Computers have been around for longer than many of us can imagine and they have a large impact on our lives today. To better understand the computer or phone you are reading this on we have to look all the way back to the early 1800’s to see just how far technology has come in 178 years.

The Analytical Engine

1837 – Charles Babbage invents the Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose programmable computing engine.

It was programmed using punched cards and could add, subtract, divide, and multiply, a very large
accomplishment in 1837. It had an area to hold results and could output results in several different ways, including printout, punched cards, and graph plotting.

1843 – Ada Lovelace develops the first computer algorithm

Ada Lovelace: Mathematician and Programmer

Ada Lovelace loved mathematics in a time when intellectual pursuits was not widely encouraged for women. She was a lifelong friend of Babbage and when he began working on his Analytical Engine she was integral to his success, she translated a french memoir for on Analytical Engine, understood the plans as well as Babbage, and helped him program it when it was finally built.

1937 – The “Model K” Adder was built on a “Kitchen” table

This simple demonstration circuit provides proof of concept for applying Boolean logic to the design of computers

1940 – The Complex Number Calculator (CNC) is completed

George Stibitz demonstrated the CNC at an American Mathematical Society conference held at Dartmouth College. Stibitz performed calculations remotely on the CNC (Located in New York City) using a Teletype terminal, it was remote access computing.

1945 – The ENIAC is completed.

Two programmers working on the ENIAC

The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the world’s first fully electronic general-purpose computer. Its team, which included 6 female mathematicians who programmed the computer, created a computer that was used overcome the challenge of the tedious mathematical calculations needed to produce artillery firing tables for the Army. It cost $500,000 ($6,595,842.70 in 2015) weighed 30 tons (15 adult elephants), and took up 2,000 square feet of floor space.

1956 – Keyboards are invented

Doug Ross, a researcher at MIT, connected a Flexowriter teletypewriter to an MIT computer, its low cost and flexibility confirmed the usefulness of a keyboard. This pathed the way for development of keyboards like the ones we use today.

Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, USN, Ph.D

1960 – The COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) is created

A team of computer manufactures and the Pentagon developed the programming language COBOL which aimed for easy readable programs and as much machine independence as possible. This team included United States Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who was a programmer and would advocate for women in the technology field throughout her life.

1963 – The first Computer Mouse is invented

Douglas Engelbart invented the first mouse, it had a wooden base, used two wheels to roll back and forth, and  was the first mouse to fit the human hand. Its name came from the fact that the cord that ran from the mouse to the computer looked like a mouse’s tail.

1964 – CDC 6600 supercomputer introduced

This computer was the fastest computer in the world at the time, and 10 small computers to offload work from the central processor.

1968 – DARPA creates ARPAnet, the first computer network

The ARPAnet was the ancestor to the internet. It was the brainchild of Bob Taylor who thought of it when he constantly had to move to different computer terminals to talk with researchers from M.I.T. or Berkley. It’s like it your phone could only call one number and to call another number you had to get another phone. When it was completed in 1968 it was the first computer network.

The Altair 8800

1975 – The First Personal Computer

The MITS Altair 8800 was the first ever personal computer, it was a build it yourself kit for hobbyist but soon became so popular that began to sell them fully assembled. The program language used to program the Altair was written by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, it would become the founding product of Microsoft.

1976 – Steve Wozniak completes the Apple 1

 Designed by Steve Wozniak and marketed by Steve Jobs, the Apple 1 (Pictured left) was a single-board computer for hobbyists, but when a Mountain View computer store The Byte Shop ordered 50 assembled  systems Wozniak and Jobs started a new company called Apple Computer Inc.

Apple II

1977 – Apple  II is released

With a power supply keyboard, case, manual, and cassette tape with the game Breakout, the Apple found popularity beyond the hobbyist community. When connected to a color television set the Apple II produced brilliant color graphics for the time.

1981 – IBM introduces its Personal Computer

The IBM Model 5150

Before 1981 Personal Computers were mainly for businesses or hobbyist but they were brought to the average person when IBM released their IBM Model 5150.

1984 – The Apple Macintosh

Built to compete with IBM’s stranglehold on the computer industry the Macintosh was the first successful mouse driven computer, it came with a drawing and word processing program for $2500.

1991 – The PowerBook is introduced 

Apple had tried creating a portable laptop before, with little successes but the PowerBook had a internal floppy drive and built-in trackball and sold with great success until 2006 when it was discontinued.

1995 – IBM releases the ThinkPad 

The IBM ThinkPad 701C
The IBM ThinkPad 701C

The ThinkPad of 1995 bears an uncanny resemblance to the ThinkPads of today and when it was released it had a full-sized keyboard and a small screen attached. The keyboard folded into three pieces and was dubbed “The Butterfly”.

1999 – iMac Desktop Released

iMac Poster

A colorful desktop that was a big change from  the gray, black, and white of previous years, the iMac was easy to use and saved Apple from near-bankruptcy in the mid-1990’s. It also the first new product released under the leadership of Steve Jobs.

2008 – The Macbook Air is released

Apple introduced the Macbook Air, the first ultra notebook, it was light, thin, with a high capacity battery. It had a camera, Wi-Fi capabilities, and was the first mass-market computer to use solid-state disk. The Macbook Air was the first in today’s modern laptops and left many companies trying to catch up for  years to come.

2013 – The Surface Pro is released

The first in a line of Tablet-Laptop hybrids the original Surface Pro contained the Windows 8 operating system, weighed two pounds and used a solid state drive to make the computer very small. It allowed people to write on it like a piece of paper and became the first in the Tablet-Laptop hybrid market.