Wayne Adult Community Center

Special History Supplement from the November, 2001 Newsletter
(Revised November 4, 2001)

The PC is 20 years old this year.  We thought it might be interesting
to review some highlights from the history of calculating machines.

Antiquity The Abacus appears in China and Japan, and remains in use by Asians well into the 20th century.
1614 The slide rule is invented by John Napier.
1642 The mechanical adding machine is invented by Blaise Pascal.
1671 Leibnitz invents a machine that can both add and multiply.
1820 Charles X. Thomas improves on Leibnitz' design and produces a machine that can add, subtract, multiply and divide.
1833 Charles Babbage designs a fully programmable "analytical engine", having many of the features that are found in modern computers.  It is mechanical and is to be run by steam.  His machine is never built.
1850 Amadee Manheim designs the modern version of the slide rule.  It will be used widely for the next hundred years.
1936 Alan Turing formulates the concept of the computer.
1946 ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), the first large-scale general purpose computer, is developed for the military.  It has 18,000 vacuum tubes, and uses decimal arithmetic.  Its program is implemented via physical connections and switch settings.
1947 The first generation of computers is built that have internally-stored programs that can be changed without modifying the hardware.
1948 The transistor is invented. It is much smaller than a vacuum tube, is "solid state", has no fragile glass envelope or hot filament, and requires no high voltage.
1951 UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) becomes the first commercially available electronic computer.  It uses decimal arithmetic, has 5,000 vacuum tubes, and its memory consists of tanks of mercury.
1959 The integrated circuit is invented. It is the equivalent of many transistors, in a space that is orders of magnitude smaller.
1963 The computer mouse is developed.
1969 The ARPAnet is established by the military, to facilitate communication among research organizations.  It will eventually evolve into the Internet
1971 The microprocessor is invented. It has no vacuum tubes: Instead, it utilizes integrated circuits.
1972 The first pocket calculator is sold.
The first Email message is sent.
1974 CP/M, the first operating system for microprocessors, is developed.
1975 The Altair 8800, built from a kit, programmed by switches and with an output consisting of LEDs, is put on the market.  It is the first commercial personal computer.
1977 The modem is invented.
The Apple II computer is developed.  It uses integrated circuitry, has a color video display and a keyboard.
1979 WordStar is the first word processing program.
VisiCalc is the first spreadsheet program.
1981 IBM introduces the IBM PC, which utilizes binary arithmetic, has 16 Kbytes of RAM, a 160-Kbyte floppy diskette drive (no hard disk), and an 11½" black-and-white monitor.  Speed is 4.77 MHz.  Price in 2001 dollars: $3022
The first portable computer is sold.  It weighs 23 pounds.
1983 The DOS operating system is developed.
The IBM model XT reaches the market.  It has 128 Kbytes of RAM, a 360 Kbyte floppy diskette drive, a 10 Mbyte hard disk, and a 12½" monochrome monitor.  Price in 2001 dollars: $8,800
Microsoft puts MS Word (for DOS) on the market.
1984 The Apple Macintosh is developed.  It has a "graphical user interface" (a pictorial display) that will later form the basis of the Windows system.
1985 The first commercial CD-ROM drives are sold.
America Online, later to be known as AOL, is founded
Windows 1.0 is marketed  It runs like molasses.
1988 The first Internet worm is released, and causes havoc.
1991 The World Wide Web is launched.
1992 The number of Internet host computers reaches 1,000,000.
1993 Mosaic is the first Web browser program.
1996 The Palm Pilot "personal digital assistant" is introduced.
The number of Internet host computers reaches 10,000,000.
2000 Microsoft is recognized as a ruthless monopoly.
2001 As of the beginning of the year:
The number of Internet host computers had reached 100,000,000.
A high-end personal computer had 256 Mbytes of high-speed memory, a 250 Mbyte diskette drive, 60 Gbytes of hard disk capacity, a 19 inch high-resolution color monitor, a CD-ROM reader/writer, a high-fidelity sound system, and a network interface card.  Speed was about 1 GHz.  Price was under $3,000. And as of this writing (September, 2001), a 2 GHz machine is available.

The above material was compiled from entries in the Grolier and Encarta encyclopedias
as well as from an article in PC Magazine.


11/4/2001 1900