Computer History Timeline

Computer History Timeline - 1600's and Beyond

original ibm pcThe following is a computer history timeline outlining some significant events in computer history.

It is by no means meant to be complete but it is a great representation of some of the major landmarks in computer development beginning in the 1600's all the way to the millennium 2000.

If your looking to start a career in the technology industry, or you simply want to know where all the high tech gadgetry of today started we highly recommend you take our brief tour in computing history.


Select a date range

1617 - 1943 | 1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1960 | 1961 - 1970 | 1971 - 1975

1976 - 1980 | 1981 - 1984 | 1985 - 1989 | 1990 - 19971998 - 2000

Computer History Timeline - 1617 to 1943


  • Mathematician John Napier uses wooden rods for calculating.  This calculation method was called Napier’s Bones.


  • An inventor named Blaise Pascal introduces to the world the digital adding machine referred to as the Pascaline digital adding machine.

  • Charles Babbage shines forth the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine which is considered a real general purpose computing machine.


  • Inventor Lee De Forest patents what is called the vacuum tube triode.  It was used as an electronic switch in the first electronic computer systems.


  • John V. Atanasoff creates what is considered the official first electronic computer.  It is known as the Alanasoff Berry Computer or simply ABC.


  • During World War II Alan Turing develops the Colossus which is a top secret British code-breaking computer.  It was built to decode German secret messages.

Computer History Timeline - 1944 to 1953


  • John von Neumann outlines the architecture of the modern stored program computer system.


  • An electronic computing machine called ENIAC is built by John Mauchly and Presper Eckert.


  • The semiconductor revolution is blasted off when William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain invent and test what is called a point contact transistor.


  • At Cambridge University Maurice Wilkes assembles the first practical stored program computer called the EDSAC.


  • The ERA 1101 is built by the Engineering Research Associates of Minneapolis.  It is  one of the first commercially produced computer systems.


  • The UNIVAC used by the U.S. Census Bureau becomes the first commercial computer to attract substantial public attention.


  • IBM ships its first electronic computer system called the 701.

Computer History Timeline - 1954 to 1960


  • Gordon Teal from Texas Instruments perfects a silicon based junction transistor which brings a tremendous reduction in costs to build a computer.
  • IBM’s 650 magnetic drum calculator is also established as the first mass produced computer. Mass produced in the 50’s is 450 computers if you can believe that.


  • The first fully transistorized computer TRADIC is announced by Bell Laboratories.


  • The TX-0 is built by MIT researchers.  It is the first general purpose, programmable computer that is built using transistors. 

  • Also, the era of magnetic disk storage is about to blossom when IBM ships a 305 RAMAC to Zellerbach Paper in San Francisco California.


  • The first integrated circuit is created by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments.  This proved that both resistors and capacitors could exist on the same semiconductor material.


  • IBM’s 7000 series mainframes become its first transistorized computer.

  • Also in 1959 Robert Noyce’s integrated circuit allows printing of electrical conducting channels directly on a silicon surface.


  • The first commercial modem called Dataphone is desiged by Bell Labs.  It was designed specifically for converting digital computer data to analog signals for transmission across a long distance network.

Computer History Timeline - 1961 to 1970


  • According to Datamation magazine IBM has approximately an 81.2 percent share of the computer market. IBM also introduced the 1400 Series computer system in this year. 


  • IBM announces  a family of six mutually compatible computers and 40 peripherals that work together called the System/360. 

  • Also in 1964 Seymour Cray’s CDC supercomputer performs up to three million instructions per second which literally is a processing speed three times its closest competitor, IBM’s Stretch system. 

  • In 1964  IBM’s SABRE reservation system is also setup up for American Airlines.


  • Digital Equipment Corporation introduces the first commercially successful minicomputer called the PDP-8.


  • Hewlett-Packard enters the all purpose computer business with its release of the HP-2115.  The HP-2115’s  computing power is that which is formerly found only in far larger computer systems before it.



  • The computer-to-computer communication revolution expands when the Department of Defense establishes four devices on the ARPAnet.  Two of these nodes reside at University of California campuses including one in Santa Barbara and another in Los Angeles.  Another sits at University of Utah and the fourth resides at SRI International.

Computer History Timeline - 1971 to 1975


  • The 8-inch flobby disk is invented by a team at IBM’s San Jose Laboratories.
  • Also in 1971 one of the first personal computers called the Kenbak-1 is advertised for $750 in Scientific American magazine. 

  • The first advertisement for a microprocessor also appears for the Intel 4004 in Electronic News.


  • Intel’s 8008 microprocessor makes its debut. 

  • Hewlett-Packard announces the HP-35. 

  • Steve Wozniak builds his blue box which is a tone generator to make free phone calls.  


  • At the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center Robert Metcalfe devices the Ethernet method of networking. 

  • Also in 1972 the  Micral is the earliest commercial non-kit personal computer system based on a microprocessor. It used the Intel 8008 processor. 

  • 1973 also saw the TV Typewriter desiged by Don Lancaster.  It provided the first display of alphanumeric information on your ordinary television.


  • Researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center design the Alto which is the first workstation with a built-in mouse for input. 

  • Also in 1974 Scelbi advertises the 8H computer.  What makes the 8H special is the fact that it is the first commercially advertised U.S. computer based on a microprocessor.  It used the Intel 8008 computer processor.


  • Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975.
  • The first commercial packet switching network called Telenet is created.  It is the civilian equivalent of ARPAnet. 
  • Also in 1975 The January edition of Popular Electronics features on its cover the Altair 8800 computer which uses the Intel 8080 microprocessor. 
  • 1975 also was the year of the visual display module prototype.  It was designed by Lee Felsenstein, and it was the first implementation of a memory mapped alphanumeric video display for personal computer systems.

Computer History Timeline - 1976 to 1980


  • Apple is established on April 1, 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne to sell a single board computer called the Apple I. 

  • Also in 1976 the 5 ¼ inch flexible disk drive and disk is introduced by Shugart Associates. 

  • The Cray I makes its name as the first commercially successful vector processor also in 1976.


  • Apple Computer introduces the Apple II computer system. 

  • The TRS-80 is also introduced by Tandy Radio Shack. 

  • Commodore also introduces the PET, or Personal Electronic Transactor.


  • The VAX 11/780 from Digital Equipment Corporation features the capability to address up to 4.3GB of virtual memory.  This  provided hundreds of times the capacity of most minicomputers of the time.


  • Motorola introduces the 68000 microprocessor.


  • The first hard drive for microcomputers called the ST-506 is created by Seagate Technology. 

  • Also in 1980 the first optical data storage disk contains 60 times the capacity of a 5 ¼-inch floppy disk. 

  • Another sweet kick off for the 80’s is the invention of the computer “worm” by John Shoch from the Xerox Palo alto Research Center.  This so called worm is a short program that searches a network for idle processors.

Computer History Timeline - 1981 to 1984


  • IBM introduces its Personal Computer (PC), kicking off the fast growth of the personal computer market and revolution.

  • Xerox also introduces the Star which is the first personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI). 

  • The first portable computer is also completed by Adam Osborne.  Like many inventions of the day it gets its name from the inventor and it’s called the Osborne I, go figure.  But check this, the Osborne I portable computer weighed in at 24 pounds and sold for $1795 dollars at the time. 

  • Also in 1981 Sony Corporation introduces and ships the first 3 ½-inch floppy disk drive and disks.


  • Apple introduces its Lisa computer incorporating a GUI very similar to that first introduced on the Xerox Star.

  • Compaq Computer Corporation introduces its first PC clone that uses the same software as the IBM PC.


  • Apple Computer launches the Macintosh which is the first successful mouse driven computer with a GUI.  It was launched in fact with a single $1.5  million commercial during the 1984 Super Bowl. 

  • Also in 1984 IBM releases the PC-AT which is three times faster than original PC’s. Its speed came from its usage of the Intel 286 processor.

  • The PC-AT also introduced a new computer bus called the 16-bit ISA bus.

Computer History Timeline - 1985 to 1989


  • Philips introduces the CD-ROM.


  • Compaq announces the Deskpro 386 which is the first computer on the market to use Intel’s new 386 chip.


  • IBM introduces its PS/2 computers making the 3 ½-inch floppy disk drive and VGA video standard for PC’s. 

  • Also introduced with the PS/2 was its inclusion of the first plug-and-play computer bus for PC’s called MicroChannel Architecture (MCA).


  • After leaving Apple, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs unveils his own company called  NeXT. 

  • Also in 1988 Compaq and other PC makers develop a new computer bus called the Enchanced Industry Standard Architecture (EISA).  What was especially unique about this bus was that unlike MicroChannel EISA remained backward compatible with the ISA bus.


  • Intel releases the 486 microprocessor which contains more than one million transistors. Intel also introduces along side it the 486 motherboard chipsets.

Computer History Timeline - 1990 to 1997


  • The World Wide Web (WWW) is born after researcher Tim Berners-Lee develops HTML, the Hypertext Markup Language.


  • Intel releases the Pentium processor, leaving behind its old numbered naming convention in the process as they realized it’s impossible to trademark a number. Intel also releases motherboard chipsets and for the first time completes motherboards.


  • Yahoo is founded by two Stanford graduate students named Jerry Yang and David Filo.  Fun Fact - Yahoo originally started out with the name Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web. 


  • Microsoft releases the first mainstream 32-bit operating system Windows 95 in huge numbers. 

  • Intel releases the first processor in their P6 family called the Pentium Pro processor in 1995.


  • Intel releases the Pentium II processor and AMD introduces the K6 which is compatible with the Intel Pentium.

Computer History Timeline - 1998 to 2000


  • Google is co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they are students at Stanford University.  The company is first incorporated as a privately held company in September of 1998.

  • Microsoft releases Windows 98.

  • Intel releases their Celeron processor which is basically a low-cost version of the Pentium II processor of the time.


  • Intel releases their Pentium III processor and AMD introduces their Athlon line of processors. 


  • Microsoft releases Windows Millennium Edition or Me, and Windows 2000. 

  • The 1GHz milestone is hit when both Intel and AMD introduce processors running at 1GHz.

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