The abacus, a simple counting aid, may have been invented in Babylonia (now Iraq) in the fourth century B.C. The Antikythera mechanism, used for registering and predicting the motion of the stars and planets, is dated to the first century B.C.
John Napier, Baron of Merchiston, Scotland, invents logs in 1614. Logs allow multiplication and division to be reduced to addition and subtraction.
Wilhelm Schickard builds the first mechanical calculator in 1623. It can work with six digits, and carries digits across columns. It works, but never makes it beyond the prototype stage. Schickard is a professor at the University of Tubingen, Germany.
Blaise Pascal builds a mechanical calculator in 1642. It has the capacity for eight digits, but has trouble carrying and its gears tend to jam.
Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents an automatic loom controlled by punch cards.
Charles Babbage conceives of a "Difference Engine" in 1820 or 1821. It is a massive steam-powered mechanical calculator designed to print astronomical tables. Babbage's next idea is the Analytical Engine - a mechanical computer that can solve any mathematical problem. It uses punch-cards similar to those used by the Jacquard loom and can perform simple conditional operations.
Augusta Ada Byron, the countess of Lovelace, met Babbage in 1833. She describes the Analytical Engine as weaving "algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves." Her published analysis of the Analytical Engine is our best record of its programming potential. In it she outlines the fundamentals of computer programming, including data analysis, looping and memory addressing.
Konrad Zuse, a German engineer, completes the first general purpose programmable calculator in 1941. He pioneers the use of binary math and boolean logic in electronic calculation. Colossus, a British computer used for code-breaking, is operational by December of 1943. ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator Analyzer and Computer, is developed by the Ballistics Research Laboratory in Maryland to assist in the preparation of firing tables for artillery.
Bell Telephone Laboratories develops the transistor in 1947.
EDVAC, for Electronic Discrete Variable Computer, is completed under contract for the Ordinance Department in 1952.
The IBM 360 is introduced in April of 1964 and quickly becomes the standard institutional mainframe computer. By the mid-80s the 360 and its descendents will have generated more than $100 billion in revenue for IBM.
Doug Engelbart demonstrates in 1968 a word processor, an early hypertext system and a collaborative application: three now common computer applications.
Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce found Intel in 1968.
Xerox creates its Palo Alto Research Center - Xerox PARC - in 1969. Its mission is to explore the "architecture of information."
Fairchild Semiconductor introduces a 256-bit RAM chip in 1970.
In late 1970 Intel introduces a 1K RAM chip and the 4004, a 4-bit microprocessor. Two years later comes the 8008, an 8-bit microprocessor.
Apple II – 1977
1972: Gary Kildall writes PL/M, the first high-level programming language for the Intel microprocessor.
April 1972: Intel introduces the 8008, the first 8-bit microprocessor.
The Homebrew Computer Club in 1975.
Paul Allen and Bill Gates develop BASIC for the Altair 8800. Microsoft is born.
1977: Apple is selling its Apple II for $1,195, including 16K of RAM but no monitor.
IBM PC- 1981
1980 Apple has captured 50% of the personal computer market.
In 1980 Microsoft is approached by IBM to develop BASIC for its personal computer project. The IBM PC is released in August, 1981.
The Apple Macintosh debuts...