Timeline of Computer History
 

Robots & Artificial Intelligence  
1948
Norbert Wiener
Norbert Wiener published "Cybernetics," a major influence on later research into artificial intelligence. He drew on his World War II experiments with anti-aircraft systems that anticipated the course of enemy planes by interpreting radar images. Wiener coined the term "cybernetics" from the Greek word for "steersman."

In addition to "cybernetics," historians note Wiener for his analysis of brain waves and for his exploration of the similarities between the human brain and the modern computing machine capable of memory association, choice, and decision making.
1959
APT ashtray
MIT´s Servomechanisms Laboratory demonstrated computer-assisted manufacturing. The school´s Automatically Programmed Tools project created a language, APT, used to instruct milling machine operations. At the demonstration, the machine produced an ashtray for each attendee.
1961
UNIMATE
UNIMATE, the first industrial robot, began work at General Motors. Obeying step-by-step commands stored on a magnetic drum, the 4,000-pound arm sequenced and stacked hot pieces of die-cast metal.

The brainchild of Joe Engelberger and George Devol, UNIMATE originally automated the manufacture of TV picture tubes.
1963
Rancho Arm
Researchers designed the Rancho Arm at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California as a tool for the handicapped. The Rancho Arm´s six joints gave it the flexibility of a human arm. Acquired by Stanford University in 1963, it holds a place among the first artificial robotic arms to be controlled by a computer.
1965
   A Stanford team led by Ed Feigenbaum created DENDRAL, the first expert system, or program designed to execute the accumulated expertise of specialists. DENDRAL applied a battery of "if-then" rules in chemistry and physics to identify the molecular structure of organic compounds.
1968
Tentacle Arm
Marvin Minsky developed the Tentacle Arm, which moved like an octopus. It had twelve joints designed to reach around obstacles. A PDP-6 computer controlled the arm, powered by hydraulic fluids. Mounted on a wall, it could lift the weight of a person.
1969
Stanford Arm
Victor Scheinman´s Stanford Arm made a breakthrough as the first successful electrically powered, computer-controlled robot arm. By 1974, the Stanford Arm could assemble a Ford Model T water pump, guiding itself with optical and contact sensors. The Stanford Arm led directly to commercial production. Scheinman went on to design the PUMA series of industrial robots for Unimation, robots used for automobile assembly and other industrial tasks.
1970
SRI´s Shakey
SRI International´s Shakey became the first mobile robot controlled by artificial intelligence. Equipped with sensing devices and driven by a problem-solving program called STRIPS, the robot found its way around the halls of SRI by applying information about its environment to a route. Shakey used a TV camera, laser range finder, and bump sensors to collect data, which it then transmitted to a DEC PDP-10 and PDP-15. The computer radioed back commands to Shakey — who then moved at a speed of 2 meters per hour.
1974
Silver Arm
David Silver at MIT designed the Silver Arm, a robotic arm to do small-parts assembly using feedback from delicate touch and pressure sensors. The arm´s fine movements corresponded to those of human fingers.
1976
Hirose´s Soft Gripper
Shigeo Hirose´s Soft Gripper could conform to the shape of a grasped object, such as this wine glass filled with flowers. The design Hirose created at the Tokyo Institute of Technology grew from his studies of flexible structures in nature, such as elephant trunks and snake spinal cords.
1978
Speak & Spell creators
Texas Instruments Inc. introduced Speak & Spell, a talking learning aid for ages 7 and up. Its debut marked the first electronic duplication of the human vocal tract on a single chip of silicon. Speak & Spell utilized linear predictive coding to formulate a mathematical model of the human vocal tract and predict a speech sample based on previous input. It transformed digital information processed through a filter into synthetic speech and could store more than 100 seconds of linguistic sounds.

Shown here are the four individuals who began the Speak & Spell program: From left to right, Gene Frantz, Richard Wiggins, Paul Breedlove, and George Brantingham.
1979
Stanford Cart
In development since 1967, the Stanford Cart successfully crossed a chair-filled room without human intervention in 1979. Hans Moravec rebuilt the Stanford Cart in 1977, equipping it with stereo vision. A television camera, mounted on a rail on the top of the cart, took pictures from several different angles and relayed them to a computer. The computer gauged the distance between the cart and obstacles in its path.
1983
MIDI
The Musical Instrument Digital Interface was introduced at the first North American Music Manufacturers show in Los Angeles. MIDI is an industry-standard electronic interface that links electronic music synthesizers. The MIDI information tells a synthesizer when to start and stop playing a specific note, what sound that note should have, how loud it should be, and other information.

Raymond Kurzweil, a pioneer in developing the electronic keyboard, predicts MIDI and other advances will make traditional musical instruments obsolete in the future. In the 21st century, he wrote in his book, "The Age of Intelligent Machines," "There will still be acoustic instruments around, but they will be primarily of historical interest, much like harpsichords are today.... While the historically desirable sounds of pianos and violins will continue to be used, most music will use sounds with no direct acoustic counterpart.... There will not be a sharp division between the musician and nonmusician."

 


About the Museum | Exhibits | Collections | What's Happening | Giving | About This Site
Privacy | Copyright | Feedback | Credits | Advanced Search | Site Map

© 2006 Computer History Museum. All rights reserved.
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View CA 94043    Ph 650-810-1010