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Timeline of Computer History


Acorn Archimedes microcomputer

Acorn Archimedes is released

Acorn's ARM RISC microprocessor is first used in the company's Archimedes computer system. One of Britain's leading computer companies, Acorn continued the Archimedes line, which grew to nearly twenty different models, into the 1990s. Acorn spun off ARM as its own company to license microprocessor designs, which in turn has transformed mobile computing with ARM’s low power, high-performance processors and systems-on-chip (SoC).


The Conner CP344 HDD, a later version of the CP340A

Conner CP340A hard disk drive (HDD)

The Conner CP340A hard disk drive (HDD) is introduced. It established the 3½-inch HDD form factor as the standard of the time. The CP340A was controlled by a microprocessor, used embedded servo positioning, and had self-testing functionality. It gained a huge market share very quickly due to an agreement with Compaq to use the product in their computers. Due to the customer-investor relationship with Compaq, Conner Peripherals became one of the fastest growing US companies at that time.


Nokia 1011, first common GSM phone

GSM standard formally agreed

Digital mobile networks had been pioneered by ARPA from the early 1970s for military use, but early cell phone networks for consumers are analog. They use traditional telephone circuit-switching, where there is a connection (circuit) between caller and recipient for the duration of the call. The connection seamlessly switches from cell to cell as the phone moves. In 1987, the European Community formally agrees on the GSM (Spécial Mobile Group, or GSM in French) standard for digital mobile telephony, including text messaging (SMS). Development work had begun five years earlier with major input from Ericsson, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and a number of others. GSM will reach customers in the early 1990s, in some markets at around the same time as competing standard CDMA from Qualcomm in the United States.


Apple HyperCard

HyperCard revives hypertext

Clicking on hyperlinks is what lets us “surf” the Web instead of plodding through it. Yet after its initial invention in the 1960s, computer hypertext had gone underground for 20 years. It got so obscure that the main father of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, may have unknowingly re-invented it in 1980. Hypertext’s original inventors – and some true believers – had kept developing new applications, but mostly in academic environments or for specialized clients like the military. Without being named as such, hyperlinks had also been used in some online help systems and CD-ROMs.

By the late 1980s, a minor resurgence of interest leads to commercial hypertext programs like Owl – and then Apple’s well-hyped Hypercard. Soon, people are producing their own “stacks” of linked cards on every topic, as well as writing non-sequential hyper-novels. But HyperCard is standalone; you can only click through to other cards on the same computer.



IBM introduces its Personal System/2 (PS/2) machines

The first IBM system to include Intel´s 80386 chip, the company ships more than 1 million units by the end of the first year. IBM released a new operating system, OS/2, at the same time, allowing the use of a mouse with IBM PCs for the first time. Many credit the PS/2 for making the 3.5-inch floppy disk drive and video graphics array (VGA) standard for IBM computers. The system was IBM's response to losing control of the PC market with the rise of widespread copying of the original IBM PC design by “clone” makers.


Movemaster RM-501 Gripper

Mitsubishi Movemaster RM-501 Gripper is introduced

The Mitsubishi Movemaster RM-501 Gripper is introduced. This robot gripper and arm was a small, commercially available industrial robot. It was used for tasks such as assembling products or handling chemicals. The arm, including the gripper, had six degrees of freedom and was driven by electric motors connected to the joints by belts. The arm could move fifteen inches per second, could lift 2.7 pounds, and was accurate within .02 of an inch.


PERL designer Larry Wall

Perl is written by Larry Wall

Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language) is written by Larry Wall. It was intended to facilitate report processing and could scan and extract information from text files and ultimately create reports generated from that information. It was designed for ease of use and quick programming and has found multiple applications in every branch of computing. It is very useful in making other programs work together and has been called “the duct tape of the Internet.”


Bill Atkinson demonstrating HyperCard

William Atkinson designs HyperCard

Apple engineer William Atkinson designs HyperCard, a software tool that simplifies development of in-house applications. In HyperCard, programmers built “stacks” of information with the concept of hypertext links between stacks of pages. As a stack author, a programmer employed various tools to create his own stacks, linked together as a sort of slide show. Apple distributed the program free with Macintosh computers until 1992. Hypercard influenced the creation on the Internet protocol HTTP and JavaScript.