Timeline of Computer History

Manchester transistorized computer

Grimsdale and Webb build early transistorized computer

Working under Tom Kilburn at England’s Manchester University, Richard Grimsdale and Douglas Webb demonstrate a prototype transistorized computer, the "Manchester TC", on November 16, 1953. The 48-bit machine used 92 point-contact transistors and 550 diodes.

Cuthbert Hurd (standing) and Tom Watson, Sr., at IBM 701 console

IBM ships its Model 701 “Defense Calculator”

During three years of production, IBM sells 19 machines to research laboratories, aircraft companies, and the federal government. Also known as the “Defense Calculator,” the 701 rented for $15,000 a month. Arthur Samuels used the 701 to write the first computer program designed to play checkers. The 701 introductions also marked the beginning of IBM’s entry into the large-scale computer market, a market it came to dominate in later decades.

IBM 701, the Defense Calculator

John Backus completes Speedcode

John Backus completes Speedcode for IBM´s first large-scale scientific computer, the IBM 701. Although using Speedcode demanded a significant amount of scarce memory, it greatly reduced the time required to write a program. In 1957, Backus became project leader of the IBM FORTRAN project, which became the most popular scientific programming language in history and is still in use today.

Detail of Whirlwind core memory

Whirlwind core memory

In 1953, MIT’s Whirlwind becomes the first computer to use magnetic core memory. Core memory is made up of tiny “donuts” made of magnetic material strung on wires into a grid. Each core stored a bit, magnetized one way for a “zero,” and the other way for a “one.” The wires could both detect and change the state of a bit. Though several inventors were involved, it was MIT’s Jay Forrester who perfected the technology. In 1971, the introduction of the Intel 1103 DRAM integrated circuit signaled the beginning of the end for magnetic core memory in computers.

Viola Internet hypertext system circa 1989

More than six Online Systems for the Internet

Woman holding deck of CRAM

Card Random Access Memory (CRAM)

Zip Disk with case

Iomega Zip Disk

Boston cybercafe, mid 1990s

Web users reach 36 million, now biggest user community

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Term ‘cyberspace’ coined