Timeline of Computer History


BeBox computer

BeBox is released

Be, founded by former Apple executive Jean Louis Gassée and a number of former Apple, NeXT and SUN employees, releases their only product – the BeBox. Using dual PowerPC 603 CPUs, and featuring a large variety of peripheral ports, the first devices were used for software development. While it did not sell well, the operating system, Be OS, retained a loyal following even after Be stopped producing hardware in 1997 after less than 2,000 machines were produced.


Netscape Navigator browser

Browser War II: Netscape vs. Microsoft

Browser War I had been more of a coup – when half the Mosaic team defected in early 1994 and formed Netscape under entrepreneur Jim Clark, Mosaic lasted less than a year. But when Microsoft licenses a version of Mosaic and rebrands it Internet Explorer, the fight is on. In the mid to late 1990s Netscape revolutionizes the business model for the Web, and helps it spread to ordinary people as well as businesses.

But Microsoft gives away Explorer free with every copy of Windows 95 and beyond, and by the end of the 1990s Netscape is failing. As a last-ditch strategy the code for Netscape's Navigator browser gets converted to open source, and becomes the basis of the Mozilla Foundation and its Firefox browser today.


Homer Simpson in Homer 3D

Computer-animated Homer Simpson appears on The Simpsons

As a part of the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode, Homer Simpson appeared in 3D animated form during a segment called Homer3.Created by graphics pioneers Pacific Data Images, the segment featured Homer walking through a strange reality plane populated with many computer graphics in-jokes, including a Utah Teapot. Homer is finally spit out of the dimension and walks the streets of the real world: in this case Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California. The segment was well regarded, winning the Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, as well as a nomination for a Prime Time Emmy Award.


DVD cover for Twister, the first commercial DVD release

Digital Video Disc (DVD)

The Digital Video Disc (DVD) format is introduced, and its storage capacity is a huge increase over the common compact disc (CD). Two groups, made up mainly of Japanese technology companies, had been developing competing, optical disc storage formats. In order to avoid a format war akin to the VHS versus Betamax clash of the 1980s, IBM initiated a working group of technology experts that brokered the competition. After compromises from both sides, the DVD format was formalized. DVDs came in both read-only and read-write formats, and were widely adopted in the film industry for consumer releases of movies. Its better audio and video quality, interactivity, and improved lifespan effectively rendered the VHS format obsolete. Its successor was the Blu-ray disc.


IBM ThinkPad 701C

IBM releases the ThinkPad 701C

Officially known as the Track Write, the automatically expanding full-sized keyboard used by the ThinkPad 701 is designed by inventor John Karidis. The keyboard was comprised of three roughly triangular interlocking pieces, which formed a full-sized keyboard when the laptop was opened -- resulting in a keyboard significantly wider than the case. This keyboard design was dubbed “the Butterfly.” The need for such a design was lessened as laptop screens grew wider.


Java logo

Java 1.0 is introduced

Java 1.0 is introduced by Sun Microsystems. The Java platform’s “Write Once, Run Anywhere” functionality let a program run on any system, offering users independence from traditional large software vendors like Microsoft or Apple. The project was a successor to the Oak programming language created by James Gosling in 1991.


Brendan Eich

JavaScript is developed

JavaScript, an object-based scripting language, is developed at Netscape Communications by Brendan Eich. It was used extensively across the Internet on both client and server sides. Although it shared its name with the Java programming language, the two are completely different.


Windows '95 box with MSN logo

Online Services make way for the Web

Most of the big “walled gardens” — CompuServe, AOL, Minitel in France—resist the Web and Internet. By the mid 1990s they are either fading out or on their way to becoming Web portals.

Microsoft Network (MSN) is the one that might have mounted a serious challenge. The tens of millions of copies of Windows 95 come ready to connect to this private network, which has proprietary protocols; it could have become the biggest online service in the world nearly overnight.

But by 1995 the Web is growing quickly, and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates decides it is better to fight within the Web than to fight the Web itself. In a single memo, he turns company strategy completely around to focus on the Web in nearly every product. MSN becomes a Web portal.


PlayStation game console

Sony releases the PlayStation in North America

Electronics giant Sony enters the home gaming market with the release of the PlayStation console in Japan in 1994 and in the US a few months later. Originally a disk-based gaming system, it originally started as a collaboration between Sony and console manufacturer Nintendo to create a CD-ROM-based version of their Super Nintendo gaming system. Sony continued the game system project, eventually settling on a system that would support games, as well as audio CD playback. The PlayStation was a great success, selling more than a hundred million units, setting the stage for the Sony to become a dominant player in the home gaming market.


MQ-1 Predator drone

The MQ-1 Predator drone called to duty

The MQ-1 Predator drone is introduced and put into action by the United States Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency. It was widely used in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas against Al-Qaeda forces and Taliban militants starting after September 11, 2001. The unmanned aerial vehicles were equipped with cameras for reconnaissance and could be upgraded to carry two missiles.


Windows 95 opening screen

Microsoft Corporation

Windows 95

On August 24th, 1995, Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system was launched with one of the most sweeping media campaigns in the history of computing. A $300 million promotional blitz included television commercials using the Rolling Stones' song "Start Me Up," as well as a 30-minute promotional video starring actors from the top-rated television comedy "Friends," made it one of the most anticipated product launches in American business history.

Windows 95 was a major improvement over the previous Windows 3.1, adding features such as “Plug and Play” for more easily installing new peripherals, as well as the Taskbar and Start button menu. More than one million units were sold in the first four days following the release, and within two years, Windows 95 was installed on more computers than any other operating system.