BLASTS FROM THE PAST. (Computer History from 50,000 BCE To 2008)

50,000 – 20,000 BCE

Pebbles and human fingers are the first tools for calculation. The Latin word digit means finger

(or toe) as well as a number, and the Latin word for pebbles is calculus, giving us the word “calculate”

20,000 BCE

The oldest-known objects used to represent numbers are bones with carved notches

c 2400 BCE

The abacus – the first known calculator – is invented in Babylonia

c 500-300 BCE

Ancient Indian writer Pingala describes the first binary(two digit code) numbering system

87 BCE

A mechanical computer used to predict the movement of stars is built. It is discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of the Geek island of Antikythera in 1901

Front panel of a 2007 reproduction

724 CE

Chinese engineer Liang Ling-Can builds the first mechanical clock (driven by water) parts that make a ticking sound. More than 1,300 years later, early computers and robots inherit the technology from the clock’s gear and spring mechanism


In baghdad, Muhammed idn Musa Al-Khwarizmi introduces the decimal numbering system and use of zero into Arabic mathematics


Italian Leonardo da Vinci designs the first mechanical calculator and a humanoid robot (dressed in a suit of armour and programmed to sit up, wave its arms and move its head)


Scotsman John Napier invents a system of movable rods based on logarithms, which could do sums


Frenchman Blaise Pascal invents theĀ  “Pascaline”, the first serious calculating machine, to help his father,a judge in the tax court


German Gottfried Leibniz perfects the binary system


Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents an automatic sewing loom controlled by punched cards.During its first demonstration in Lyon, France the machine is destroyed by an angry mob


Charles Babbage designs the Analytical Engine – the world’s first computer with punch card input devices, an arithmetic processor and a memory to store numbers. He runs out of money before it is ever built


Augusta Ada Lovelace (daughter of the poet Lord Byron) creates the first ever computer program for Babbages’s (daughter of the poet Lord Byron) creates the first ever computer program for Babbage’s Analytical Engine


George Boole works out how to write logical problem using algebra


The modern QWERTY keyboard layout is designed by Christopher Latham Sholes to avoid jamming when typing fast


Using Boolean algebra , William Stanley Jevons designs the first practical machine that can solve a logical problem faster than someone without the machine!


The first successful direct current electric motor is designed by Zenode Theophille Gramme. Without it, there would be no hard disk drives or fans to keep PCs cool


Americans Dorr E Felt and William S Burroughs pioneer new adding machines called Comptometers. They are operated by pressing keys and have a printing device


Lee De Forest develops a new electronic tube, the triode, which could be used as a switch – a key development in computing


The German Enigma encryption machine can “scramble” a message by substituting letters


Alan Turin develops the first software using binary


German Konrad Zuse creates the first working binary digital computer, the Z1 . On his Z2 and Z3 machines. he punches holes in old movie film to store his data


John VIncent Atanasoff and Clifford Bery develop the ABC (Atanasoft-Berry Computer) the first computing machine to use electricity, vacuum tubes, binary numbers and capacitors. It’s the size of a desk, weighs 315 kg (694)lb and contains a kilometre of wire


To counter the German Enigma machine, Alan Turing and engineer Tom Flowers develop the code-breaking machine Colossus, so-called because it filled an entire room


John Presper Eckert and John W Mauchly develop the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), a monster machine with 18,000 vacuum tubes. It’s the first to contain gates, buffers, and a high-speed storage-and-control device


F C Williams develops the cathode-ray tube (CRT) storing device, forerunner to the Random-Access Memory (RAM) device


Physicist William Shockley and his team invent the transistor at Bell Laboratories in the USA. Transistors miniaturize electronic circuits and help to make PCs in the future small, reliable and affordable


British engineer Andrew Donald Booth invents magnetic drum memory for computers


Maurice Wikes Builds the EDSAC, the first practical stored-program computer, at Cambridge University. It contains 3,000 vacuum tubes and uses mercury delay lines for memory


  • T Raymond Thompson and John Simmons develop the first business computer, the Lyons Electronic Office (LEO).
  • The UNIVAC 1 is the first business computer made in the USA


John Kiby and Robert Noyce work out how to manufacture complete networks of semiconductor material. Their Invention, the integrated circuit, kick-starts the computer revolution


Richard Mattessich develops computerized spreadsheets for use in accounting


Steve Russell invents SpaceWar! – the first game intended for computer use


  • Douglas Engelbart invents and patents the first computer mouse.
  • The American standard code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is developed to standardize data exchange


Ted Nelson develops an idea for an interconnected network of documents with embedded links to each other, which he calls “hypertext”


David Noble at IBM creates the first floppy disk


  • Seymour Cray develops the CDC 7600, the first supercomputer (a computer designed to receive and process vast amounts of data).
  • The forerunner of the Internet, the Advanced Researched Projects Agency connect researchers in universities in the United States


Music-lover and inventor James T Russell patents the first CD-ROM


  • Researchers at the University of Hawaii crate the wireless local-area network (LAN), using radio communications.
  • Computer engineer Ray Tomlinson sends the first e-mail message between two machines.
  • James Fergason invents the first practical Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
  • Intel introduces the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. The 4-bit silicon chip packs as much procession power as the first electronic computer – the ENIAC -into a space smaller than a thumbnail.


Atari releases Pong , the first commercial video game, which sells 100,000 copies


  • Robert M Metcalfe at Xerox creates the Ethernet, a way of connection computers in local-area network (LAN)
  • The minicomputer Xerox Alto is the first with GUI (Graphics User Interface), the desktop system that allows users to navigate using a mouse instead of typing in words


Ed Roberts designs the first popular microcomputer, the Altair, named after a planet in Star Trek


Micropro International launches WordStar, the first commercially successful word processing software


Paul Allen and Bill Gates buy the rights to a simple operating system, QDOS. They use it to develop MS-DOS, which becomes the standard operation system in PCs


  • John Postel, Paul Mockapetris and Craig Partridge pioneer the Domain Name System used to access websites over the Internet. Seven top level domain names are introduced : edu, com, gov, mil, net, org and int.
  • Apple introduces the Apple Macintosh, the first affordable compute that uses a mouse to navigate through drop-down menus, tabs and icons.
  • Microsoft Windows and Excel (the first graphical spreadsheet software) are released.


The first PC virus, known as the Brain virus, is written in Pakistan.


Tim Berners-Lee develops a “hypertext” system, creating the modern Internet.


Wolfenstein 3D vido game begins a revolution in PC gaming


There are unfounded fears of a “Millennium Bug” causing computers to crash as the switch from 31/12/99 to 01/01/00


Skype software allows people to make free internatinal phone calls via their computers


Increaseing convergence of different technologies int single small gadgets as Apple’s iPhone is released


The world’s first biodegradable computer, the iameco, is produced in Ireland, built from waste products from the lumber and pulp industry.

Ravindra Paradhi

Engineer & Blogger.

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