Timeline of Computer History


Bram Cohen

BitTorrent is launched

BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing service, is launched by BitTorrent, Inc. It was developed by Bram Cohen and was initially an open source program, but became closed source in 2005. BitTorrent enabled users to upload and download files, typically music and movies. It came under scrutiny of copyright holders – such as the music and motion picture industries -- which claimed BitTorrent facilitated theft of their intellectual property.


Opening of first Apple Store in Tysons Corner Center

First Apple stores open

Apple's first retail outlets, one in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and the same day in Glendale, California, open for business. The Apple Store was an innovative shopping experience, with each store built around a common design philosophy, and eventually doing away with the traditional cash register. The Apple Store not only offered Apple's products, but also software, accessories, and classes on how to use Apple software. The Genius Bar, where customers can obtain support for their Apple products, has also become a major part of each store.


Mac OS X screenshot

Mac OS X is released

Mac OS X is released. It was a significant departure from the classic Mac OS as it was based on the Unix-like operating systems FreeBSD, NetBSD and NeXTSTEP/OpenStep. OS X introduced a more stable and reliable platform and multiple applications could more efficiently be run at the same time. The Mac OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") update, released in 2009, completed the Mac's transition from a 32-bit to a 64-bit operating system.


Xbox game console

Microsoft enters gaming arena with Xbox

In 1998, members of Microsoft's multi-media DirectX team reconfigured old Dell laptops to create a Window-based video game console. They brought the idea to Microsoft management, which approved the idea of a home game console based on Microsoft's Direct X graphics technology. The Xbox (originally DirectX Box) used standard PC parts, including a built-in hard drive. Seen as a major risk for a software company, the Xbox console surprisingly sold out its initial North American production run. In 2002, Microsoft launched Xbox Live, an online service that allowed competitive gameplay and chat.

The Xbox was hailed for its high-quality graphics. Graphics acceleration was provided by an nVidia-Microsoft co-designed Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) which gave the Xbox the high-performance graphics usually associated with much more powerful processors.


A.I. Artificial Intelligence movie poster

Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence released worldwide

Conceived of by legendary director Stanley Kubrick, but directed by Steven Spielberg after Kubrick’s death, A.I. tells the story of David, a humanoid robot that can feel and express emotion. David is purchased by a family whose son Martin is in cryo-stasis until a cure is found for the disease he is afflicted with. David’s “mother,” Monica, reluctantly imprints herself upon him, and he starts to act like a genuine child. When Martin is revived, a series of events leads to David’s abandonment by his family. On his own in a new world, David searches for happiness in a quest to be a real boy.


Greed issue, San Francisco magazine

The Dot Com Boom…and Bust

As users flock to the Web, the opportunities seem boundless. Nearly everything you could do with previous networks is ported to the Web, and every business sector, community, religion, and subculture stakes out a place online. Initial skepticism gives way to experimentation, and then mounting excitement as people begin to believe that the old laws of business don't apply to this new medium. Nobody wants to be left behind, fueling a frenzy of business ventures—many built on shaky foundations.

In early 2000, business fundamentals reassert themselves. In one year, technology stocks lose about 60% of their value. The boom and bust have their greatest effect in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Silicon Valley as well as many previous booms from the Gold Rush on.


Windows XP screenshot

Windows XP is released

The Windows XP operating system is released. Based on the Windows NT kernel, XP was considered more stable than previous versions of the operating system. XP was widely adopted by industry and persisted much longer than Microsoft planned. For example, in 2014, 95% of the world’s automated teller machines ran XP. Microsoft support for XP ended on April 8, 2014.


Original iTunes interface

iTunes is released

Apple’s iTunes is released. It was based on Bill Kincaid’s SoundJam MP software, the rights to which Apple purchased. Initially, iTunes was only supported on the Mac operating system and functioned as a media player and media management tool. iTunes allowed users to record music from CDs, bring it into iTunes, mix it with other songs and then burn a custom CD. When the Apple iTunes music store was launched in 2003, it transformed music distribution and the entire music industry. Less than a week after its launch, over one million songs were downloaded. By 2013, over 25 billion songs had been downloaded from the iTunes store.