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Dawn of the Computer Age














The first program-controlled computer, Harvard's Mark I, is built by Howard H. Aiken and his team at Harvard University.  The machine is 51 feet long, weighs 5 tons, and has 750,000 parts.



The first computer bug, a moth, is found inside the Harvard’s Mark II while it was being tested.  Researchers told colleagues they had "debugged" the machine, which lead to the concept of "debugging a computer program."


 (Click image for full picture)



The first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIAC, is completed at the Ballistic Research Laboratory, by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert.  It weighs 30 tons and can do 100,000 calculations per second.



The first transistor, a solid-state amplifier made of germanium, plastic and gold, is invented by Walter Brattain and John Bardeen in a series of experiments conducted between November 17 and December 23.



The 33-rpm record is invented.



The 45-rpm record is invented.


The first stored-program computer, the EDSAC, is built.


Quote of the Year:  “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 19,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may only have 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons.”

–Popular Mechanics, March, 1949



The floppy disk is invented by Doctor Yoshiro Nakamatsu, at the Imperial University in Tokyo.   The sales license for the disk is granted to IBM.



The first commercial computer, UNIVAC-1, is sold commercially.  The computer is designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, and is able to process both numeric and textual information.



The first mass-produced transistor radio is launched by Sony (at the time called “Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo LTD.”).



The first hard drive, IBM’s RAMAC 305, is introduced, consisting of 50 twenty-four inch diameter platters with a total storage capacity of 5 MB.



The integrated circuit is separately and simultaneously invented by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor.  This enables a circuit consisting of capacitors, resistors and transistors to be fashioned out of a single crystal.





The compact cassette tape is introduced by Phillips Company of the Netherlands.



The ASCII code is developed by Robert W. Bemer of American National Standards Institute.   The code assigns standard numerical values to all characters on the keyboard, enabling computers that have otherwise nothing in common to communicate with one another.



The computer mouse is invented by Douglas Engelbart.  The device is not widely used until it is adopted by Apple Computers in 1983 and by IBM in 1987.


The digital compact disc is invented by American physicist James T. Russell. The system records and replays sound using light. (The spelling of “disc” with a “c” is chosen and included in the patent.  “Floppy disk” and “hard disk” are spelt with a “k.”)


The eight-track tape is introduced as an option on certain Ford and Mercury luxury cars.  Developed in conjunction with Motorola and RCA-Victor records, eight-track tapes become the first successful form of tape-based recorded music, until their discontinuation in the early 1980’s.



The genesis of what will become the Internet is born when the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the U.S. Dept. of Defense awards Bolt, Beranek, and Newman Inc. (BBN) a contract to develop the backbone of packet switches for ARPAnet.  The system had four main hubs: the Universities of California in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, the University of Utah, and SRI International.  A researcher is now able to sit at a computer in one of these hubs and download data from computers at any of the other hubs. 



The first email program is created by Ray Tomlinson of BBN.  The @ sign was chosen to mean "at" in the address.


HBO invents pay-TV service for cable.


Atari is founded (as Syzygy) by Nolan Bushnell, who also designed “Pong.”




FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is developed for ARPAnet.  FTP is still used to send and retrieve files across the Internet.

Ethernet is designed by Bob Metcalfe.  The system describes the set of rules by which computers on local area networks send and receive information to one another.



The protocol later to be called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Program/Internet Protocol) is outlined by Robert Kahn of DARPA and Vinton Cerf of Stanford in a paper called “A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection.”  The paper is also the first use of the term “Internet”



Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975.


The Betamax video recorder is introduced by Sony.


The term "personal computer" is coined Ed Roberts to describe an early personal computer called the Altair.



The VHS format VCR is introduced by JVC to consumers in Japan for $885.

Apple Computer is created Steven Jobs and Steven Wozniak on April 1, 1976 in a California garage.




Quote of the Year: "There is no reason anyone would want

a computer in their home."

--Ken Olson, President, Chairman and Founder,

 of Digital Equipment Corp.



The Laserdisc is developed by Pioneer.  They were first used by General Motors to train Cadillac salesmen, and not sold for home use until 1980.



Sony Walkman portable audio cassette player is introduced by Sony.



A global standard for CDs is proposed by Sony and Philips.



The first IBM PC is sold

DOS (Disc Operating System) is created by Microsoft.


The first laptop computers are sold to public.



The first commercial CD, Billy Joel's 52nd Street, is released by Sony Music.

Sun Microsystems is founded.



First cellular phone network is started in the United States.


The computer is named "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine.










   PART I:  The Dark Ages:  When Time Stood Still

   PART II:  Dawn of the Computer Age

   PART III:  Dawn of the Internet

   PART IV:  The Rise of (and Battle Over) the MP3

   PART V:  Life After Napster 


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