IN THE BEGINNING
Invention of the abacus in Babylonia
Wilhelm Schickard designs the first mechanical calculator, for astronomers.
Charles Babbage designs an "analytical engine" to automate the calculation of astronomers' mathematical tables. It includes a "store" (memory bank) and a "mill" (central processing unit).
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the first automated census, using a punch-card device designed by engineer Herman Hollerith to tote up 63 million Americans.
IBM produces the world's first automatic digital computer, designed by Howard W. Aiken of Harvard University. The Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, known as Mark I, contains over 750,000 parts, is 51 feet long and weighs five tons.
The Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory begins using the world's first electronic digital computer, the $2 million ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) to evaluate the performance of missiles and military hardware. Weighing 30 tons and containing 18,000 vacuum tubes and 70,000 resistors, ENIAC requires industrial-sized fans to keep its whirring digital engine from melting down. IBM is convinced that only university wonks and the military will ever have use for such an unwieldy machine.
Bell Laboratory scientists William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain discover that using a small piece of germanium with wire contacts amplifies electric currents. The tiny, energy-efficient transistor, first appearing in pocket radios, will pave the way for the digital revolution.
THEN CAME THE REALLY COOL STUFF...
Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor develop the integrated circuit, clustering scores of transistors on a single silicon chip.
The first Automated Teller Machine is introduced.
The US Department of Defense commissions ARPANet, the precursor to the Internet, to coordinate defense-related research.
Intel engineer Marcian Hoff discovers how to put a computer's entire central processing unit on a single chip, or microprocessor.
Introduction of the first mass-marketed pocket calculator. Entirely dependent on chip technology, the pocket calculator initially sells for about $250, but drops to less than $10 within five years.
First e-mail sent out over the Department of Defense's ARPANet.
Lexitron introduces the first word processor.
Introduction of the MITS Altair, the world's first personal computer, named for a destination of Star Trek's Enterprise.
Sony markets the first VCR.
CompuServe launches the first online shopping service.
Atari launches the first microchip-powered video games, introducing the masses to the joys of Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
First cellular phones tested in Japan and Chicago.
Debut of the IBM PC, which uses Intel's 16-bit 8088 microprocessor and Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system.
Twenty-five US. cities gain access to the first commercial e-mail service. TIME names the computer its "Man of the Year."
The first CDs enter the US. market. Developed by Sony and Phillips, the CD offers unsurpassed storage capacity for data: 70 minutes of audio recordings, or 250,000 pages of text.
Apple introduces its first Macintosh.
Aldus launches PageMaker, giving home businesses easy tools for desktop publishing.
Sales of fax machines pass the 1 million mark in the US.
Physicist Tim Berners-Lee creates the World Wide Web.
Internet opened to private users. By 1992, the Internet will have 1 million host computers.
The World Wide Web becomes a public domain.
Netscape introduces its web browser, sparking a boom in web surfing.
For the first time, PC sales surpass TV sales.
Microsoft introduces its Windows 95 operating software.
"Toy Story" is the first full-length computer-animated film.
56 million Americans are hooked up to the Net.
WebTV is pitched on QVC's Home Shopping Network: viewers buy 1,500 sets in 15 minutes.
Launch of the Intel Pentium II Processor its 7.5 million transistors allow computer users to transfer live video over phone lines and the Internet or send digital photos via the Internet. Intel now supplies 75 percent of the world's microprocessors.
Intel's Andy Grove named TIME's Man of the Year.