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History of Computers

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FC: History of Computers

2: 1939 Hewlett-Packard is Founded. David Packard and Bill Hewlett found Hewlett-Packard in a Palo Alto, California garage. Their first product was the HP 200A Audio Oscillator, which rapidly becomes a popular piece of test equipment for engineers. Walt Disney Pictures ordered eight of the 200B model to use as sound effects generators for the 1940 movie “Fantasia.”

3: 1940 The Complex Number Calculator (CNC) is completed. In 1939, Bell Telephone Laboratories completed this calculator, designed by researcher George Stibitz. In 1940, Stibitz demonstrated the CNC at an American Mathematical Society conference held at Dartmouth College. Stibitz stunned the group by performing calculations remotely on the CNC (located in New York City) using a Teletype connected via special telephone lines. This is considered to be the first demonstration of remote access computing.

4: 1942 In February, the public got its first glimpse of the ENIAC, a machine built by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert that improved by 1,000 times on the speed of its contemporaries. Start of project: 1943 Completed: 1946 Programmed: plug board and switches Speed: 5,000 operations per second Input/output: cards, lights, switches, plugs Floor space: 1,000 square feet Project leaders: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert.

6: 1954 The IBM 650 magnetic drum calculator established itself as the first mass-produced computer, with the company selling 450 in one year. Spinning at 12,500 rpm, the 650s magnetic data-storage drum allowed much faster access to stored material than drum memory machines.

7: 1960 The precursor to the minicomputer, DECs PDP-1 sold for $120,000. One of 50 built, the average PDP-1 included with a cathode ray tube graphic display, needed no air conditioning and required only one operator. Its large scope intrigued early hackers at MIT, who wrote the first computerized video game, SpaceWar!, for it. The SpaceWar! creators then used the game as a standard demonstration on all 50 computers.

8: j 1970 Xerox opens Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). In 1970, Xerox Corporation hired Dr. George Pake to lead a new research center in Palo Alto, California. PARC attracted some of the United States’ top computer scientists, and produced many groundbreaking inventions that transformed computing—most notably the personal computer graphical user interface, Ethernet, the laser printer, and object-oriented programming. Xerox was unable to market the inventions from PARC but others did, including Steve Jobs (Apple), Bob Metcalfe (3Com), as well as Charles Geschke and John Warnock (Adobe)

11: 18 81 Adam Osborne completed the first portable computer, the Osborne I, which weighed 24 pounds and cost $1,795. The price made the machine especially attractive, as it included software worth about $1,500. The machine featured a 5-inch display, 64 kilobytes of memory, a modem, and two 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drives. In April 1981, Byte Magazine Editor in Chief Chris Morgan mentioned the Osborne I in an article on "Future Trends in Personal Computing." He wrote: "I recently had an opportunity to see the Osborne I in action. I was impressed with its compactness: it will fit under an airplane seat. (Adam Osborne is currently seeking approval from the FAA to operate the unit on board a plane.) One quibble: the screen may be too small for some peoples taste."

12: 1990 Video Toaster is introduced by NewTek. The Video Toaster was a video editing and production system for the Amiga line of computers and included custom hardware and special software. Much more affordable than any other computer-based video editing system, the Video Toaster was not only for home use. It was popular with public access stations and was even good enough to be used for broadcast television shows like Home Improvement.

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