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Timeline of computing 1950-1979

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This article presents a detailed timeline of events in the history of computing from 1950 to 1979. For a narrative explaining the overall developments, see the related History of computing.

Computing timelines: 500 BC-1949, 1950-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-present

1950 Floppy disk invented at the Imperial University[?] in Tokyo by Doctor Yoshiro Nakamats[?], the sales license for the disk was granted to IBM.
1950 The British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing published a paper describing what would come to be called the Turing Test. The paper explored the nature and potential development of human and computer intelligence and communication.
1951 High level language compiler invented by Grace Murray Hopper.
1951 Whirlwind, the first real-time computer built at MIT by the team of Jay Forrester for the US Air Defence System, became operational. This computer is the first to allow interactive computing, allowing users to interact with it using a keyboard and a cathode-ray tube. The Whirlwind design was later developed into SAGE, a comprehensive system of real-time computers used for early warning of air attacks.
1951 November 17, J Lyons, a United Kingdom food company, famous for its tea, made history by running the first business application on an electronic computer. A payroll system was run on Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) a computer system designed by Maurice Wilkes who had previously worked on EDSAC.
1951 UNIVAC-1. The first commercially successful electronic computer, UNIVAC I, was also the first general purpose computer - designed to handle both numeric and textual information. Designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, whose corporation subsequently passed to Remington Rand[?]. The implementation of this machine marked the real beginning of the computer era. Remington Rand delivered the first UNIVAC machine to the U.S. Bureau of Census in 1951. This machine used magnetic tape for input.
1951 CSIRAC[?] used to play music - the first time a computer was used as a musical instrument.
1952 IAS machine completed at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA (by Von Neumann and others).
1953 The University of Manchester team complete the first transistorised computer.
1953 Estimate that there are 100 computers in the world.
1953 Magnetic core memory developed.
1954 FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation) development started by John Backus and his team at IBM - continuing until 1957. FORTRAN was the first high-level programming language, still in use for scientific programming. Before being run, a FORTRAN program needs to be converted into a machine program by a compiler, itself a program.
1956 First conference on Artificial Intelligence held at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
1956 Edsger Dijkstra invented an efficient algorithm for shortest paths in graphs as a demonstration of the abilities of the ARMAC[?] computer. The example used was the Dutch railway system. The problem was chosen because it could be explained quickly and the result checked. Although this is the main thing many people will remember Dijkstra for, he also made important contributions to many areas of computing - in particular he should be remembered for his work on problems relating to concurrency, such as the invention of the semaphore.
1957 First dot matrix printer[?] marketed by IBM.
1957 FORTRAN development finished. See 1954.
1957 "I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall[?].
1958 LISP (interpreted language) developed, Finished in 1960. LISP stands for 'LISt Processing', but some call it 'Lots of Irritating and Stupid Parenthesis' due to the huge number of confusing nested brackets used in LISP programs. Used in A.I. development. Developed by John McCarthy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
1958 - September 12 The integrated circuit invented by Jack St Clair Kilby[?] at Texas Instruments. Robert Noyce, who later set up Intel, also worked separately on the invention. Intel later went on to perfect the microprocessor. The patent was applied for in 1959 and granted in 1964. This patent wasn't accepted by Japan so Japanese businesses could avoid paying any fees, but in 1989 - after a 30 year legal battle - Japan granted the patent; so all Japanese companies will pay fees up until the year 2001 - long after the patent became obsolete in the rest of the World!
1959 Computers built between 1959 and 1964 are often regarded as 'Second Generation' computers, based on transistors and printed circuits - resulting in much smaller computers. More powerful, the second generation of computers could handle compilers for languages such as FORTRAN (for science) or COBOL (for business), that accepting English-like commands, and so were much more flexible in their applications.
1959 COBOL (COmmon Business-Orientated Language) developed by Grace Murray Hopper as the successor to FLOW-MATIC, finished in 1961.
1960 Algol - first structured, procedural, programming language to be released.
1960 Compiler compiler - The first compiler compiler is released.
1960 Tandy Corporation founded by Charles Tandy[?].
1961 APL programming language released by Kenneth Iverson[?] at IBM.
1962 ATLAS is completed by the University of Manchester team. This machine introduced many modern architectural concepts: spooling, interrupts, pipelining, interleaved memory, virtual memory and paging. It was the most powerful machine in the world at the time of release.
1962 Space War[?], the first computer game is written by a MIT student named Steve Russell[?]. The game ran on a DEC PDP-1, competing players fired at each others space ships using a early version joystick.
1963 Mouse conceived by Douglas Engelbart, not to become popular until 1983 with Apple Computer's Macintosh and not adopted by IBM until 1987 - although compatible computers such as the Amstrad PC 1512 were fitted with mice before this date.
1964 Computers built between 1964 and 1972 are often regarded as 'Third Generation' computers, they are based on the first integrated circuits - creating even smaller machines. Typical of such machines was the IBM 360 series mainframe, while smaller minicomputers began to open up computing to smaller businesses.
1964 Programming language PL/I released by IBM.
1964 Launch of IBM 360 - the first series of compatible computers. Over 14,000 were shipped by 1968.
1964 DEC PDP-8 Mini Computer. The first minicomputer, built by Digital Equipment (DEC). It cost $16,000.
1964 Project MAC is started at MIT by J.C.R. Licklider[?]: several terminals all across campus will be connected to a central computer, using a timesharing mechanism. Bulletin boards[?] and email are popular applications.
1965 Moore's law published by Gordon Moore[?] in the 35th Anniversary edition of Electronics magazine[?]. Originally suggesting processor complexity doubled every year, the law was revised in 1975 to suggest a doubling in complexity every two years.
1965 Fuzzy logic designed by Lofti Zadeh[?] (University of Berkeley, California[?]), it is used to process approximate data - such as 'about 100'.
1965 BASIC programming language (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) developed at Dartmouth College, USA, by Thomas E. Kurtz[?] and John Kemeny[?]. Not implemented on microcomputers until 1975. This was the first language designed to be used in a time-sharing environment.
1965 The first supercomputer, the Control Data CDC 6600, was developed.
1966 Hewlett-Packard entered the general purpose computer business with its HP-2115[?] for computation, offering a computational power formerly found only in much larger computers. It supported a wide variety of languages, among them BASIC, Algol, and FORTRAN.
1967 Development on the programming language Pascal started, to be finished in 1971. Based on Algol. Developed by Niklaus Wirth as a pedagogical tool. It was not widely used until 1984 when borland introduced Turbo Pascal.
1968 Intel founded by Robert Noyce and a few friends.
1968 LOGO programming language developed by Seymour Papert and team at MIT.
1968 "But what ... is it good for?" Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM commenting on the microchip.
1968 Douglas Engelbart demonstrates interactive computing at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco: mouse, on-screen windows, hypertext and full-screen word processing.
1969 ARPANET started by the United States Department of Defense for research into networking. It is the original basis for what now forms the Internet. It was opened to non-military users later in the 1970s and many universities and large businesses went on-line.
1969 - April 7 The first RFC, RFC1 published. The RFCs (network working group, Request For Comment) are a series of papers which are used to develop and define protocols for networking, originally the basis for ARPANET there are now thousands of them applying to all aspects of the Internet. Collectively they document everything about the way the Internet and computers on it should behave, whether it's TCP/IP networking or how email headers should be written there will be a set of RFCs describing it.
1969 Introduction of RS-232 (serial interface) standard by EIA (Electronic Industries Association[?]).
1969 Data General shipped a total of 50,000 Novas at $8000 each. The Nova was one of the first 16-bit minicomputers and led the way toward word lengths that were multiples of the 8-bit byte. It was first to employ medium-scale integration (MSI) circuits from Fairchild Semiconductor, with subsequent models using large-scale integrated (LSI) circuits. Also notable was that the entire central processor was contained on one 15-inch printed circuit board.
1970 First dynamic RAM chip introduced by Intel. It was called the 1103 and had a capacity of 1 K-bit, 1024 bits.
1970 Development of Unix operating system started. It was later released as C source code to aid portability, and subsequently versions are obtainable for many different computers, including the IBM PC. It and its clones (such as Linux) are still widely used on network servers and scientific workstations. Originally developed by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie.
1970 Forth programming language developed. A simple, clean, stackbased design, which later inspired Postscript and the Java virtual machine.
1970 - June Steve Geller, Ray Holt and a team from AiResearch[?] and [[American Microsystems]] completed development of a flight data processor for the US Navy's F-14A `TomCat' fighter jet. This processor used LSI chips to produce a fast and powerful programmable computer that fitted into the very tight space restrictions of the aircraft.
1971 Development of Pascal finished - see 1967.
1971 Ray Tomlinson[?] develops the first program that can send email messages from one computer to another.
1971 - November 15 First microprocessor, the 4004, developed by Marcian E. Hoff[?] for Intel, was released. It contains the equivalent of 2300 transistors and was a 4 bit processor. It is capable of around 60,000 instructions per second (0.06 MIPS), running at a clock rate of 108 kHz.
1971 Texas Instruments releases the first easily portable electronic calculator.
1972 Atari founded by Nolan Bushnell, who designed pong (see also 1972).
1972 Pong released - widely recognised as the first popular arcade video game. It was invented by Atari's founder, Nolan Bushnell, and briefly became popular. However its lack of excitement or variation meant it never captivated players like Space Invaders (1978) or other arcade games of the 1980s.
1972 Computers built after 1972 are often called 'fourth generation' computers, based on LSI (Large Scale Integration) of circuits (such as microprocessors) - typically 500 or more components on a chip. Later developments include VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) of integrated circuits 5 years later - typically 10,000 components. The fourth generation is generally viewed as running right up until the present, since although computing power has increased the basic technology has remained virtually the same.
1972 C programming language developed at The Bell Laboratories in the USA by Dennis Ritche (one of the inventors of the Unix operating system), its predecessor was the B programming language - also from Bell. It is a very popular language, especially for systems programming - as it is flexible and fast. C++, allowing for Object-Orientated Programming, was introduced in the early 1980s.
1972 First handheld scientific calculator released by Hewlett-Packard, the engineer's slide rule is at last obsolete.
1972 - April 1 8008 microprocessor released by Intel.
1972 The first international connections to ARPANET are established. ARPANET later became the basis for what we now call the Internet.
1972 Norsk Data launches the Nord-5, the first 32-bit supermini computer.
1973 Development of the TCP/IP protocol suite by a group headed by Vinton Cerf[?] and Bob Kahn[?]. These are the protocols used on the internet.
1973 Prolog developed at the University of Luminy-Marseilles[?] in France by Alain Colmerauer[?]. It introduced the new paradigm of logical programming and is often used for expert systems and AI programming.
1973 The TV Typewriter[?], designed by Don Lancaster, provided the first display of alphanumeric information on an ordinary television set. It used $120 worth of electronics components. The original design included two memory boards and could generate and store 512 characters as 16 lines of 32 characters. A 90-minute cassette tape provided supplementary storage for about 100 pages of text.
1973 Ethernet developed, this became a popular way of connecting PCs and other computers together - to enable them to share data, and devices such as printers. A group of machines connected together in this way is known as a LAN.
1974 CLIP-4[?], the first computer with a parallel architecture.
1974 - April 1 Introduction of the 8080. An 8 Bit Microprocessor from Intel. Arguably this microprocessor started the microprocessor revolution. First in the line of processors that lead to the currently most used processor architecture, the 80X86 (and pentium) series. It ran at a clock frequency of 2 MHz and did 0.64 MIPS.
1974 Motorola announces the MC6800 8 Bit Microprocessor. It is more easy to implement than the 8080 because it only needs a single power supply to operate and does not need support chips. Unlike the 8080 it is sold not as much as a general purpose "number cruncher / computer" CPU core but more as a control processor for industrial control and as a peripheral processor.
1974 - December MITS Altair 8800, the first personal computer to be available commercially released, by Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems. In December 1974 an article in 'Popular Electronics' inviting people to order kits for the computer, and despite the limited memory (256 bytes) and limited processing power around 200 were ordered on the first day. 10,000 were shipped at a kit price of $397 each. The Altair was the first computer designed with an "open" architecture, based on the S-100 expansion bus. The Altair also inspired the software development efforts of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who developed a full-featured Basic interpreter for the machine, and then formed Microsoft in order to market it.
1975 First microcomputer implementation of BASIC by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, it was written for the MITS Altair - the first personal computer - this led to the formation of Microsoft later in the year.
1975 Unix marketed (see 1970).
1975 Mycron releases its MYCRO 1, the first single-board computer.
1975 Formation of Microsoft by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
1975 IBM 5100[?] released.
1975 November Zilog is founded by ex-Intel employees.
1976 Apple Computer, Inc. founded, to market the Apple I single-board computer designed by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Uses the Motorola 6502 microprocessor.
1976 First laser printer introduced by IBM - the IBM 3800. The first colour versions came onto the market in 1988.
1976? Introduction of 8085 chip. An improved version of the 8080, with almost the same instruction set.
1976 Z80 chip released by Zilog, and the basis for the computer boom in the early 1980s. It was in fact a much improved 8080 chip. CP/M was originally written for the 8080, but many implementations, as well as software like Wordstar and dBase II - were written for the Z80. It formed the basis for many homecomputers like the Tandy TRS-80, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum of 1982 and many others.
1976 MOS Technologies 6502, 8 bit microprocessor developed and later chosen to equip the Apple II computer. Also fitted in the original Acorn machine, BBC Micro, Commodore 64 and Commodore PET. First designed (as the 6501) as a "drop in replacement" for the 6800 microprocessor from Motorola, it quickly surpassed the 6800 in popularity.
1976 Cray-1, the first commercially developed supercomputer, was invented by Seymour Cray, who left Control Data[?] in 1972 to form his own company. This machine was known as much for its horseshoe-shaped designas it was for being the first super to make vector processing practical. 85 were shipped at a cost of $5 million each.
1977 "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation.
1977 - May Apple II computer introduced. It had an open architecture, used color graphics, and had an elegantly designed interface to a floppy disk drive. It also had the first "killer app" of the business world -- the VisiCalc spreadsheet program.
1977 - August Tandy brought out the TRS-80 with "Level I BASIC". Although the TRS-80 had a primitive 4K BASIC (a stripped down version of the public domain "Li-Chen Wang Basic") and abysmal graphics it still became a bestseller quickly.
1978 Commodore PET introduced, with 8K RAM, cassette deck and 9" monitor.
1978 Tandy upgraded the TRS-80 with a much improved Microsoft 8K "Level II BASIC", and an "expansion interface" which added 32KB RAM, A floppy disk and a printer interface. With these extras the TRS-80 became a viable small business computer.
1978 - June 8 Introduction of 8086 by Intel, the first commercially successful 16 bit processor. It was too expensive to implement in early computers, so an 8 bit version was developed (the 8088), which was chosen by IBM for the first IBM PC. This ensured the success of the x86 family of processors that succeeded the 8086 since they and their clones are used in every IBM PC compatible computer. The available clock frequencies were 4.77, 8 and 10 MHz. It has an instruction set of about 300 operations. At introduction the fastest processor was the 8 MHz version which achieved 0.8 MIPS and contained 29,000 transistors.
1978 Arcade Video game 'Space Invaders' released, starting a video game craze. In 1979 Atari's Asteroids proved incredibly popular. By 1982 many of the 'classics' had been released.
1979 Ada programming language introduced by Jean Ichbiah[?] and team at Honeywell for the US Department of Defense.
1979 - June 1 Introduction of 8088, a step down from the 8086 as it contains just an 8 bit data bus - but this make it cheaper to implement in computers.
1979 Commodore PET released. Based on a 1 MHz 6502 processor it displayed monochrome text and had just 8 KB of RAM. Priced 569. For 776 you could purchase a version with 16 KB of RAM, while for 914 you could get a 32 KB of RAM.
1979 Compact disc was invented.
1979 The 68000 Microprocessor launched by Motorola. Used by Apple for the Macintosh and by Atari for the ST series. Later versions of the processor include the 68020 used in the Macintosh II.
1979 Shortly after the release of V7 Unix, which included UUCP, a protocol for communication over standard telephone lines, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis created Usenet, a global discussion group system. Nowadays, it uses Internet protocols and is still popular.
1979 IBM saw its computer market dominance being eaten into by the new personal computers, such as the Apple II and the Commodore PET. IBM therefore started work on their own personal computer. When finished, this computer was released as the IBM PC on 12 August 1981

Computing timelines: 500 BC-1949, 1950-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-present


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