Computer Technology – Then vs. Now

Computer Technology Timeline
It's no surprise that the evolution of computers, especially the Internet, has defined the way we live our daily lives. Although the first personal computer was not released until 1981, computer technology dates back to 2400 BC with the invention of the abacus. It's difficult to believe that the abacus laid the foundations for encoding numbers and, thousands of years later, major computing developments.

History of Advancements In Computer Technology

[last updated: June 28, 2024]

Computer technology is evolving not only in its widespread use but in overall design and function as well. Think about the recent popularity of tablets, it is hard to believe that the first iPad was released only 3 short years ago and now there are over 100 varieties of tablets that existence in today’s marketplace.

Charles babbage _ biography, computers, inventions - photo cred: britannica
[charles babbage – pc: britannica]
Here is a timeline of significant events over the lifespan of the computer as we know it:

1822 – Charles Babbage began work on the Difference Engine, an early mechanical computer designed to perform mathematical calculations. (pic)

1837 – Charles Babbage conceptualized the Analytical Engine, a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer.

1843 – Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm intended for implementation on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, making her the first computer programmer.

1890 – Herman Hollerith invented the punched card system to assist in processing data for the U.S. Census, a precursor to modern computing.

[1936 – lukyanov computer]

1936 – Alan Turing published “On Computable Numbers,” introducing the concept of the Turing machine, a theoretical device that laid the groundwork for modern computing. (pic)

1937 – John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry began developing the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC), the first electronic digital computer.

1938 – Konrad Zuse completed the Z1, one of the first programmable computers, which used binary arithmetic and floating-point arithmetic.

1939 – Hewlett-Packard was founded in a garage in Palo Alto, California, later becoming a major player in the computer industry. Also, Konrad Zuse completed the Z2, an electromechanical computer using telephone switching equipment.

1940 – The Complex Number Calculator (CNC), an early computer capable of solving complex calculations, was completed by George Stibitz at Bell Labs.

1941 – Konrad Zuse completed the Z3, the world’s first programmable, fully automatic computer.

1942 – The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was successfully tested, becoming the first electronic digital computer. John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly began work on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

Eniac computer- from university of pennsylania for project px
[1946 – eniac computer, university of pennsylvania, for project px]

1943 – The Colossus computer, designed by Tommy Flowers, was built to help decrypt German messages during World War II, becoming the world’s first programmable digital electronic computer. The Manhattan Project used IBM punch card machines for complex calculations related to atomic bomb development.

1944 – First operational computer, the Harvard Mark I, used at Harvard for ballistic calculations by the U.S. Navy.

1945 – ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earliest general-purpose computers, was completed.

1946 – The first commercial computer, UNIVAC I, was designed and built. (pic)

1947 – The transistor was invented at Bell Labs, revolutionizing electronics and computing.

1948 – The first stored-program computer, the Manchester Baby, ran its first program.

1949 – The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) ran its first programs, becoming one of the first practical stored-program computers.

1950 – Alan Turing proposed the Turing Test as a measure of machine intelligence.

1951 – The Ferranti Mark 1, the world’s first commercially available general-purpose computer, was delivered.

1952 – IBM introduced the IBM 701, its first commercial scientific computer.

1953 – IBM released the IBM 650, the first mass-produced computer.

1954 – The first high-level programming language, Fortran, was developed by IBM.

1956 ibm 5 mb harddrive being loaded for transport
[1956 – ibm 5-mb hard drive being loaded for transport]

1955 – The first fully transistorized computer, the IBM 608, was released.

1956 – IBM introduced the first hard disk drive, the IBM 305 RAMAC, capable of storing 5 MB of data. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined at the Dartmouth Conference. (pic)

1957 – The first artificial intelligence program, the Logic Theorist, was demonstrated. Developed by Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon, the Logic Theorist was capable of proving mathematical theorems. It was considered one of the first programs to exhibit artificial intelligence by successfully proving 38 of the first 52 theorems in Russell and Whitehead’s “Principia Mathematica,” even finding a more elegant proof for one theorem than the original authors.

1958 – The integrated circuit (microchip) was invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. NASA was established, leading to advancements in computing for space missions.

1959 – The programming language COBOL was developed for business use.

1960 – Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) introduced the PDP-1, a pioneering minicomputer.

1961 – The IBM 1401, one of the most popular computers of the 1960s, was released. NASA used IBM 7090 computers for Project Mercury to support space missions.

1962 – The first computer video game, Spacewar!, was developed by MIT students. NASA’s Mariner 1 mission to Venus used an on-board computer for navigation.

1963 – The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) was developed.

1966 - nasa uses ibm computers for apollo space mission
[1966 – nasa uses ibm computers for apollo space mission]

1964 – IBM introduced the System/360, a mainframe computer system that established the standard for computer architecture.

1965 – Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) introduced the PDP-8, the first commercially successful minicomputer. The first chatbot, ELIZA, was created by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT.

1966 – Hewlett-Packard entered the general-purpose computer business with the HP 2116A. NASA used computers for the Apollo program’s navigation and control systems. (pic)

1967 – The first handheld calculator, the Cal-Tech, was introduced by Texas Instruments.

1968 – Douglas Engelbart demonstrated the first computer mouse and graphical user interface at “The Mother of All Demos.”

1969 – The ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, was established. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first humans on the Moon, used the Apollo Guidance Computer.

1976 apple 1 was introduced at a cost of 666 dollars just for the circuit board - case keyboard monitor extra. Jpg
[1976 – the apple-1 was introduced at a cost of $666 just for the circuit board. Case, keyboard, and monitor were optional]

1970 – Intel introduced the first commercially available dynamic RAM (DRAM) chip, the Intel 1103.

1971 – Intel released the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, which laid the groundwork for modern computing.

1972 – The C programming language was developed by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs. The first AI-based board game, “Nim,” was created by W. Grey Walter.

1973 – The Xerox Alto, the first computer designed for individual use with a graphical user interface, was developed at Xerox PARC.

1974 – The MITS Altair 8800, the first successful personal computer, was released.

1975 – The development of microprocessors made the concept of personal computing possible.

1976 – The first Apple computer, the Apple I, was released. (pic)

1977 – The Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers, was introduced.

1978 – The first spam email was sent by Gary Thuerk to 393 ARPANET users.

1979 – The first commercial cellular network, NMT, was launched in Japan.

1980 – IBM began developing its first personal computer, leading to the release of the IBM PC in 1981.

1981 – IBM released its first personal computer (model 5150), which became widely adopted.

1982 – The Commodore 64, one of the best-selling personal computers of all time, was released.

1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first personal computer with a graphical user interface, was introduced.

1985 logo of the first microsoft windows operating system
[1986 logo of the new microsoft windows® operating system]

1984 – Apple launched the Macintosh, featuring a revolutionary graphical user interface.

1985 – Microsoft released the first version of Windows, a graphical extension for MS-DOS.

1986 – The number of PCs shipped worldwide reached nearly 64 million, starting a 15-year period of continuous growth. (pic)

1987 – IBM introduced the PS/2 line of computers, which introduced the VGA video standard.

This is when I (author) first learned how to use a computer – way back in the black screen, blinking green cursor, and 5″ floppy drive days of DOS computing. Sure, it was geeky, but just becoming mainstream and geeks would soon rule the world.

1988 – Recordable CD-R discs became available. The AI program Deep Thought became the first computer to defeat a human chess master in a game under standard chess tournament time controls.

1989 – The World-Wide-Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee (although, most think Al Gore took credit for it – that’s a geek joke, if you chuckled, you’re as old as the author)

1990 – The laptop became more portable and practical for consumers. The first AI system to solve a mathematical theorem was developed.

1991 – The first web page was created and published by Tim Berners-Lee.

1992 – The first SMS text message was sent.

1996 ibm deep blue computer beats chess champion, garry kasparov
[1996 ibm deep blue computer beats chess champion, garry kasparov]

1993 – The World Wide Web (WWW) was released to the public, with browsers like Mosaic boosting its popularity.

1994 – Netscape Navigator, one of the first widely used web browsers, was released.

1995 – Microsoft launched Windows 95 & Internet Explorer, selling well over 1 million copies in the first 4 days of its release.

1996 – Approximately 40 million people were connected to the internet. IBM’s Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in one game. (pic)

1997 – Recordable and rewritable DVD discs became available. IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in a six-game chess match.

1998 – MP3 digital music technology was introduced by Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc. Google was founded, revolutionizing internet search algorithms.

1999 – Napster was founded, allowing users to share music online.

2000 – Approximately 400 million people worldwide were connected to the Internet by the end of the year. The first major commercial AI application, the AIBO robotic pet, was introduced by Sony.

2001 – Apple introduced the first iPod, revolutionizing digital music.

2002 – The industry shipped the 1 billionth PC, according to industry analyst firm Gartner Dataquest.

2003 – Early smartphones like the BlackBerry combined email, web access, and phone functionalities.

2006 facebook opens membership to 13 yo and older with a valid email
[2006 facebook logo]

2004 – Mark Zuckerberg launched “The Facebook” to students at Harvard by invite only.

2005 – Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook began to gain popularity.

2006 – Facebook opened its membership to everyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address. (pic)

2007 – Amazon released the first Kindle reader and Apple released the first generation iPhone.

2008 – Google launched the first Android phone, the HTC Dream.

2009 – The BlackBerry Curve was the most popular phone device on the market, dominating the smartphone category in sales.

2011 - ibm watson ai computer beats humans on jeopardy
[2011 – ibm watson ai wins jeopardy]

2010 – Apple released the first iPad tablet computer. Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, using AI for motion sensing, was released.

2011 – IBM’s Watson won “Jeopardy!” showcasing the capabilities of artificial intelligence in understanding natural language.

BTW, the author has been using AI, IBM’s Watson specifically, since 2018 – while the AI craze is new, it’s not new to us.

2012 – Apple introduced the iPad Mini. Google Now, an AI-powered personal assistant, was launched.

2013 – There were over 1.5 billion Facebook users worldwide, who spent over 700 billion hours on social media each month.

2014 – Amazon introduced Alexa, its voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant.

2016 google alphago beats go champion lee sedol - twice
[2016 google alphago machine learning (ai) program beats go champion lee sedol – twice]

2015 – Apple released the Apple Watch. Microsoft released Windows 10. Google’s AI program, AlphaGo, defeated a professional human Go player for the first time.

2016 – The first re-programmable quantum computer was created. It was the first quantum-computing platform capable of programming new algorithms into its system. AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, a world champion Go player, in a five-game match. (pic)

2017 – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began developing a new “Molecular Informatics” program using molecules as computers. OpenAI developed AI capable of defeating professional Dota 2 players.

20185G Technology Development: The development and initial rollout of 5G technology began, promising faster speeds and more reliable internet connections. This technology significantly impacts mobile computing, enabling more efficient data transfer and enhanced connectivity for IoT devices. Google Duplex, an AI system capable of making natural-sounding phone calls, was demonstrated.

2019Quantum Supremacy: Google announced that it had achieved quantum supremacy with its Sycamore processor, performing a computation in 200 seconds that would take the fastest supercomputer 10,000 years. This marks a significant step forward in the field of quantum computing. OpenAI’s GPT-2, a language model demonstrating significant advancements in natural language processing, was released.

Openai logo
[2020 – open ai is about to rock the world]

2020AI and Machine Learning Advancements: The use of AI and machine learning in various applications saw exponential growth. OpenAI’s GPT-3, one of the most advanced language models, was released, showcasing the potential of AI in natural language processing.

2021Rise of Remote Work Technologies: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work technologies. Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack became essential for businesses, leading to innovations in virtual collaboration and cloud computing. The AI language model, DALL-E, capable of generating images from textual descriptions, was introduced.

2022Metaverse Development: The concept of the metaverse gained traction, with companies like Facebook (rebranded as Meta) investing heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to create immersive digital environments for social interaction, work, and entertainment. AI-driven art and content creation tools saw significant advancements.

2023Advancements in Edge Computing: Edge computing became more prevalent, bringing computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed. This technology improves response times and saves bandwidth, supporting the growing number of IoT devices. AI-based tools for drug discovery and healthcare applications made significant progress.

2024Breakthroughs in Neuromorphic Computing: Neuromorphic computing, which mimics the neural structure and operation of the human brain, made significant strides. These advancements promise more efficient and powerful computing systems, potentially transforming AI and robotics. AI’s role in climate modeling and environmental monitoring expanded, providing better tools for addressing global challenges. And history is still being written…

2025- Come back to this blog in February 2025 to see what the top advances of the previous year brought us!

Advances in technology continue to shape the future of computing. Staying updated on the latest trends and innovations is essential for leveraging these advancements to meet your business needs effectively.

Looking For More Help?

Call the experts at Brave River Solutions to assess your current technology system and assist with business solutions ranging from system upgrades to web presence evaluations. For a free consultation, please call us at 401-828-8911.

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