Timeline of Computer History

Still from Pixar's Tin Toy

Tin Toy wins Oscar

Pixar´s Tin Toy becomes the first computer-animated film to win an Academy Award, taking the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. In it, a wind-up toy first encountered a boisterous baby and then deals with the consequences. To illustrate the baby´s facial expressions, programmers defined more than 40 facial muscles on the computer controlled by the animator.

Founded in 1986, one of Pixar´s primary projects involved a rendering program called Renderman, which became a universal standard for describing 3D scenes. Renderman describes objects, light sources, cameras, and atmospheric effects such as fog or clouds. Pixar continued producing movies, including 1995´s Toy Story, the first full-length feature film created entirely by computer animation.

NeXT Cube

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs unveils the NeXT Cube

Steve Jobs, forced out of Apple in 1985, founds a new company – NeXT. The computer he created, an all-black cube was an important innovation. The NeXT had three Motorola microprocessors and 8 MB of RAM. Its base price was $6,500. Some of its other innovations were the inclusion of a magneto-optical (MO) disk drive, a digital signal processor and the NeXTSTEP programming environment (later released as OPENSTEP). This object-oriented multitasking operating system was groundbreaking in its ability to foster rapid development of software applications. OPENSTEP was used as one of the foundations for the new Mac OS operating system soon after NeXT was acquired by Apple in 1996.

Sound Blaster 1.0 box

Creative Arts releases the first SoundBlaster

The demand for improved graphics and sound for personal computer games encourages companies to build add-on sound cards for the IBM PC, with the SoundBlaster family of sound cards becoming the industry standard. Many of these competing cards were similar, but since the SoundBlaster had an additional game port, within a year it had become the best-selling expansion card for the IBM PC. For more than a decade, SoundBlaster cards were among the top-selling sound cards on the market.

Laser 128 Apple II clone

Laser 128 is released

VTech, founded in Hong Kong, had been a manufacturer of Pong-like games and educational toys when they introduce the Laser 128 computer. Instead of simply copying the basic input output system (BIOS) of the Apple II as Franklin Computer had done, they reversed engineered the system and sold it for US $479, a much lower price than the comparable Apple II. While Apple sued to remove the Laser 128 from the market, they were unsuccessful and the Laser remained one of the very few Apple “clones” for sale.

Stephen Wolfram

Mathematica is created

Mathematica is created by Stephen Wolfram, a British scientist. It was a symbolic mathematical programming language used in mathematical, scientific, academic, and engineering fields. Mathematica was a complete ecosystem for computing that allowed symbolic entry of mathematical functions and equations as well as graphical display of the results.

Robert T. Morris

The Morris Worm

23 year old Robert T. Morris, the son of a computer security expert for the National Security Agency, sends a nondestructive worm through the Internet causing major problems for days for about 6,000 of the 60,000 hosts linked to the network. The result is widespread outages. This is the first worm to have a major effect on real-world computer systems, and publicizes the importance of network security. Morris will be the first person convicted under the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” He will apologize in 2008, saying he'd sought to estimate the Internet's size, not cause harm.

IBM Card Programmed Calculator (CPC), ca. 1949

IBM switches to electronics

3 ½-inch floppy disk drive

3 ½-inch floppy drive

First Web browser-editor, 1990

The "WorldWideWeb" is born

Southwest Technical Products 6800

Southwest Technical Products introduces the SWTPC 6800

Sinclair ZX80

The Sinclair ZX80 introduced