Timeline of Computer History


Terminator 2: Judgment Day movie poster

Terminator 2: Judgment Day opens

Director James Cameron’s sequel to his 1984 hit The Terminator, features groundbreaking special effects done by Industrial Light & Magic. Made for a record $100 million, it was the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Most of this cost was due to the expense of computer-generated special effects (such as image morphing) throughout the film. Terminator 2 is one of many films that critique civilization’s frequent blind trust in technology.


DEC Alpha chip die-shot

DEC announces Alpha chip architecture

Designed to replace the 32-bit VAX architecture, the Alpha is a 64-bit reduced instruction set computer (RISC) microprocessor. It was widely used in DEC's workstations and servers, as well as several supercomputers like the Chinese Sunway Blue Light system, and the Swiss Gigabooster. The Alpha processor designs were eventually acquired by Compaq, which, along with Intel, phased out the Alpha architecture in favor of the HP/Itanium microprocessor.


Intel Paragon system

Intel Paragon is operational

Based on the Touchstone Delta computer Intel had built at Caltech, the Paragon is a parallel supercomputer that uses 2,048 (later increased to more than four thousand) Intel i860 processors. More than one hundred Paragons were installed over the lifetime of the system, each costing as much as five million dollars. The Paragon at Caltech was named the fastest supercomputer in the world in 1992. Paragon systems were used in many scientific areas, including atmospheric and oceanic flow studies, and energy research.


.JPG desktop icon

JPEG standard finalized

In 1986, a group of international standards organizations spun-off the Joint Photographic Expert Group (JPEG) to create a set of standards for digital images. By 1992, the group had determined a set of rules for what became the jpeg (or .jpg) format. Jpeg compression allows for a trade-off between photo quality and file size. Jpeg is one of the most popular image formats, and is the format most widely used by digital cameras.


Feigenbaum and McCorduck’s The Fifth Generation

Japan's Fifth Generation Computer Systems project abandoned

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development, Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) abandons its Fifth Generation Computer Systems project. The project was intended to build a platform from which artificial intelligence systems could grow and ultimately build machines that had reasoning capabilities as opposed to simply perform calculations. In part, the announcement of the Fifth Generation project in Japan caused the American computer industry to react, and a group of companies formed the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation.


SanDisk SSD module for IBM

SSD module

A prototype solid state disk (SSD) module is made for evaluation by IBM. SanDisk, which at time was known as SunDisk, manufactured the module which used non-volatile memory chips to replace the spinning disks of a hard disk drive. SanDisk recognized that handheld devices and computers were becoming lighter and smaller, and that flash memory, as was used in the SSD module, offered powerful advantages over hard disks.


Storage Tek tape library

Storage Tek 4400 ACS tape library

Storage Tek announces upgrades to its 4400 ACS tape library. This tape robot was used in a variety of installations, and one was used at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (now the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) to store data from experiments, providing medium-speed access to immense amounts of data. Storage Tek was one of the first major players in the automated tape library sector, and competed with IBM for market share.