Timeline of Computer History


Title screen from Hunger

La Faim (Hunger) debuts

Filmmaker Peter Foldes, an international figure in animation since the 1950s, begins collaborating with Canada’s National Research Council in 1969. Working with computer scientist Nestor Burtnyk, Foldes directed this ten-minute film dealing with the idea of food inequality. Using the animation concept of key frame animation, where an animator would produce the most important frames and assistants would fill in the gaps, Burtnyk designed a program in which the computer filled in the gaps, producing an effect that made the images seem to glide from one to another. La Faim would win many international awards, including a special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, and an Academy Award nomination.


IBM 3850 mass storage system cartridges

IBM 3850 mass storage system

The IBM 3850 mass storage system is introduced. The largest 3850 storage system held 4,720 cartridges, stored 236 GB, and was 20 feet long. IBM claimed online magnetic disk storage was ten times more costly than the 3850. Released as an alternative to a manual tape reel library, the system used 4-inch long cylinders of magnetic tape that were retrieved and replaced by a robotic arm. Those cylinders were stored in hexagonal, “honeycomb” bins to reduce space.


IBM 3174 Systems Network Architecture (SNA) controller

IBM announces SNA (Systems Network Architecture)

IBM has been building hierarchical, special-purpose networks since the SAGE system in the late 1950s and SABRE not long after. In 1974 it announces Systems Network Architecture (SNA), a set of protocols designed for less centralized networks. SNA will evolve into an internet-like network of networks, albeit one reserved for those that were SNA compliant. DEC and Xerox will also begin commercializing their own proprietary networks, DECNET and XNS. At it’s peak around 1990, IBM’s SNA will quietly carry most of the world's networking traffic.


Scelbi 8H

Scelbi advertises its 8H computer

The first commercially advertised US computer based on a microprocessor (the Intel 8008,) the Scelbi has 4 KB of internal memory and a cassette tape interface, as well as Teletype and oscilloscope interfaces. Scelbi aimed the 8H, available both in kit form and fully assembled, at scientific, electronic, and biological applications. In 1975, Scelbi introduced the 8B version with 16 KB of memory for the business market. The company sold about 200 machines, losing $500 per unit.


Mark-8 featured on Radio-Electronics July 1974 cover

The Mark-8 appears in the pages of Radio-Electronics

The Mark-8 “Do-It-Yourself” kit is designed by graduate student John Titus and uses the Intel 8008 microprocessor. The kit was the cover story of hobbyist magazine Radio-Electronics in July 1974 – six months before the MITS Altair 8800 was in rival Popular Electronics magazine. Plans for the Mark-8 cost $5 and the blank circuit boards were available for $50.


The Silver Arm

The Silver Arm

David Silver at MIT designs the Silver Arm, a robotic arm to do small-parts assembly using feedback from delicate touch and pressure sensors. The arm´s fine movements approximate those of human fingers.


Xerox Alto

Xerox PARC Alto introduced

The Alto is a groundbreaking computer with wide influence on the computer industry. It was based on a graphical user interface using windows, icons, and a mouse, and worked together with other Altos over a local area network. It could also share files and print out documents on an advanced Xerox laser printer. Applications were also highly innovative: a WYSISYG word processor known as “Bravo,” a paint program, a graphics editor, and email for example. Apple’s inspiration for the Lisa and Macintosh computers came from the Xerox Alto.