Basic Computer History

Computer history goes back farther than you might think, spanning from ancient history all the way through to modern-day laptop computers and desktops. While the subject contains enough content to fill a book, it's possible to capture computer history through a timeline of important milestones in computer development.

300 BC
The abacus is used by Babylonians.

1614
John Napier invents logarithms.

1623
Wilhelm Schickard invents the calculating clock.

1632
The slide rule is built in England.

1642
At the age of 19, Blaise Pascal invents a mechanical calculator.

1672
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz creates the first four-function calculator.

1801
Joseph Marie Jacquard invents punched wooden cards to control a power loom, paving the way for modern punch cards.

1820s
Charles Babbage begins work on the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. He creates conditional statements separating calculators from computers, and he introduces modern punch cards.

1840s
Ada Byron writes the first computer instructions for the Analytical Engine, and she creates subroutines and looping.

1887
Herman Hollerith invents a desk with a card reader made of gears to help automate the census count. Hollerith's company is bought several times and becomes International Business Machines, or IBM.

1936
Konrad Zuse independently invents the first programmable computer in Germany; the Z1. However, the Zuse computers were destroyed in bombings during World War II.

1937
J.V. Atanasoff builds a machine that stores data as a charge in a capacitor, which is a precursor to RAM.

1944
Mark I, the first programmable, digital computer, is built as a collaboration between Harvard and IBM.

1946
ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator, is funded by the US government to help with the World War II effort. It employs 18,000 vacuum tubes and requires manual patching to program.

1949
EDVAC is the first stored-program computer.

1951
UNIVAC is the first commercial computer.

1953
Grace Hopper invents the first high-level computer language, which later becomes COBOL. She also invents the first compiler to translate computer language to binary.

1961
The IBM Stretch computer reduces the computer's size from over 50 feet to down to 30.

1966
Hewlett-Packard releases its first PC, the HP-2115.

1970
The Intel 1103 is the first computer to utilize RAM.

1971
The Intel 4004 Computer Microprocessor is the first microprocessor.

1973
Ethernet is created for computer networking.

1976
Apple I is the first home computer, sold as a do-it-yourself kit for $600.

1981
IBM releases a home computer, the IBM PC.

1981
Microsoft introduces MS-DOS.

1983
Compaq introduces the first PC-clone computer compatible with IBM.

1983
The Apple Lisa Computer is the first home computer with a GUI, or graphical user interface.

1984
The Apple Macintosh Computer is a more affordable GUI-based home computer.

1985
Microsoft releases the first version of Windows.

1985
Dell introduces its first computer, the Turbo PC.

1986
IBM introduces the first laptop computers, known as PC Convertibles.

1994
IBM introduces the first laptop computers with integrated CD-ROMs; the IBM ThinkPad 775CD.

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