Friday, December 14, 2012

History of the PC

by Raelene Gorlinsky

How many of us remember the pre-computer, especially pre-personal computer, days? When we typed on typewriters? Ooh, what about all the way back to manual typewriters (which are no longer even manufactured today)? I'm old enough to have taken typewriter class in high school. Oh yeah, same age as when I replaced my slide rule with a Texas Instruments calculator (basic arithmetic functions, cost over $100).

Now we can't live without our PCs, mini-PCs, tablets, mini-tablets. But it's really only been fifty years since the minicomputer revolution began. The November 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin (an organization for those of us over 50, old enough to remember typewriters) had an article "Evolution of the PC". Here's a summary, with a few annotations from me:

1962: LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer) took up about 8 square feet, had 1kb of memory, and cost $43,600. MIT got one for its biomedical research lab.

1965:  The first minicomputer success, DEC's PDP-8, debuted; price was $18,000. (So stop bitching about the price of an iPad, which has a zillion times more functionality, memory and capacity at a tiny percent of the price.)

1969: U.S. Dept. of Defense established ARPAnet, the first computer network, the forerunner to the internet.

1971: ARPAnet sends the first email.

1972: Atari's Pong released, starting the video game industry.

1975: The MITS Altair 8800 computer kit made the front cover of Popular Electronics. The computer had an impressive 256kb of memory.

1976: Steve Wozniak created the Apple I. Sales income from that enabled the Woz and Steve Jobs to start Apple Computers.

1977: Lots of new computer debuts: Commodore PET, Apple II, Tandy Radio Shack's TRS-80.

1981:  IBM labeled its minicomputer the "PC"; the description became a brand and sales soared.

1982: Instead of Man of the Year, Time named the computer (yes, generic computer) the Machine of the Year. The magazine story was written on a typewriter.

1983: Compac made the first PC clone, compatible with IBM's PC.

1984: A $1.5 million Super Bowl ad launched Apple's Macintosh, the first successful computer to have a mouse and user-friendly interface.

1990: The World Wide Web was invented.
1990: The first successful version of Microsoft Windows 3.0 launched.

1995: Amazon and eBay debuted.

1998: Google and PayPal debuted.
1998: Apple's iMac became the first in its line of iProducts.

2007: Apple launched the iPhone, with 8GB of memory.
2007: (November 17) Amazon debuted the Kindle e-reader. The whole stock sold out in five-and-a-half hours.

2008: Apple launched the iPad. It sold more than 300,000 on its first day.

Fascinating how far our information technology has advanced in only fifty years.


Barbara Elsborg said...

Yep it is and it makes me wonder what the next 50 will bring.

N.J.Walters said...

Yup, I remember typewriters and carbon paper for making copies. We've come a long way.

ECPI Editors said...

Mimeograph machines, the forerunner of copiers! Do you remember those? Green ink and a funky smell.