Timeline of Computer History

3 ½-inch floppy disk drive

3 ½-inch floppy drive

Sony introduces the first 3 ½-inch floppy drives and diskettes in 1981. The first significant company to adopt the 3 ½-inch floppy for general use was Hewlett-Packard in 1982, an event which was critical in establishing momentum for the format and which helped it prevail over the other contenders for the microfloppy standard, including 3-inch, 3 ¼-inch, and 3.9-inch formats.

Title card- BBC’s The Computer Programme

The Computer Programme debuts on the BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Computer Literacy Project hoped “to introduce interested adults to the world of computers.” Acorn produces a popular computer, the BBC Microcomputer System, so viewers at home could follow along on their own home computers as they watched the program. The machine was expandable, with ports for cassette storage, serial interface and rudimentary networking. A large amount of software was created for the “BBC Micro,” including educational, productivity, and game programs.

Apollo DN100

Apollo Computer unveils its first workstation, its DN100

The DN100 is based on the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, high-resolution display and built-in networking - the three basic features of all workstations. Apollo and its main competitor, Sun Microsystems, optimized their machines to run the computer-intensive graphics programs common in engineering and scientific applications. Apollo was a leading innovator in the workstation field for more than a decade, and was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 1989.

Cover Electronic Games

Arnie Katz, Joyce Worley-Katz, and Bill Kunkle form first video game magazine, Electronic Games

In 1981, Joyce Worley Katz, Arnie Katz, and Bill Kunkel co-found Electronic Games, the first video game magazine in the United States. Initially intended as an annual publication, early success led to it becoming a monthly within a year of the first issue. The Video Game Crash of 1983 led to Electronic Games renaming itself Computer Entertainment, before finally ceasing publication with its May 1985 issue.


IBM introduces its Personal Computer (PC)

IBM's brand recognition, along with a massive marketing campaign, ignites the fast growth of the personal computer market with the announcement of its own personal computer (PC). The first IBM PC, formally known as the IBM Model 5150, was based on a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor and used Microsoft´s MS-DOS operating system. The IBM PC revolutionized business computing by becoming the first PC to gain widespread adoption by industry. The IBM PC was widely copied (“cloned”) and led to the creation of a vast “ecosystem” of software, peripherals, and other commodities for use with the platform.

MS-DOS startup screen

MS-DOS released with the IBM PC

MS-DOS, or Microsoft Disk Operating System, the basic software for the newly released IBM PC, is the start of a long partnership between IBM and Microsoft, which Bill Gates and Paul Allen had founded only six years earlier. IBM’s PC inspired hardware imitators in the 1980s, but for software, most licensed MS-DOS. MS-DOS was eventually supplanted by Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Osborne I

Osborne 1 introduced

Weighing 24 pounds and costing $1,795, the Osborne 1 is the first mass-produced portable computer. Its price was especially attractive as the computer included very useful productivity software worth about $1,500 alone. It featured a 5-inch display, 64 KB of memory, a modem, and two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives.


The First Mass “Web”: Minitel Goes Public

Free! That’s often an effective way to attract customers. In 1981, France Telecom offers free Minitel terminals to every phone subscriber, launching the first mass “Web.” Minitel will have tens of millions of users by 1990 and online services such as newspapers, train schedules, tax filing, and erotic classified ads as well as email and chat. The ‘80s Minitel boom heavily foreshadows the dot-com boom. But the business model is different. Customers pay by the minute for access to Minitel services (sites), charged on their phone bills; France Telecom keeps about a third and passes on the rest to the service provider. As in the later Web, Minitel service providers run their own servers. But they also pay France Telecom a fee to connect to its network. Despite major efforts in the US, Canada, and Europe, similar videotex systems will fizzle outside France.

Direct Drive arm diagram

The direct drive arm

The first direct drive (DD) arm by Takeo Kanade serves as the prototype for DD arms used in industry today. The electric motors housed inside the joints eliminated the need for the chains or tendons used in earlier robots. DD arms were fast and accurate because they minimize friction and backlash.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling publish The Difference Engine

ERA founders with various magnetic drum memories

Magnetic drum memory

DSKY interface for the Apollo Guidance Computer

Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) makes its debut

Title card- BBC’s The Computer Programme

The Computer Programme debuts on the BBC

TROS module

Transformer Read Only Storage (TROS)