Timeline of Computer History

APT ashtray

Automatically Programmed Tools (APT)

MIT´s Servomechanisms Laboratory demonstrates computer assisted manufacturing (CAM). The school´s Automatically Programmed Tools project created a language, APT, used to control milling machine operations. At the demonstration, an air force general claimed that the new technology would enable the United States to “build a war machine that nobody would want to tackle.” The machine produced a commemorative ashtray for each attendee.

Bryant Chucking Grinder Company magnetic disk drive

Bryant Chucking Grinder Company magnetic disk drive

Bryant Chucking Grinder Company, a computer drum manufacturer, explores new storage ideas. They began developing a disk drive in 1959—made up of a horizontal shaft with eight or more 39-inch magnesium disks. Few sold.

Ted Nelson

Computerizing a “World Brain”

1930s pioneers like Otlet and Bush may have envisioned a “world brain” with pre-computer technology. But actually cobbling one together out of index cards, microfilm, radio, telegraphy and more is an enormously complex and expensive proposition, as Paul Otlet had found out with his real-world Mundaneum (see entry above).

In the 1950s several visionaries including Ted Nelson and Douglas Engelbart independently suggest using computers instead. They computerize the concept of cross-references, creating the clickable link we use on the Web. Nelson calls it a “hyperlink,” and the computerized text “hypertext.” Along with graphics pioneer Andries van Dam they develop many core computing functions such as word processing, online collaboration, and hypertext links. J.C.R. Licklider’s 1960 book Libraries of the Future outlines a related vision, which adds mild artificial intelligence to the mix.

IBM Stretch

IBM 7030 (“Stretch”) completed

IBM´s 7000 series mainframes are the company´s first transistorized computers. At the top of the line sat the 7030, also known as the "Stretch." Nine of the computers, which featured dozens of advanced design innovations later re-discovered by later generations of computer designers were sold, mainly to national laboratories and major scientific users. The knowledge and technologies developed for the Stretch project played a major role in the design of the later IBM System/360.

ERMA, the first machine to use Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR)

SRI designs ERMA

SRI International designs ERMA (Electronic Recording Machine, Accounting), for Bank of America. At the time, accounts were posted manually, a method that would quickly be outstripped by the growth in check writing after World War II. The ERMA project digitized checking by creating a computer-readable font. A special scanner read account numbers preprinted on checks using magnetic ink character recognition. In just one hour, ERMA could process the number of accounts that would have taken a well-trained banker nearly 17 workdays to complete.

Introduction of the iPhone 4 with retina display

Apple Retina Display

Boston cybercafe, mid 1990s

Web users reach 36 million, now biggest user community

The Orm

The Orm

Apple HyperCard

HyperCard revives hypertext

SAGE Operator Station

SAGE system goes online