Timeline of Computer History

Table of ASCII codes


ASCII — American Standard Code for Information Interchange — permits machines from different manufacturers to exchange data. The ASCII code consisted of 128 unique strings of ones and zeros. Each sequence represented a letter of the English alphabet, an Arabic numeral, an assortment of punctuation marks and symbols, or a function such as a carriage return. ASCII can only represent up to 256 symbols, and for this reason many other languages are better supported by Unicode, which has the ability to represent over 100,000 symbols.

Still from A Computer Technique for the Production of Animated Movies

BEFLIX developed at Bell Labs

In the early 1960s, Bell Labs is at the forefront of research into computer arts and graphics. Researcher Ken Knowlton, using the Lab's IBM 7094 mainframe computer, developed a specialized language for computer animation called BEFLIX. The language allowed Knowlton and collaborators, such as Stan Vanderbeek and Lillian Schwartz, to create 252 by 184 pixel images and animations using 8 shades of gray, which could be captured to film using a Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. Some of these films are considered landmark works, such as Man and his World, which showed at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal.

DAC-1 CAD program in use

DAC-1 computer aided design program is released

In 1959, General Motors Research Laboratories appoints a special research team to investigate the use of computers in designing automobiles. In 1960, IBM joined the project, producing the first commercially available Computer Aided Design program, known as DAC-1. Out of that project came the IBM 2250 display terminal as well as many advances in computer timesharing and the use of a single processor by two or more terminals.

Reel of DECtape packaging


DECtape is introduced. It was a modification of DEC’s earlier LINCtape, and as a reliable and inexpensive storage medium was used in several generations of DEC minicomputers. The ¾-inch tape was widely thought to be an improvement over paper tape and part of its reliability stemmed from the fact that it was laminated and the magnetic part of the tape was sandwiched between two layers of mylar. DECtape was often used as a form of personal data storage, as the small reels could be easily hand-carried.

Ivan Sutherland using Sketchpad

Ivan Sutherland publishes Sketchpad

Ivan Sutherland publishes Sketchpad, an interactive, real-time computer drawing system, as his MIT doctoral thesis. Using a light pen and Sketchpad, a designer could draw and manipulate geometric figures on a computer screen. Blossoming into the best known of the early drawing applications, Sketchpad influenced a generation of design and drafting programs. Although used mostly for engineering drawings, it had some artistic applications, including a famous drawing of Nefertiti that could be animated to a limited extent.

The Rancho Arm

The Rancho Arm

Researchers design the Rancho Arm robot at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California as a tool for the handicapped. The Rancho Arm´s six joints gave it the flexibility of a human arm. Acquired by Stanford University in 1963, it holds a place among the first artificial robotic arms to be controlled by a computer.

1982 TIME "Machine of the Year" cover

TIME announces “Machine of the Year”

Scene from Tron

Movie Tron released

Franklin Ace 100 microcomputer

Franklin releases Apple II “clones”

Ed Colligan, Donna Dubinsky, and Jeff Hawkins

Palm Pilot is introduced

Maurice Wilkes with EDSAC