Timeline of Computer History


Death Star Briefing from Star Wars

Star Wars (Death Star Briefing)

Set in a Galaxy far, far away, Star Wars combined old-fashioned science fiction storytelling with cutting-edge special effects provided by Industrial Light & Magic. One effect, the Death Star briefing, featured a wire-frame version of the space station, one of the first uses of wire-frame animation in a major motion picture.


Apple II

Apple II introduced

Sold complete with a main logic board, switching power supply, keyboard, case, manual, game paddles, and cassette tape containing the game Breakout, the Apple-II finds popularity far beyond the hobbyist community which made up Apple’s user community until then. When connected to a color television set, the Apple II produced brilliant color graphics for the time. Millions of Apple IIs were sold between 1977 and 1993, making it one of the longest-lived lines of personal computers. Apple gave away thousands of Apple IIs to school, giving a new generation their first access to personal computers.


Atari VCS prototype

Atari launches the Video Computer System game console

Atari releases its Video Computer System (VCS) later renamed the Atari 2600. The VCS was the first widely successful video game system, selling more than twenty million units throughout the 1980s. The VCS used the 8-bit MOS 6507 microprocessor and was designed to be connected to a home television set. When the last of Atari’s 8-bit game consoles were made in 1990, more than 900 game titles had been released.


C3PO protocol droid

C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars

C3PO and R2D2 play a critical role in 1977’s blockbuster hit movie Star Wars. Throughout the movie C3PO served as an ambassador-like robot that is knowledgeable of customs, traditions and over 6,000,000 languages. C3PO's companion robot, R2D2, served as a mechanic, computer interface specialist and co-pilot for the film’s main protagonist Luke Skywalker.


The Datasette is located on the lower left corner of the PET

Commodore 1530 Datasette

The built-in Commodore 1530 Datasette (data+cassette) is the primary storage device for the newly released Commodore PET. The device converted digital information from the computer into analog sound signals which were stored on compact cassettes. The method was cost-effective and reliable, but also very slow.


Atari 2600

ROM chips

The Atari Video Computer System (VCS) video game console is introduced. It was one of the first successful consoles that used interchangeable cartridges with factory programmed ROM chips to store the software. At first, designers planned to use an internal ROM chip that contained several pre-programmed games. This method was used in many predecessor consoles, but Atari’s choice on using cartridges in part led the VCS to becoming one of the most popular video gaming systems of all time.



Tandy Radio Shack introduces its TRS-80

Performing far better than the company projections of 3,000 units for the first year, in the first month after its release Tandy Radio Shack´s first desktop computer — the TRS-80 — sells 10,000 units. The TRS-80 was priced at $599.95, included a Z80 microprocessor, video display, 4 KB of memory, a built-in BASIC programming language interpreter, cassette storage, and easy-to-understand manuals that assumed no prior knowledge on the part of the user. The TRS-80 proved popular with schools, as well as for home use. The TRS-80 line of computers later included color, portable, and handheld versions before being discontinued in the early 1990s.


Commodore PET

The Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) introduced

The first of several personal computers released in 1977, the PET comes fully assembled with either 4 or 8 KB of memory, a built-in cassette tape drive, and a 'chiclet' keyboard. The PET was popular with schools and for use as a home computer. It used a MOS Technologies 6502 microprocessor running at 1 MHz. After the success of the PET, Commodore remained a major player in the personal computer market into the 1990s.