Lexikon's History of Computing

* * * Who Was First in Computing? * * *

Historical Firsts in Computing 1939 - 1981

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Editor's Note: Although there is often some controversy over who built the first computer, depending on what definition of "computer" is used, this listing provides one perspective on key historical firsts in the field of computing.

Dates

Events

1936-1938 - First programmable computer
Name:
Z1 Machine
Developers: Konrad Zuse
Approximate Development Period: 1936-1938

1939 - First remotely operational, electromagnetic relay calculator
Name:
Bell Labs Model 1 (Stibitz Complex Calculator)
Developers: George Stibitz and Samuel B. Williams at Bell Labs
Approximate Development Period: April 1939 to October 1939

1938-1941 -
First fully functional, automatic, programmable, general purpose, digital computer
Name:
Z3 Machine (my vote for the first real computer, editor)
Photo
Developer: Dr. Konrad Zuse
Approximate Development Period: 1938-1941

1940-1942 - First functioning prototype electronic digital computer
Name:
Atanasoff-Berry Computer
(ABC computer) Photo
Developers: John V. Atanasoff, Clifford Berry
Approximate Development Period: 1939-1942

1943 - First programmable, electronic digital, code-breaking computer
Name:
Colossus
Developers: Allied wartime efforts at Bletchley Park, England
Approximate Development Period: 1939-1943

1944 - First large scale, automatic, electromechanical computer
Photo
Name:
HARVARD MARK I (a.k.a. IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator - "ASCC")
Developers: Howard H. Aiken and others
Approximate Development Period: 1937-1944

1946 - First large scale, general purpose, electronic digital computer
Name:
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer)
Photo
Developers: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert
Approximate Development Period: 1943-1946

1947 - First functioning prototype Business Computer
Name:
Remington Rand (Model 2)
Info
Developer: Loring P. Crosman, Remington Rand
Approximate Development Period: 1943-1947

1948 - First prototype, electronic stored-program computer
Name:
Manchester Mark I
Developers: F. C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Max Neuman
Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory, Manchester University
Approximate Development Period: 1946-1948
First stored program run June 21, 1948

1949 - First large scale, fully functional, stored-program, electronic digital computer
to operate a regular computing service
Name:
EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Computer)
Developer: Maurice Wilkes and others at University Mathematical
Laboratory, Cambridge University, England
Approximate Development Period: 1946-1949
First successful program run May 6, 1949

1949-1950 - First real-time processing computer
Name:
Whirlwind I
Photo
Developer: J. Forrester and others at MIT
Approximate Development Period: 1946-1953

1951 - First commercially available computer
Also first commercially available machine to use stored programs and a compiler.
Name:
UNIVAC I
Photo
Developers: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert
Approximate Development Period: 1948-1951
1952 - Considered by Some to be the First Stored Program Computer

1951 - First Business Computer established in an office environment
Name:
LEO-I (Lyons Electronic Office)
Photo
Developers: Lyons
Approximate Development Period: 1947-1951 (and refinements through 1954)

1951 - Remington Rand Model 3
Name:
Remington Rand Model 3 (precursor to the Rand 409)
Photo
Developers: Frank Hannon, Loring P. Crosman, and others at Remington Rand
Aproximate Development Period: 1947-1951

Name
: EDVAC "Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer" Photo
Developers: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert
Approximate Development Period: 1951-1952

1953 - First Transistorized electronic digital computer
Name:
TX-0
Photo
Developer: MIT Lincoln Labs
Approximate Development Period: 1951-1953

1953 - First IBM electronic digital computer
Name:
IBM 701 (aka "Defense Calculator")
Photo
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1951-1953

1953 - World's first Supercomputer
Name:
IBM 704
Photo
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1951-1953

1955-1956 - First successfully marketed toy digital computing device
Name
: Geniac Photo
Developer: Edmund C. Berkeley
Approximate Development Period: 1955-1956

1957 - First fully solid-state business computer
Name:
NCR 304
Photo
Developer: NCR Corporation
Approximate Development Period: 1955-1957

1957 - First commercial disk drive with moving read/write heads
Name:
IBM 305 RAMAC
Photo
Developer: IBM

1959 -1960 First successful and affordable minicomputer
Name:
PDP-1
Photo
Developer: Digital Equipment Corporation
Approximate Development Period: 1957-1959

1959: IBM's first mass-produced digital, all-transistorized, affordable business computer
Name:
IBM 1401
Photo
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1958-1959

1960 - First standardized business computer programming language
Name:
COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language)
Developers: Conference on Data System Languages (CODASYL)
Approximate Development Period: 1959-1960

1961 - First commercially available
integrated circuit
Developers: Fairchild Corporation
Approximate Development Period: 1959-1961

1962 - First Personal Computer (specifically designed for biomedical technicians)
Name:
Linc (came with screen, keyboard, and monitor)
Developers: Lincoln Labs (Wes Clark)
Approximate Development Period: 1962 (2,000 were eventually made)

1962 - First Object Oriented Language, first non-procedural language, first
interactive graphics display, first on-screen window
Name:
Sketchpad
Developers: Ivan Sutherland

1963 - First reliable commercial use of VDTs for computer display
Name:
PDP-1
Photo
Developer: Digital Equipment Corporation
(Other earlier computers experimented with VDT use also, including CRT oscilloscope readouts.)

1963 - First
"mouse" input device
First
integrated text-graphics display;
First
implementation of hypertext Links;
First incorporation of
hypertext, mouse, and videoconferencing technology
Developer: Douglas Engelbart and Augmentation Research Center at SRI
Approximate Development Period: 1962-1964 (and beyond)

1964 - First large scale, on-line, real-time reservation tracking system
Name:
SABRE* (Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment)
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1962-1964

1967 - First desktop Personal Computer with Multiple Windowing
Name:
Flex Machine (Alan Kay worked with this machine)
Developer: -

1969 - First
multiple windows user interface;
First
large scale implementation of electronic mail
Developers: Douglas Engelbart and Augmentation Research Center
Approximate Development Period: 1969-1970

1971 - First commercially available microprocessor
Name:
Intel 4004
Developer: Intel Corporation
Developed for Busicom Company

1971 - First regular use of
8 inch floppy (magnetic storage) diskettes
Developer: Alan Shugart at IBM

1972 - First digital microcomputer available to general public for personal use
Name
: MITS 816
Developers: MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems)
Approximate Development Period: 1972

1972 - First digital microcomputer series produced
Name
: Intellec
Developers: Intel Corporation
Approximate Development Period: 1972 (production stopped in about 1976)
(apparently not a general purpose microcomputer, but specific in nature)

1973 - First fully functional personal computer complete with monitor designed for office work,
research, and eventually linked together in an (ethernet) network configuration.
Name
: Alto --
Photo
Developer: Xerox PARC
Approximate Development Period: 1970-1973
(Not widely marketed to general public, very expensive.
Xerox chose not to pursue large scale production.)

1974 - First formally advertised (in a popular magazine) personal computer
Name:
Scelbi ("Scientific, ELectronic, and BIological")
Developer: Scelbi Computer Consulting, Milford, Connecticut
Date of advertisement: March 1974, "QST" magazine

1974 - First widely marketed personal computer kit for general public
Name:
Mark-8
Developer: Jonathan Titus
Approximate Development Period: 1973-1974

1974-1975 - First mass produced and marketed personal computer (both kit and assembled)
Name:
Altair 8800 --
Photo
Developers: Edward Roberts, William Yates and Jim Bybee
Approximate Development Period: 1973-1974

1975 - First "IBM personal computer"
Name:
IBM 5100 --
Photo
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1973-1975
(Sales and marketing of this unit were unsuccessful)

1976 - First Apple 1 Computer Debuts at the Homebrew Computer Club
in Palo Alto, California. Sells in kit form, circuit board only.
Name:
Apple I
Photo
Developer: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak
Approximate Development Period: 1974-1976

1977 - First highly successful personal computer marketed, also
probably the first personal computer to have color graphics
Name:
Apple II
Developer: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak
Approximate Development Period: 1975-1977

1981 - First successfully marketed IBM personal computer
Name:
IBM PC
Photo
Developer: IBM
Approximate Development Period: 1978-1981

1981 - First fully self-contained and integrated Portable PC
Name:
Osborne I --
Photo
Developer: Adam Osborne, Osborne Computer Corporation
Approximate Development Period: 1980-1981

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