next to the account book and doctor's prescriptions. (View Larger)
The Suanpan
1206The First Recorded Designs of a Programmable Automaton 1206
A depiction of the Castle Water Clock from al-Jazari's 'Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices.' This manuscript is preserved at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. (View Larger)
al-Jazari's Clocks: Perhaps the Earliest Programmable Analog Computer
Circa 1299
A woodblock from Gregor Reisch's Margarita Philosophoca, 1508, depicting a table abacus. (View Larger)
The European Table Abacus
December 10, 1478
Page from Arte dell'Abbaco. 
This unpretentious little book could almost be taken as a symbol of the third component in the collection of George A. Plimpton:
"Arte dell’Abbaco", the First Dated Printed Book on Arithmetic and the Operation of the Abacus
July 4, 1483"Tabulae Alphonsinae", Among the Earliest Printed Mathematical Tables 1597 – 1606Galileo Produces his "Compasso" & The First "Computer Manual" Circa 1600
Japanese soroban abacus 1x5 from Meiji period (1868-1912).
The Japanese Adopt the Abacus, Calling it the Soroban
1607Galileo Presents One of the First Records of Litigation over an Invention 1614 – 1617
Preface page from Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio, by John Napier, describing the (then) new mathematical device known as logarithms.
John Napier Invents Logarithms, Napier's Bones & the Lightning Calculating Device
1624 – 1625Johannes Kepler Creates Logarithms by a New Procedure 1628Adriaan Vlacq Issues the First Complete Set of Modern Logarithms 1632William Oughtred Invents the Circular Form of Slide Rule 1642Blaise Pascal Invents a Calculator: The Pascaline Circa 1650
A modern photograph of a vintage sliding stick side rule.
The Sliding Stick Form of Slide Rule
1668Description of the "Mathematical Organ" 1671
Pierre Petit's Arithmetic Cylinder.
More Affordable and Easier to Use than the Pascaline
Title page of Samuel Morland's The Discription and Use of Two Arithmetick Instruments.
The First Book on a Calculating Machine Published in English
1673 – 1710Leibniz Invents the Stepped Drum Gear Calculator March 15, 1679 – 1705Leibniz on Binary Arithmetic 1755Thomas Simpson Publishes the Earliest Formal Treatment of "Data-Processing" 1763Bayes's Theorem for Calculating Inverse Probabilities 1766Computing the Nautical Almanac, Called the "Seaman's Bible" 1769 – 1836Von Kempelen "Invents" the Chess-Playing Turk & Edgar Allan Poe Compares it to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1 1770The Earliest Large-Scale Data-Processing Organization 1793 – 1801de Prony Produces Mathematical Tables Calculated by Hairdressers Unemployed after the French Revolution 1801 – 1821Joseph-Marie Jacquard's Loom Uses Punched Cards to Store Patterns 1820
Charles Xavier Thomas' Arithometer.
The Thomas Arithmometer, the First Commercially Produced Mechanical Calculator
1822Babbage Begins Construction of his Difference Engine No. 1 1832 – 1835Babbage's "On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures" Begins Operations Research 1836Coriolis Solves Differential Equations Using a Mechanical Device 1840 – 1843Luigi Menabrea Publishes the First Computer Programs, Designed for Babbage's Analytical Engine. Ada Lovelace Translates them Into English 1843 – 1857The Contributions of the Scheutz Brothers to the Early History of Difference Engines and the Calculating and Printing of Mathematical Tables October 1843The First Published Computer Programs, Translated and Augmented by Lord Byron's Daughter 1844The First Full-Length Exposition in English of an Evolutionary Theory of Biology is Published Anonymously May 30, 1848The First of the Industrial Insurance Companies that Processed Immense Amounts of Data Circa 1850Flong as an "Immutable Form of Information Capture" 1851Alfred Smee Speculates About a Logic Machine that Might Occupy a Space Larger than London 1857 – 1864William Farr Publishes the First Instances of a Printing Calculator Used to Do Original Work April 7, 1859Having Refused to Support Babbage, the British Government Pays for a Difference Engine Produced in Sweden 1864Babbage's "Passages from the Life of a Philosopher" 1872Charles Babbage's Library: the First Catalogue of a Library on Computing and its History Circa 1875
Detail of image from Baldwin's Calculating Machine. See larger image and resize image for complete picture.
Baldwin & Odhner Invent Calculators Using a True Variable-Toothed Gear
1875The First Logarithmic Table Produced by a Calculating Machine 1876The Earliest Exhibition Exclusively of Scientific Instruments 1877300 Clerks Reviewing 2,500,000 Insurance Policies with 24 Calculators 1878Abdank-Abakanowicz Invents the Integraph 1882 – 1924Hollerith's Electromechanical Punched Card Tabulating Machine, Ancestor of IBM 1884NCR is Founded 1887
Early comptometer.
Dorr E. Felt Invents the Comptometer
1889The Most Complete Work on Babbage's Computers 1891Publication of the Tables of de Prony 1893
Millionaire mechanical calculator.
The Millionaire Calculator
September 1893The First International Exhibition of Mathematical Devices 1894d'Ocagne Publishes the First Systematic Classification of Calculating Machines 1900The Automatic Punched Card Feed 1908 – 1914A New Version of Babbage's Analytical Engine, Lost 1911A Mechanical Punched-Card Tabulating System 1914Thomas J. Watson President of CTR July 24 – July 27, 1914Summarizing the State of the Computer / Calculator Industry Prior to World War I 1919800,000 Burroughs Calculators Have Been Sold 1922
Meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson, creator of the first dynamic model for weather prediction, proposes the creation of a “forecast factory” that would employ some 64,000 human computers sitting in tiers around the circumference of a giant globe. Each calculator would be responsible for solving differential equations related to the weather in his quadrant of the earth. From a pedestal in the center of the factory, a conductor would orchestrate this symphony of equations by shining a beam of light on areas of the globe where calculation was moving too fast or falling behind.
Imagining Using 64,000 Human Computers to Predict the Weather
1928IBM Adopts the Eighty-Column Punched Card, Standard for the Next 50 Years 1928 – 1937Key Achievements of Leslie J. Comrie, Including Foundation of the First Independent Scientific Computing Service 1931The IBM 601 Multiplying Punch 1933 – 1934Wallace J. Eckert and IBM Develop the First Machine to Perform Complex Scientific Calculations Automatically 1934 – 1958Key Contributions of Konrad Zuse to the History of Computer Design and Software 1935 – 1936The Social Security Program Creates a Giant Data-Processing Challenge September 1935IBM's German Subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen, Introduces the First Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator November 1937 – October 1941George Stibitz Builds the First Electromechanical Computers in America November 1937 – 1946Key Aspects of the Development of the Harvard Mark 1 and its Software August – December 1940The Design and Principles of John Atanasoff's ABC Machine, and What John Mauchly Knew About It 1941 – 1946The First Application of Electric Punched Card Tabulating Equipment in Crystal Structure Analysis June 1941 – October 2, 1955Key Events in the Development of the First General Purpose Electronic Digital Computer, the ENIAC 1943IBM's Vacuum Tube Multiplier, the First Complete Machine to Perform Arithmetic Electronically 1943 – 1960MTAC: The First Computing Journal September 1943The Bell Labs Relay Interpolator, Possibly the First Electromechanical Computer to Run Programs in the U.S. January 29, 1944 – October 19, 1973Key Developments Concerning the ENIAC Patent, the Patent on the General Purpose Electronic Digital Computer December 1944The Fastest Digital Calculators in the U.S. September 9, 1945The First Use of "Bug" in the Context of Computing Circa October 1945 – February 20, 1947Turing's Main Hardware Design After World War II, the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) March 15, 1946Eckert & Mauchly Found Electronic Control Co., the World's First Electronic Computer Company November 12, 1946A Soroban Beats an Electric Calculator 1947Couffignal Decides against Building a Stored-Program Computer in France January 7 – January 10, 1947The First Large Conference on Electronic Computers is Held in Cambridge, Massachusetts April 24, 1947 – November 4, 1952Key Events in the Development of the UNIVAC, the First Electronic Computer Widely Sold in the United States October 1947 – September 1950Innovative Aspects of the BINAC, the First Electronic Computer Ever Sold June 21, 1948The Williams Tube and the "Manchester Baby," the First Operational Stored-Program Computer Runs its First Program 1949 – 1951Foundation of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and SAGE 1949 – 1951Roberto Busa & IBM Adapt Punched Card Tabulating to Sort Words in a Literary Text: The Origins of Humanities Computing November 1949The First Stored-Program Computer in Australia 1950Jule Charney, Agnar Fjörtoff & John von Neumann Report the First Weather Forecast by Electronic Computer 1950"High-Speed Computing Devices," the First Textbook on How to Build an Electronic Computer 1950Compiling a Bibliography by Electric Punched Card Tabulating 1950 – 1954The IBM NORC, the First Supercomputer May – November 1950Simon, the First Personal Computer November 6, 1950 – 1951MESM, the First Russian Stored-Program Computer 1951 – January 7, 1954The First Public Demonstration of Machine Translation Occurs 1951The First OCR System: "GISMO" September 8 – September 10, 1952The First Electronic Computer in Canada October 1952The First Journal on Electronic Computing March 27, 1953IBM Installs its First Stored Program Electronic Computer, the 701, but They Don't Call it a Computer June 1953The First Report on the Application of Electronic Computers to Business September 1953IBM 702 1954The Deuce Computer (After the Pilot ACE, of Course) 1954Early Library Information Retrieval System 1954First Computer to Incorporate Indexing & Floating Point Arithmetic December 1954The First Routine Real-Time Numerical Weather Forecasting September 1955The Beginning of Computerization of Banking October 1955The First Full-Scale Programmable Japanese Computer 1956Proving the Feasibility of Weather Prediction by Numerical Process July 1956The First Demonstration of Magnetic Ink Character Reading October 17 – October 18, 1956First Computer Conference in Italy November 1956First Japanese Conference on Electronic Computers 1957SAGE: Physically the Largest Computers Ever Built 1957J. W. Ellison Issues the First Computerized Concordance of the Bible October 4, 1957 – 1960The First Operational Satellite Navigation System 1958The IBM 1401, a Relatively Inexpensive Computer 1958Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) July 19, 1958The Burroughs Atlas Guidance Computer September 1958
BankAmerica card.
BankAmericard is Launched
November 1958Keyword in Context (KWIC) Indexing 1959ERMA and MICR 1959The Nautical Almanac is Finally Produced by an Electronic Computer 1959 – 1960The U.S. Banking Industry Adopts Magnetic Ink Character Recognition 1959Auto-Encoding of Documents for Information Retrieval 1959Merle Curti's "The Making of an American Community": the First "Large Scale" Application of Humanities Computing in the U. S. December 1959 – 1975Highlights of the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP Series of Minicomputers 1960John Horty Pioneers Computer-Assisted Legal Research 1961The QUOTRON Computerized Stock-Quotation System Is Introduced 1961Compugraphic Develops a Special-Purpose Typesetting Computer 1961George Forsythe Coins the Term "Computer Science" May 1961 – 1962Wesley Clark Builds the LINC, Perhaps the First Mini-Computer October 19, 1961Texas Instruments Delivers the First Integrated Circuit Computer: An Achievement in Miniaturization 1962Computers Drive Linotype Hot Metal Typesetters November 1963Touch-Tone Dialing is Introduced 1964The First Online Reservation System 1964Social Security Numbers as Identifiers 1965Tom Van Vleck & Noel Morris Write One of the First Email Programs 1965The U.S. Postal Services Introduces OCR 1965 – 1968Henriette Avram Develops the MARC Cataloguing Standard April 19, 1965Gordon Moore Promulgates "Moore's Law" 1966The NY Stock Exchange Completes Automation of Trading 1966The IRS Completes Computerization of Income-Tax Processing 1966Robert H. Dennard of IBM Invents DRAM 1966Data Corporation Develops a Computer-Assisted Full-Text Inventory System 1967 – June 25, 1974Jack Kilby and Texas Instruments Invent the First Hand-Held Electronic Calculator April 1967Wesley Clark Suggests the Use of Interface Message Processors on ARPANET 1968The HP 9100A, the First Marketed, Mass-Produced Programmable Calculator, or Personal Computer 1968 – 1984Helmut Gröttrup & Jürgen Dethloff Invent the "Smart Card" April 1968The First U.S. Conference on Museum Computing Occurs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art July 21, 1969A Problem with the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer Nearly Prevents the First Moon Walk January 1970 – May 1973IBM Performs the First Test of Magnetic Stripe Transaction Card Technology 1971IBM Introduces Speech Recognition Technology 1971IBM Introduces the Floppy Disk 1971George Laurer of IBM Develops the Universal Product Code 1973The Xerox Alto: Conceptually, the First Personal Computer System 1974 – 1980Publication of Roberto Busa's Index Thomisticus: Forty Years of Data Processing September 1975IBM's First "Portable" Computer: $19,975 1976The First Commercially Available Laser Printer April 1, 1976 – December 13, 2011Foundation of Apple Computer and the Origin of the Name 1978 – 1980dBase II, the First Best-Selling Database Program for the PC August 12, 1981IBM Introduces the IBM 5150- The IBM PC 1982Lotus Development Corporation is Founded 1982The First "Clamshell" Laptop? January 1983The First "Killer App" for the PC 1984The First Desktop Publishing Program 1984 – 2008The Greatest PC Keyboard of All Time? 1986NSFNET Connects Five Supercomputer Centers October 1991The Unicode Standard 1.0 is Published 1993 – 2013The Spread of Data-Driven Research From 1993 to 2013 October 28, 1998Supercomputer ASCI Blue-Pacific SST December 1999IBM's Blue Gene Project Begins 2001
Edwin Black
IBM and the Holocaust
Charles Babbage
Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2 and its Printer are Finally Constructed
Jeremy Norman
"Origins of Cyberspace"
2002One Way to Determine the Beginning of the Digital Age 2003
IRS logo
Customer Account Data Engine
The cover art for From Gutenberg to the Internet: A Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology by Jeremy Norman
"From Gutenberg to the Internet"
March 3, 2008Statistical Analysis Correctly Forecasts the Election of Obama July 27, 2008Toward a World Digital Mathematics Library May 16, 2009Wolfram/Alpha is Launched April 20, 2010"The Data-Driven Life" May 13, 2010Cell Phones Are Now Used More for Data than Speech February 10, 2011Worldwide Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information June 24, 2011"Distant Reading" Versus "Close Reading" June 30, 2011IBM Announces Phase-Change Memory November 30, 2011The Cost of Sequencing a Human Genome Drops to $10,500 October 23, 20122.5 Quintillion Bytes of Data Each Day November 2012A Max Planck Institute Program for Historicizing Big Data November 2012A Natural History of Data August 17, 2013The First Master's Degree Offered through Massive Open Online Courses by a Major University