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Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
An American soldier and Japanese postal worker faced off in Tokyo in 1946. Pvt. Thomas Wood had an electric calculator. Kiyoshi Matsuzaki held a soroban, a Japanese abacus. Each was a champion at operating his device. In four out of five competitive rounds, the abacus won.

Perhaps the oldest continuously used calculating tool aside from fingers, the abacus is a masterpiece of power and simplicity. Abacuses were widely used in Asia and Europe for centuries, and remain common today.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Nothing stimulates creativity like a good crisis.

The U.S. Constitution requires a census every decade. That was manageable in 1790 with fewer than four million Americans to tally. Not so simple a century later, with 63 million. Estimates warned that the 1890 census wouldn't be finished before the 1900 census began!

The government's answer? A contest to devise a solution. Herman Hollerith won. He suggested recording data on punched cards, which would be read by a tabulating machine.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Using $700 worth of surplus World War II supplies, Arnold Nordsieck assembled an analog computer in 1950. It was modeled on differential analyzers built since the 1930s but with key differences.

For instance, Nordsieck's computer used electrical connections instead of mechanical shafts. And he set himself the priorities of "convenience and simplicity portability, and economy." His device's small size and straightforward engineering satisfied the first three requirements. Its $700 price tag satisfied the fourth.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Computing burst into popular culture with UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer), arguably the first computer to become a household name.

A versatile, general-purpose machine, UNIVAC was the brainchild of John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, creators of ENIAC. They proposed a statistical tabulator to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1946, and in 1951 UNIVAC I passed Census Bureau tests.

Within six years, 46 of the million-dollar UNIVAC systems had been installed with the last operating until 1970.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Fear of nuclear-armed Soviet bombers terrified 1950s America. SAGE, a massive real-time control and communications system developed for the Air Force by Lincoln Laboratories, offered a solution.

SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) linked 23 sites across the U.S. and Canada, coordinating weapons systems and processing radar, weather reports, and other data. By the time it became fully operational in 1963, however, the principal threat had shifted from aircraft to missiles, making SAGE's value questionable. Nevertheless, it remained in service until 1982.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
IBM dominated computing in 1961, with about two-thirds of the American market. But could IBM hold onto its lead? Its product line was fragmented with incompatible machines, poorly suited to offer companies a single, unified, easily expandable system.

IBM's System/360, a new family of general-purpose computers, changed everything. Programs for one System/360 computer ran on all, letting customers readily consolidate computing capabilities.

Every subsequent IBM mainframe is a descendant of the first System/360s.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Computers hold thousands of data records. Imagine if finding the one you wanted required starting with the first, then going through them in order.

High speed, random access memory plucking information from storage without plodding through sequentially is essential to the way we use computers today. IBM's RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control) magnetic disk drive pioneered this ability.

The RAMAC 350 storage unit could hold the equivalent of 62,500 punched cards: 5 million characters.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Featuring a central column surrounded by a padded, circular seat, the Cray-1 looked like no other computer. And performed like no other computer. It reigned as the world's fastest from 1976 to 1982.

Its distinctive design reflected Seymour Cray's innovative engineering solutions and theatrical flair. The round tower minimized wire lengths, while the distinctive bench concealed power supplies. Densely packed integrated circuits and a novel cooling system reflect Cray's attention to "packaging and plumbing."
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
A mouse. Removable data storage. Networking. A visual user interface. Easy-to-use graphics software. "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) printing, with printed documents matching what users saw on screen. E-mail. Alto for the first time combined these and other now-familiar elements in one small computer. Developed by Xerox as a research system, the Alto marked a radical leap in the evolution of how computers interact with people, leading the way to today's computers.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
Computers manipulate data. So, how do you get them to generate images? By representing images as data.

Martin Newell at the University of Utah used a teapot as a reference model in 1975 to create a dataset of mathematical coordinates. From that he generated a 3D "wire frame" defining the teapot's shape, adding a surface "skin."

For 20 years, programmers used Newell's teapot as a starting point, exploring techniques of light, shade, and color to add depth and realism.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
"The machine is broken."

That terse message summoned Al Alcorn to Andy Capp's bar in Sunnyvale two weeks after Alcorn had installed the Pong arcade game. Pong's problem? Popularity. Its milk carton coin-catcher was jammed with quarters.

Pong heralded a gaming revolution. Mechanical arcade games like pinball had appeared the late 1800s. Pong, designed by Alcorn for Atari in 1972, launched the video game craze that transformed and reinvigorated the old arcades and made Atari the first successful video game company.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
IBM introduced its PC in 1981 with a folksy advertising campaign aimed at the general public. Yet, the IBM PC had its most profound impact in the corporate world. Companies bought PCs in bulk, revolutionizing the role of computers in the office and introducing the Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS DOS) to a vast user community.

When it debuted in 1977, the Apple II was promoted as an extraordinary computer for ordinary people. The user-friendly design and graphical display made Apple a leader in the first decade of personal computing. Unlike the earlier Apple I, for which users had to supply essential parts such as a case and power supply, the Apple II was a fully realized consumer product. Design and marketing emphasized simplicity, an everyday tool for home, work, or school.
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 
 
Copyright Mark Richards 

Downloads

  1. Full Set of Images (ZIP, Full Size 279.99 MB)
  2. Calculators (ZIP, Full Size 3.35 MB)
  3. Punched Cards (ZIP, Full Size 11.08 MB)
  4. Analog Computers (ZIP, Full Size 17.85 MB)
  5. Early Computer Companies (ZIP, Full Size 30.88 MB)
  6. Real Time Computing (ZIP, Full Size 11.26 MB)
  7. Mainframe Computers (ZIP, Full Size 8.7 MB)
  8. Memory and Storage (ZIP, Full Size 27.98 MB)
  9. Supercomputers (ZIP, Full Size 3.74 MB)
  10. Minicomputers (ZIP, Full Size 15.33 MB)
  11. Digital Logic (ZIP, Full Size 0.63 MB)
  12. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (ZIP, Full Size 10.98 MB)
  13. Input Output (ZIP, Full Size 12.19 MB)
  14. Computer Graphics Music and Art (ZIP, Full Size 15.72 MB)
  15. Computer Games (ZIP, Full Size 35.55 MB)
  16. Personal Computers (ZIP, Full Size 15.25 MB)
  17. Mobile Computers (ZIP, Full Size 18.17 MB)
  18. Networking and The Web (ZIP, Full Size 27 MB)