Timeline of Computer History

Carterfone with commemorative plaque


Used by Texas oilmen, the Carterfone acoustically connects mobile radios to the telephone network. Telephone companies sue in 1966. The FCC supports Carter, freeing U.S. telephone lines for many uses—including later answering machines, faxes and modems. Users in some countries will wait until the 1990s for similar freedoms. Modems create a kind of de facto net neutrality; telephone companies have no control over what is sent over their lines with a modem.

HP 2116A system

HP introduces the HP 2116A

The 2116A is HP’s first computer. It was developed as a versatile instrument controller for HP's growing family of programmable test and measurement products. It interfaced with a wide number of standard laboratory instruments, allowing customers to computerize their instrument systems. The 2116A also marked HP's first use of integrated circuits in a commercial product.


ILLIAC IV project begins

A large parallel processing computer, the ILLIAC IV does not operate until 1972. It was eventually housed at NASA´s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The most ambitious massively parallel computer at the time, the ILLIAC IV was plagued with design and production problems. Once finally completed, it achieved a computational speed of 200 million instructions per second and 1 billion bits per second of I/O transfer via a unique combination of its parallel architecture and the overlapping or "pipelining" structure of its 64 processing elements.

Joseph Weizenbaum

Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA

Joseph Weizenbaum finishes ELIZA. ELIZA is a natural language processing environment. Its most famous mode was called DOCTOR, which responded to user questions much like a psychotherapist. DOCTOR was able to trick some users into believing they were interacting with another human, at least until the program reached its limitations and became nonsensical. DOCTOR used predetermined phrases or questions and would substitute key words to mimic a human actually listening to user queries or statements.

Image from RCA Spectra-70 brochure

RCA announces its Spectra series of computers

The first large commercial computers to use integrated circuits, RCA highlights the IC's advantage over IBM’s custom SLT modules. Spectra systems were marketed on the basis of their compatibility with the IBM System/360 series of computer since it implemented the IBM 360 instruction set and could run most IBM software with little or no modification.

Brown Box reproduction by Ralph Baer

Ralph Baer designs the Brown Box

In the summer of 1966, Sanders Associates’ television engineer Ralph Baer begins experimenting with using a television to play games. His first design, called the Brown Box, allowed users to play several different games on a standard television set, including table tennis game (presaging Atari’s Pong), without requiring a computer, microprocessor, or software. The Brown Box also had a light gun accessory for playing shooting games.

Cover of April 4, 1966 issue of Electronics magazine

Signetics 8-bit RAM

The April 4, 1966 issue of Electronics magazine features an 8-bit RAM designed by Signetics for the SDS Sigma 7 mainframe computer. The article was titled, “Integrated scratch pads sire new generation of computers.” This 8-bit RAM was one of the earliest uses of dedicated semiconductor memory devices in computer systems.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing quoted by The London Times on artificial intelligence

DVD cover for Twister, the first commercial DVD release

Digital Video Disc (DVD)

Victor 3900 engineering prototype

Victor 3900 desktop calculator

Sony-built J-Phone J-SH04

First camera phone introduced

2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick

2001: A Space Odyssey released