Timeline of Computer History


Close up shot of Apollo Guidance Computer read-only rope memory

Apollo Guidance Computer read-only rope memory

Apollo Guidance Computer read-only rope memory is launched into space aboard the Apollo 11 mission, which carried American astronauts to the Moon and back. This rope memory was made by hand, and was equivalent to 72 KB of storage. Manufacturing rope memory was laborious and slow, and it could take months to weave a program into the rope memory. If a wire went through one of the circular cores it represented a binary one, and those that went around a core represented a binary zero.


ARPAnet Interface Message Processor (IMP)

Hooking up – networks come online

Switched on in late October 1969, the ARPAnet is the first large-scale, general-purpose computer network to connect different kinds of computers together. But others come online within weeks or months. 1969-70 marks the start of Britain’s NPL network, the wireless and more specialized ALOHANET in Hawaii (also ARPA funded), and the HLN (High Level Network) for the SITA consortium of commercial airlines. Work begins on France’s CYCLADES network not long after. The ARPAnet’s massive funding will help it pull ahead of rivals.


UNIX license plate

Kenneth Thompson and Dennis Ritchie develop UNIX

AT&T Bell Labs programmers Kenneth Thompson and Dennis Ritchie develop the UNIX operating system on a spare DEC minicomputer. UNIX combined many of the timesharing and file management features offered by Multics, from which it took its name. (Multics, a project of the mid-1960s, represented one of the earliest efforts at creating a multi-user, multi-tasking operating system.) The UNIX operating system quickly secured a wide following, particularly among engineers and scientists, and today is the basis of much of our world’s computing infrastructure.


First SIGGRAPH Conference abstracts

SIGGRAPH is founded

Founded in 1969 by Andy Van Dam, the Association for Computer Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH) has become one of the most influential groups in computing. Starting in 1974, the annual SIGGRAPH conference attracted graphics professionals and provided an important meeting ground for discussion and presentations on the state-of-the-art, with many companies and researchers debuting new releases or techniques. It continues to attract computer graphics professionals from around the world to its annual conference.


9-pin serial port connector

The RS-232-C standard is adopted

The RS-232-C standard for communications is adopted by the Electronic Industries Association. The standard permits computers and peripheral devices to transmit information serially — that is, one bit at a time. RS-232-C compatible ports were widely used for equipment like printers and modems. Compared to more modern interfaces, serial connections had slow transmission speeds, were bulky and have been largely replaced by USB ports on new PCs and peripheral equipment.


The Stanford Arm

Victor Scheinman´s Stanford Arm

Victor Scheinman´s Stanford Arm robot makes 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 then designed the PUMA series of industrial robots for Unimation, robots used for automobile assembly and other industrial tasks.