major advances in computer hardware and software

Events

1801

1801

In France, Joseph Marie Jacquard invents a loom that uses punched wooden cards to automatically weave fabric designs. Early computers would use similar punch cards.

1822

1822

English mathematician Charles Babbage conceives of a steam-driven calculating machine that would be able to compute tables of numbers. The project, funded by the English government, is a failure. More than a century later, however, the world’s first computer was actually built.

1890

1890

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

1936

1936

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

1937

1937

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

1941

1941

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

1943-1944

1943 - 1944

Two University of Pennsylvania professors, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, build the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC). Considered the grandfather of digital computers, it fills a 20-foot by 40-foot room and has 18,000 vacuum tubes.

1946

1946

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

1947

1947

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

1953

1953

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

1954

1954

The FORTRAN programming language is born.

1958

1958

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

1964

1964

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

1969

1969

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

1970

1970

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

1971

1971

Alan Shugart leads a team of IBM engineers who invent the “floppy disk,” allowing data to be shared among computers.

1973

1973

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

1974

1974 - 1977

A number of personal computers hit the market, including Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair, IBM 5100, RadioShack’s TRS-80 —affectionately known as the “Trash 80” — and the Commodore PET.

1975

1975

The January issue of Popular Electronics magazine features the Altair 8080, described as the "world's first minicomputer kit to rival commercial models." Two "computer geeks," Paul Allen and Bill Gates, offer to write software for the Altair, using the new BASIC language. On April 4, after the success of this first endeavor, the two childhood friends form their own software company, Microsoft.