Timeline of Computer History

“Sawmill” disk drive cutaway

IBM 9345 hard disk drive

IBM's 9345 hard disk drive is introduced. Codenamed "Sawmill," it was the first hard disk drive to use magneto-resistive heads. Magneto-resistive heads gave the 9345 an advantage over its competitors, as the bits could be stored more densely. The first model of this 5 ¼-inch disk drive had two 1 GB hard disk assemblies (HDAs) and the second model had two 1.5 GB HDAs.

Intel Touchstone Delta supercomputer

Intel's Touchstone Delta supercomputer system comes online

Reaching 32 gigaflops (32 billion floating point operations per second), Intel’s Touchstone Delta has 512 processors operating independently, arranged in a two-dimensional communications “mesh.” Caltech researchers used this supercomputer prototype for projects such as real-time processing of satellite images, and for simulating molecular models in AIDS research. It would serve as the model for several other significant multi-processor systems that would be among the fastest in the world.

Surface close-up of a Magneto-Optical disc

Magneto-Optical Discs

Magneto-Optical Discs are introduced. Housed in cartridges, they are a combination a magnetic and optical storage, as their name suggests. They could be rewritten up to one million times. Faster than CD/RWs and DVD-RAMs, M-O discs used lasers that heated up the bits on the disc, after which a magnet would change the bit's polarity according to what was being written, thereby storing the information.

Windows 3.0 screenshot

Microsoft ships Windows 3.0

Microsoft ships Windows 3.0. Compatible with DOS programs, the first successful version of Windows finally offered good enough performance to satisfy PC users. For the new version, Microsoft updated the interface and created a design that allowed PCs to support large graphical applications for the first time. It also allowed multiple programs to run simultaneously on its Intel 80386 microprocessor. Microsoft lined up a number of other applications ahead of time that ran under Windows 3.0, including versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. As a result, PC users were exposed to the user-friendly concepts of the Apple Macintosh, making the IBM PC more popular.

Photoshop 1.0 for Macintosh

Photoshop is released

Photoshop is released. Created by brothers John and Thomas Knoll, Photoshop was an image editing program and the most popular software program published by Adobe Systems. Thomas, while earning a PhD at the University of Michigan, had created an early version of the program in 1987, and John saw a practical use for it as a special effects staff member at Industrial Light & Magic. It was then used for image editing in the “pseudopod” scene in the movie The Abyss. When Adobe saw potential in the project they bought a license for distribution in 1989 and released the product on February 19, 1990.

First Web browser-editor, 1990

The "WorldWideWeb" is born

At the world’s biggest physics laboratory, CERN in Switzerland, English programmer and physicist Tim Berners-Lee submits two proposals for what will become the Web, starting in March of 1989. Neither is approved. He proceeds anyway, with only unofficial support from his boss and his coworker Robert Cailliau. By Christmas of 1990 he has prototyped “WorldWideWeb” (as he writes it) in just three months on an advanced NeXT computer. It features a server, HTML, URLs, and the first browser. That browser also functions as an editor—like a word processor connected to the Internet – which reflects his original vision that the Web also incorporate authoring and personal organization tools. The idea is that a Web of useful links will grow and deepen as people create them in the course of their daily lives. The Web had been partly inspired by his earlier Enquire program, which had combined networked hypertext with ideas that would later evolve into the Semantic Web.

Video Toaster editing and production system

Video Toaster is introduced by NewTek

The Video Toaster is a video editing and production system for the Amiga personal computers and includes custom hardware and software. Much more affordable than any other computer-based video editing system, the Video Toaster was not only for home use. It was popular, for example, with public access stations and was even good enough to be used for broadcast television shows like Home Improvement.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling publish The Difference Engine

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling are known as two of the leading lights in developing Cyberpunk literature in the 1980s. In 1990, the pair collaborate on what many consider to be the first blockbuster "Steampunk" novel. Imagining a word where Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine was built and the pace of technology greatly accelerated, The Difference Engine featured many historical characters, such as Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace, and John Keats, placed in an alternate history where rival factions competed to capture a stack of secret punched cards containing an important program.

DEC VAX memory board with Intel 1103 memory chips

Intel 1103 memory chip