Timeline of Computer History

Doom software box

Doom is released

An immersive first-person shooter-style game, Doom becomes popular on many different platforms. Initially distributed via USENET newsgroups, Doom attracted a massive following. Doom players were also among the first to customize the game’s levels and appearance though ‘modding.’ Some criticized the level of violence portrayed in Doom, and it was cited as a prime reason for US Congressional hearings on video game violence in 1995. Doom spawned several sequels and a 2005 film.

Jurassic Park movie poster

Jurassic Park released

Director Steven Spielberg's story of resurrected dinosaurs, Jurassic Park, becomes the highest-grossing film to date. Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park told the story of a group of visitors to an island where dinosaurs are unleashed to run amok in an uncompleted amusement park. To create realistic-looking dinosaurs, Spielberg's team combined animatronics, puppetry, and cutting-edge computer animation.

Debut issue of Wired

Wired Magazine debuts

Considered by some to be "the Rolling Stone of Technology," Wired magazine is founded by Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossette. Wired grew out of publications like The Whole Earth Catalog, and featured a cutting edge design philosophy when it first appeared in January of 1993. Articles from many of the top names in technology, politics, entertainment, and literature often dealt with computer and network innovations and their cultural impact. Wired is frequently credited with popularizing terms such as ‘The Long Tail' and 'crowdsourcing'.

The Apple Newton Personal Digital Assistant

Apple ships the first Newton

Apple enters the handheld computer market with the Newton. Dubbed a “Personal Data Assistant” by Apple President John Scully in 1992, the Newton featured many of the features that would define handheld computers in the following decades. The handwriting recognition software was much maligned for inaccuracy. The Newton line never performed as well as hoped and was discontinued in 1998.

Myst software box

Fantasy game Myst is released

Developed by brothers Robyn and Ryan Miller, Myst becomes one of the best-known games of the 1990s. Distributed by Broderbund for the Macintosh, Myst took the player on an adventure as The Stranger, using a magical book to track the time traveling character Atrus through the Ages of Myst. The game required players to solve puzzles and find clues to discover the nature of the island of Myst. Myst is often credited with greatly increasing the sales of CD-ROM drives for computers. The game became the best-selling personal computer game of all-time – a distinction it would hold until 2002.

FreeBSD CD-ROM cover

FreeBSD is launched

FreeBSD, a complete Unix-like operating system is launched. It was the most widely used open-source BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) variant. After its initial release, the software was significantly re-engineered due to a lawsuit between Unix copyright holder Unix Systems Laboratories and the University of California, Berkeley. The lawsuit revolved around source code in Berkeley’s 4.3BSD-Lite which was the basis of the FreeBSD operating system. FreeBSD incorporated features including networking, storage, security, portability and Linux compatibility.

Gopher screen

Gopher Stumbles

Gopher, which organizes content in folders rather than clickable links, grows faster than the Web in the early ‘90s and is its most direct Internet competitor. Educational institutions embrace Gopher, as do the U.S. Congress. Developed by Mark McCahill, Paul Lindner and Farhad Anklesaria from a Campus-Wide Information Service, Gopher is named both for the University of Minnosota mascot, and after “go for” meaning fetch. By 1993, the gopher developers are planning to add hyperlinks and even virtual reality features.

The Web pulls ahead partly by incorporating the ability to read Gopher pages; this is the same absorption strategy it had employed previously when it added support for WAIS and others. Two other rival standards, Lynx and Viola, have conveniently converted themselves into Web browsers. But with Gopher, the Web also gets a major lucky break: the University of Minnesota begins charging for Gopher server licenses in 1993, literally the same spring the Web becomes officially public domain – and free.

HP Netserver LM, one of the first to use Intel's Pentium

Computer History Museum

Intel's Pentium microprocessor is released

The Pentium is the fifth generation of the ‘x86’ line of microprocessors from Intel, the basis for the IBM PC and its clones. The Pentium introduced several advances that made programs run faster such as the ability to execute several instructions at the same time and support for graphics and music.

Windows NT screenshot

Microsoft Windows NT is released

Microsoft Windows NT is released. Work on the project began in the late 1980s in an effort spearheaded by a group of former Digital Equipment Corporation employees led by Dave Cutler. It was the first truly 32-bit version of Windows from Microsoft, which made it appealing to high-end engineering and scientific users that required better performance. A number of subsequent versions of Windows were based on NT technology.

NCSA Mosaic

Mosaic popularizes the Web

Mosaic, the first browser supported by a major institution, starts the Web on the road from research project to blockbuster success. Written by brilliant student Marc Andreessen and UNIX expert Eric Bina at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Mosaic was modeled on the Viola and Midas browsers and also used the CERN code library. But NCSA quickly assigned teams to write UNIX, Mac, and PC versions, as well as servers. Unlike other browsers it was reliable and could be installed by amateurs. Along with other browsers around this time Mosaic added graphics within Web pages instead of in separate windows. Mosaic spread like wildfire.

Ad on O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator

Online ads mark the slow start of the commercial Web

Business people are wary. How can you make money on the Web and the Internet? They are both open standards; you can't charge by the minute as online systems have done since their start in the 1960s.

In 1993, O’Reilly’s pioneering Global Network Navigator Web portal is running online ads. In 1994, Enterprise Integration Technologies (EIT) founds the CommerceNet consortium to encourage Web commerce, and demonstrates secure credit-card transactions that same year.

The first businesses to earn substantial profits on the Web are pornography and gambling sites, by 1995. But it is Netscape’s spectacular IPO, and the success of online shopping sites like Amazon and eBay, that finally convinces mainstream business to follow the pioneers into Web commerce.

(L to R) Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings, IBM’s Watson, and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy!

IBM’s Watson defeats Jeopardy! contestants

ASCI Red supercomputers

ASCI Red is operational

Commodore VIC-20

Commodore introduces the VIC-20

1986 booth at West Coast Computer Faire

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

Zoe Quinn, 2014