Timeline of Computer History

Commodore VIC-20

Commodore introduces the VIC-20

Commodore releases the VIC-20 home computer as the successor to the Commodore PET personal computer. Intended to be a less expensive alternative to the PET, the VIC-20 was highly successful, becoming the first computer to sell more than a million units. Commodore even used Star Trek television star William Shatner in advertisements.

Enquire screenshot


In 1980 Tim Berners-Lee at the CERN physics laboratory creates Enquire, a networked hypertext system used for project management but with far greater ambitions. It seeks to categorize hyperlinks in a way that can be read by computers as well as people. He later claims he hadn't been aware of earlier hypertext work at the time, so it may be an independent reinvention. He names the program after a Victorian advice book and encyclopedia he had loved as a child, *Enquire Within (about Everything)." Berners-Lee will go on to invent the World Wide Web, partly based on Enquire.

IBM Token Ring diagram

Local Area Warfare

Who will connect the office? In 1979, Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe has left Xerox and co-founded 3Com, successfully convincing Digital Equipment Corporation, Intel, and Xerox to back Ethernet. The result is the 1980 DIX standard, named for the initials of the three companies. This launches Ethernet as a major challenger to IBM’s Token Ring, GE’s Token Bus, and ARCNET. A key Ethernet advantage will be a networking card cheap and small enough to install in IBM’s popular PC. The war is on for who will hook up the office, and will consume much of the next decade until Ethernet's eventual triumph.

At the user level, a number of


Seagate ST506 hard disk drive

Seagate Technology creates the first hard disk drive for microcomputers, the ST506. The disk held 5 megabytes of data, five times as much as a standard floppy disk, and fit in the space of a floppy disk drive. The hard disk drive itself was a rigid metallic platter coated on both sides with a thin layer of magnetic material that stores digital data.

Seagate Technology grew out of a 1979 conversation between Alan Shugart and Finis Conner, who had worked together at Memorex. The two men decided to found the company after developing the idea of scaling down a hard disk drive to the same size as the then-standard 5 ¼-inch floppies. Upon releasing its first product, Seagate quickly drew such big-name customers as Apple Computer and IBM. Within a few years, it sold 4 million units.

Sinclair ZX80

The Sinclair ZX80 introduced

This very small home computer is available in the UK as a kit for £79 or pre-assembled for £99. Inside was a Z80 microprocessor and a built-in BASIC language interpreter. Output was displayed on the user’s home TV screen through use of an adapter. About 50,000 were sold in Britain, primarily to hobbyists, and initially there was a long waiting list for the system.

Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Iran

Reports of the Stuxnet virus surface

Edward Snowden, circa 2014

Edward Snowden

Nintendo Wii game console

Nintendo Wii comes to market

Single rack MIDI setup

MIDI and The Age of Intelligent Machines

The Silver Arm

The Silver Arm