Timeline of Computer History

Bjarne Stroustrup

The C++ Programming Language is published

The C++ programming language emerges as the dominant object-oriented language in the computer industry when Bjarne Stroustrup publishes the book The C++ Programming Language. Stroustrup, from AT&T Bell Labs, said his motivation stemmed from a desire to create a language that would allow for more complex programs and which combined the low-level features of BCPL with the high-level structures of Simula.

According to Stroustrup: "C++ is a general purpose programming language designed to make programming more enjoyable for the serious programmer.”

Aldus PageMaker 2 box

Aldus announces PageMaker

Aldus announces its PageMaker program for use on Macintosh computers, launching the desktop publishing revolution. Two years later, Aldus released a version for the IBM PC. Developed by Paul Brainerd, PageMaker allowed users to combine graphics and text easily into professional quality documents.

Pagemaker was one of three components to the desktop publishing revolution. The other two were the invention of Postscript by Adobe and the LaserWriter laser printer from Apple. All three were necessary to create a desktop publishing environment.

Denning Sentry robot

Denning Sentry robot

Boston-based Denning designed the Sentry robot as a security guard patrolling for up to 14 hours at 3 mph. It radioed an alert about anything unusual in a 150-foot radius. The product, and the company, did not succeed.

Nicholas Negroponte

MIT Media Lab founded

Professor Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, a former science advisor to President John F. Kennedy, founds the MIT Media Lab in 1980. The Media Lab opened in an I.M. Pei-designed building, initially focusing on the 'Digital Revolution' in areas as wide-ranging as electronic music, machine learning, holography, computer graphics, and art. Work at the lab has led to hundreds of patents and many spin-off companies.

Nintendo Entertainment System game console

Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the U.S.

Since 1983, the American electronic game market had been depressed due to a glut of poorly performing games and consoles. That same year, Nintendo released its Famicom gaming system in Japan. Renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) when it was released in North America, the NES started to reverse the fortunes of the American game industry. The system launched with eighteen available titles, and was largely responsible for turning Mario the Plumber into one of the most enduring characters in the history of video games.

Omnibot 2000 toy robot

Omnibot 2000

The Omnibot 2000 remote-controlled programmable robot toy could move, talk and carry objects. The cassette player in its chest recorded actions to be taken and speech to be played.

PC’s Limited founder Michael Dell

PC's Limited is founded

In 1984, Michael Dell creates PC's Limited while still a student of the University of Texas at Austin. The dorm-room headquartered company sold IBM PC-compatible computers built from stock components. Dell dropped out of school to focus on his business and in 1985, the company produced the first computer of its own design, the Turbo PC, which sold for $795. By the early 1990s, Dell became one of the leading computer retailers.

Music composition on the Amiga 1000

The Amiga 1000 is released

Commodore’s Amiga 1000 is announced with a major event at New York's Lincoln Center featuring celebrities like Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry of the musical group Blondie. The Amiga sold for $1,295 (without monitor) and had audio and video capabilities beyond those found in most other personal computers. It developed a very loyal following while add-on components allowed it to be upgraded easily. The inside of the Amiga case is engraved with the signatures of the Amiga designers, including Jay Miner as well as the paw print of his dog Mitchy.

1986 booth at West Coast Computer Faire

The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL) is founded.

Stewart Brand, publisher of counterculture bible The Whole Earth Catalog, and Larry Brilliant start an Bulletin Board System (BBS) to host what they term an online community. The Well attracts an eclectic mix of intellectuals, computer geeks, hippies, Grateful Dead fans, writers, entrepreneurs, and journalists. Journalists are given free memberships in the early days, leading to many articles about the community and helping it grow.


U.S. National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) starts up

U.S. Internet protocols (TCP/IP) get a major boost when the National Science foundation forms the NSFNET, linking five supercomputer centers at Princeton University, Pittsburgh, University of California at San Diego, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Cornell University. Soon, over a dozen regional and educational networks will be added, including BITNET, CSNET, and a dozen or so others. Parts of the original ARPAnet had been reassigned to NSFNET, while others had gone to the military network, MILNET. The NSFNET is a major factor in helping Internet protocols win out over rival protocols like OSI, SNA, and DECNET.

ASCI Red supercomputers

ASCI Red is operational

Wang 2200

Wang Laboratories releases the Wang 2200

Apple HyperCard

HyperCard revives hypertext

Nintendo Wii game console

Nintendo Wii comes to market

RAMAC 305 disks and head assembly