by Carol Iaciofano

Carol Iaciofano is a technical writer for Engineering Automation Systems of Middletown, Connecticut. Her book reviews appear regularly in the Hartford Courant.

The idea of any time line is to present developments in a particular field as a continuum, a cascade of inevitability leading up to the present. A closer look at our highlights from computer history will show this long and winding road to have been traveled in fits and starts. What if Pascal hadn't gotten religion and retreated from science? Or if Babbage had completed his Analytical Engine? Or if Konrad Zuse had been able to get all the spare parts he needed? We'll never know whether the flow of computer developments would have been greatly accelerated. The course of computer history does, after all, seem inevitable.


In France, mathematics genius Blaise Pascal devises the first true calculating machine. Using eight rotating gears and wheels, the Pascaline performs addition and subtraction.

Blaise Pascal


Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, German philosopher, historian and scientist, perfects the binary system of notation. In a few centuries this system of is and Os will prove invaluable in machine computations.


French silk weaver JosephMarie Jacquard invents a loom with punched cardboard cards for controlling woven patterns. The Jacquard loom modernizes the textile industry and will become the model for Babbage's use of punched cards.

Punched Carboard Card


In London, Charles Babbage begins work on his Difference Engine, a calculating machine that performs mathematical functions (with sines, cosines and logarithms) to six decimal places. The hundreds of gears, shafts and counters weigh two tons. Seventy yearslater William Burroughs will use these principles in constructing the first successful adding machines.

Charles Babbage


Analytical Engine

Babbage designs the first general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine, to which the modern computer bears a remarkable resemblance. The Engine has five parts: the mill, or calculating unit, the store (memory), an input device, a control section and a printer. The input and the control section are fed by punched cards.


Babbage's friend Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace documents his major work in her "Observations on Mr. Babbage's Analytical Engine." She will also write the first program, streamlining operations with such instructions as "Here follows a repetition of operations 13 to 23.

Ada Lovelace


With two landmark theses, English mathematician George Boole sets up a system called Boolean algebra,, wherein logical problems are solved like algebraic problems. Boole's theories will form the bedrock of computer science.

George Boole


The first computer prize, a gold medal, is awarded at the Paris Exhibition to the Scheutz Difference Engine. Swedish engineer Georg Scheutz devised this simplified version of Babbage's machine after reading Lady Lovelace's "Observations." By this time painfully frustrated with his own slow progress, Babbage is in the audience when the medal is awarded to the younger inventor.

George Scheutz

difference engine


The Registrar's Office in England commissions a Scheutz Difference Engine for calculating actuarial tables to predict life expectancy. This is the first use of the new technology by a government agency.


Dr. Herman Hollerith completes the first electromechanical counting machine, the Hollerith tabulator, in which punched cards are used in data processing for the first time.

Hollerrith Tabulator

The U.S. government buys the Hollerith tabulator to compute the census. The machine completes the job in just 6 weeks as against previous 10-year preparation periods. (The U.S. population is 62,622,250.)

Scientific American


slot machine

Charles Fey, a young mechanic, opens arcade history by creating the slot machine. For $20 he sells the "Liberty Bell" to a San Francisco saloon, where it sits on the bar, accepts and pays out nickels, and is a huge success. (Symbols are bells, horseshoes, hearts, diamonds, spades and one star.)


Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith forms the Tabulating Machine Company to accommodate the demand for his counting machines. Eventually, the firm will take on a new identity as the Computing Tabulating and Recording Company (CTR).

counting machine


Thomas J. Watson leaves National Cash Register, where he coined his legendary THINK slogan, to assume presidency of the now ailing CTR.

Thomas Watson


With Watson at the helm, Hollerith's fledgling finally emerges as IBM (International Business Machines).


The "modern era of computation" begins at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where electrical engineer Vannevar Bush and colleagues devise a large-scale analog calculator. Though mostly mechanical, the calculator has electric motors that store number values as voltages in its thermionic tubes. For this invention, some consider Bush the true father of computing.

Vannevar Bush

Bell Laboratories is founded in Murray Hill, N.J.

Bell Labs


Konrad Zuse

In Germany, inventor Konrad Zuse decides to use the binary system in his computer designs. The binary numbers calculate much faster than decimals.


English mathematician Alan M. Turing publishes his "On Computable Numbers," one of the single most important papers in the development of computer science.

Alan Turing

Zuse designs the Z1, a computer with keyboard input, mechanical switches for storing numbers, and a row of light bulbs to flash answers. The Z1 can store instructions and is thus the first working stored program computer.

Z1 computer


Helmut Schreyer

In Germany, Helmut Schreyer receives his doctoral thesis in engineering for demonstrating how electronic vacuum tubes can be used as basic units for ultra-high-speed digital computers.



Hewlett-Packard is founded in Palo Alto, Calif.


George Stibitz

George Stibitz rents a telephone link from Dartmouth to his computer at Bell Labs in New Jersey and demonstrates long-distance computing in an address to the Dartmouth Mathematical Society in Hanover, N. H.


Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush completes his second model of the analog calculator, subsequently used to help devise artillery firing tables for the U.S. government.


Colossus, the world's first electronic computer, begins operations in December at Bletchley Park in England. Designed by Alan Turing and a team of scientists to decipher the signals of the German code machine Enigma, Colossus will help win the war for the Allies.


To help the war effort, math professor Grace Murray Hopper enters the U.S. Naval Reserve and embarks on the first modern programming career. Upon graduation, she is assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard.

Grace Hopper


Howard Aiken

Mark I

The Harvard Mark I, designed primarily by Prof. Howard Aiken (with funding by Thomas Watson and IBM), launches today's computer industry. The Mark I is the world's first fully automatic computer and the first machine to fulfill Babbage's dream. 1945

In wartime Germany, unable to obtain material for circuits to control his computers, Konrad Zuse creates the first programming language, Plankalkul, for both numerical and nonnumerical problems.

John von Neumann

In America, John von Neumann posits his five characteristics of computing: 1) fully electronic execution, 2) the binary number system, 3) an internal memory, 4) a stored program, and 5) universality i.e., a machine that can perform more than one task.


Electrical engineer J. Presper Eckert and physicist John Mauchly complete the first programmable electronic computer, ENIAC, at the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

Eckert and Mauchly form the first commercial computer firm, the Electronic Control Company (later the Eckert-Mauchly Corporation), to manufacture electronic computers.


Bell Labs scientists John Bardeen, Walter Houser Brattain and William Bradford Shockley revolutionize the young computer industry by inventing the transistor,



Claude Shannon

M.I.T.'s Claude Shannon switches on computer game history when he demonstrates how to outline problems using game-playing machines, then builds a chessplaying machine called Caissac.

EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Computer) makes its first calculation on May 6. Built by Maurice Wilkes at Cambridge University, England, EDSAC performs one computation in three milliseconds. Wilkes is the first inventor to have a subroutine libraryin mind while designing a computer.



On an 8x8 board, Alan Turing writes the first computer program to simulate chess


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., writes about "EPICAC" in one of the first love stories involving a computer.


The American military begins to use computers to simulate operations in its "war games."


The first nonspecialist computer magazine, Computers and People (originally titled Computers and Automation), comes on the market.

John Pinkerton completes the first business computer, LEO, for Lyons Teashop Company in England. LEO will be used for administrative purposes, not for calculating.

Eckert and Mauchly complete UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer), the first computer specifically designed for commercial operations, and deliver it to the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating the 1950 census.

While working on UNIVAC I, Grace Hopper meets the need for faster programming by devising a set of  instructions that tells the machine how to convert its language into symbolic code. This is the A-O compiler, the first of its kind.


IBM, the world's largest purveyor of punched card office machines, shifts to the manufacture of electronic computers.

John Diebold's "Automation: The Advent of the Factory" leads off the string of studies that will explore the computer's impact on employment and leisure time.



FORTRAN is born, through a paper titled "Specifications for the IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System, FORTRAN," written by IBM's Programming Research Group.


At RCA Labs in Princeton, N.J., Harry Olson and Herbert Belar complete the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer, the first of its kind.

M.I. T.'s Whirlwind I introduces the first computer graphics: primitive interactive line drawings on two display consoles.


The first formal computer user group, SHARE, meets in the basement of Rand Corporation headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif. The members, including government, research, aviation and computer organizations, gather to exchange "homegrown" software in the absence of instructions for the IBM 704.


silicon vally

The 45-mile stretch of high-tech creativity known as Silicon Valley etches itself on the landscape of California's Santa Clara Valley.

Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley receive the Nobel Prize for their invention of the transistor. Shockley, who had left Bell Labs in 1955, founds Shockley Transistor Corporation, one of the first of the Silicon Valley firms. Engineers from Shockley Transistor will form their own major electronics firms, such as Fairchild Semiconductor.

Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley


At his marriage in Amsterdam, programming expert Edsgar Dijkstra fills in his profession on the license as "programer." Finding this unacceptable on the grounds that no such profession exists, city authorities erase his entry and sub stitute "theoretical physicist."

Lejaren Hiller arranges the first computercomposed music, Illiac Suite for String Quartet.

In Maynard, Mass., Ken Olsen starts Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) as a mail-order parts business.


Rout 128

Computer firms spring up along Route 128, north of Boston.

Jack Kilby

Texas Instruments' Jack St. Kilby develops the first working model of the integrated circuit.


At Control Data Corporation, Seymour Cray designs the CDC 1604, the first fully transistorized supercomputer.

CDC 1604


At Fairchild Semiconductor, Robert Noyce and Jean Hoerni develop the planar process, in which circuit components are interconnected by photoengraving on a flat, polished wafer, usually silicon. With integrated circuits, computers grow smaller and much more powerful.

CODASYL (Committee on Data Systems Languages), representing government, military and industry, meets to decide on a common language for business data processing. COBOL, for Common Business Oriented Language, is published within months, whereupon the Defense Department stipulates that all its suppliers must use the language.


The term "software" becomes widely accepted throughout the computer industry.


The National Institutes of Health Clinic Center in Bethesda, Md., implements the first computerized patientmonitoring system.

patient monitoring system


Dr. Edward O. Thorp's best-selling Beat the Dealer describes using a computer to work out the odds at blackjack. Thorpe's system is so successful that several casinos bar him from the game.

Beat the Dealer

Disk file storage is initiated with the IBM 1440 series. The 14-inch disks look like phonograph records, are arranged in stacks of six and store three million characters.

With a $30 million investment and an IBM 9090, American Airlines launches SABRE, the first computerized airline reservation system. One of the largest commercial data bases in operation, SABRE allows customers to book reservations and rent cars. By 1968 it will handle over 100,000 calls per day from passengers, travel agents and other airlines.

Ivan Sutherland, a doctoral candidate at M. I. T.'s Lincoln Laboratory, designs Sketchpad, a linedrawing system for draftsmen. Using a cathode ray display tube, the system features an electronic stylus, or light pen, to display calculations at any stage of design. Soon after, another M.I.T. researcher, Timothy Johnson, develops a collateral program to display three-dimen-  sional drawings.



Joseph Weizenbaum

M.I.T.'s Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum develops Eliza, a program that simulates conversation between psychotherapist and patient.

General Motor; Research Labs produces the first computerdesigned auto part: the trunk lid for 1965 Cadillacs. The computer system is DAC-1 (Design Augmented by Computer), whose screen displays an image that can be modified with a light pen.

fter more than 73,000 hours of steadfast service, UNIVAC I is retired to the Smithsonian Institution.



Sara Lee, maker of frozen pastries, becomes the first fully automated factory. The Deerfield, Ill., plant uses a Honeywell 610 computer to change equipment speeds and oven temperatures and to determine what products are needed in filling orders.

In Texas v. Hancock a programmer who stole his employer's computer software, worth about $5 million, is convicted and sentenced to five years. This constitutes the first computer crime leading to criminal prosecution.


John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz

On May 1, at four A.M. in a room at Dartmouth College, John Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz run their first program in BASIC (Beginners' All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) for non professional computer users.

Harris-Intertype Corporation introduces three models of a computer designed specifically for typesetting. All of them justify automatically, and the top-end version offers near-perfect hyphenation.

Several Wall Street firms turn to computers for securities analysis and accounting.

DEC produces the first "mini" computer, incorporating many features of a large computer but with smaller storage capacity and a slower processing speed.

Schools begin to use computers for science simulation, math quizzes and educational games.


In the first federal case involving criminal use of computers, U.S. v. Bennett, a bank programmer is convicted of adjusting a computer to ignore all his overdraft checks.


Operation Match, one of the early computer dating services, opens in Cambridge, Mass.

Texas Instruments unveils the first solid-state hand-held calculator. It has no electronic display, but prints out answers on a strip of heat-sensitive paper.



MacHack IV

The chess-playing MacHack IV is entered by Richard Greenblatt in the Massachusetts state championship, becoming the first program to compete successfully against human chess players.

Computerworld, one of the most comprehensive weekly newspapers geared to the computer industry, begins publication.


The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey plays across the country, introducing the mutinous computer HAL.

Switched-On Bach

W. Carlos' Switched-On Bach, an album of fugues, preludes and two-part inventions played on a Moog Synthesizer, is a big hit.

Gordon Moore

Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce leave Fairchild Semiconductor to form Intel (Integrated Electronics) Corporation.



M.E. Hoff, Jr., a young engineer at Intel, takes charge of the Busicom project involving the manufacture of chips for a Japanese calculator firm. His improvements on the design result in a central processing unit of 2,250 microminiaturized transistors on a chip less than 1/6" long and 1/8" wide. The Intel 4004 is the first micro computer.

Intel 4004


Ralph Baer

Ralph Baer, a division manager at Sanders Associates in New Hampshire, originates the home video game when he develops an electronic unit with hand controls that sends broadcast signals to a TV set.


Magnavox buys the patent rights to Baer's TV/hand-control invention, then sells the sublicensing rights to Atari and other manufacturers.

TV game

Left with a stock of unsold chips, Intel puts the 4004 microprocessor in its catalog. To everyone's surprise, the chip takes the industry by storm and paves the way for most of the advances of the decade.


IBM announces the System/32, a desk-size unit that contains all the computer hardware.

Intel develops the 8008 microprocessor, originally designed for the Display Terminal Corporation (now Datapoint) CRT. The 8008 ultimately satisfies all customer requirements except in the area of speed.

In a move to reduce clutter and clatter in the newsroom, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle and Herald install CRTs for use in writing and editing stories.

CRT editor

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell invents and markets Pong, considered by many the first milestone in video game history.


Diablo Systems of Hayward, Calif., develops the first automatic printer for data processing systems. The "daisy wheel" Hytype Printer I features a glass-reinforced nylon disk and can print 30 characters per second; integrated circuits do much of the work.

The Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, are the first games to use computers as "primary" judges of times and finishes. The computer companies involved are Gebr. Junghams GMBH and Compagnie de Montres Longines Francillon S. A.


The National Computer Conference is held at the New York Coliseum June 4-8, replacing the fall and spring joint conferences.

Intel turns out the 8008 microprocessor, which is 20 times faster than the original 4004 chip.

hugart Associates of Sunnyvale, Calif., ships its first 8" floppy disks. Replacing punched cards as a data entry medium, the reusable plastic/ oxide disks weigh less than two ounces and store programs and files.

Truong Trong Thi

Truong Trong Thi, a Frenchman of Vietnamese origin, introduces the first commercially available microcomputer system, based on the Intel 8008, but fails to secure adequate distribution.


The July cover story of Radio-Electronics magazine tells how to "Build the Mark-8, Your Personal Minicomputer" (with an Intel 8008 microprocessor).

Computer magazines now range from Computer Law and Tax Reporter, which documents legal battles in data processing, to Creative Computing, one of the first magazines devoted to recreational use of computers.

In the first experiment with bank computer terminals, two branches of the Lincoln, Neb., Hinky Dinky grocery chain install computer terminals for bank deposits and withdrawals. In six weeks First Federal Savings & Loan takes in 672 new accounts.

Two leading designers at Intel leave to form Zilog, another microprocessing firm. They develop the Z80 chip, which competes directly with Intel's new 8080.


The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics features a cover story on the MITS Altair, the first widely available personal computer.

William Gates and Paul Allen

In a five-week period, Harvard student William Gates and associate Paul Allen adapt BASIC to fit the microcomputer. Having wrested the new computers from the hands of a small group of assembly language programmers, they form Microsoft to market their version of the language.

Objective Design of Tallahassee, Fla., offers Encounter, the first commercial personal computer game, in assembly language on paper tape.


The New York Times starts to convert to electronic editing and typesetting on a Harris 2550 system.

With a surplus of calculator chips, Commodore enters the personal computer market through MOS (metal oxide semiconductor) technology.

The first Adventure game is programmed by Crowther and Wood at Princeton University.

Byte magazine

The number of computer magazines grows to include Byte: The Small Systems Journal (aimed at the "personal computer" amateur and professional), the quarterly Computer Graphics and Art, and Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia for the microcomputer hobbyist.


Storage systems become smaller, more powerful and more convenient. Micropolis Corporation of Northridge, Calif., announces the Metafloppy, a family of integrated 51/4' floppy disk systems with the storage capacity of 8" disks.

The newsweekly Computerworld begins a Microcomputing section to handle the flood of information on micros.

Apple markets the Apple II, ultimately to become the personal computer equivalent of the Volkswagen.

Apple II


Radio Shack unveils its fully assembled microcomputer, the TRS-80 Model 1, with keyboard, CRT and cassette unit. The whole system, which offers some graphics and can be programmed in BASIC, sells for $599.95.

eye diagnosis

CRTs come under suspicion when two New York Times copy editors are diagnosed as having cataracts. Tested for radiation, the machines are ultimately cleared. This is the first of many complaints linking eye irritations and CRTs

Commodore International, enters the personal computer field with PET (personal electronic transactor).

ComputerLand, among the largest of today's computer retailers, opens its first store.

Originally developed for computerized astrology machines, CP/M (control program for microcomputers) is offered by Gary Kildall and his Digital Research Company. CPM will soon become a standard for business applications on personal computers.

Digital Research


Daniel Bricklin and Robert Frankston

Fed up with time-consuming projections using a calculator and spreadsheet, first-year Harvard Business School student Daniel Bricklin teams up with Robert Frankston at M.I.T. to create VisiCalc, an electronic spreadsheet that can recalculate all related numbers when one variable changes. They pool their finance. and with $16,000 found Software Arts in Wellesley, Mass.

Seymour Rubenstein

Seymour Rubenstein, formerly of IMSAI, founds MicroPro International and commissions John Barnaby to write the word processing program that will become WordStar.

speak & spell

Texas Instruments produces its Speak & Spell toy, the first widespread offering of digital speech synthesis.

Epson America in Anaheim, Calif, introduces its 80-column dot-matrix printer, which becomes a runaway best seller.

dot-matrix printer


Personal Software markets VisiCalc, soon called the "smash hit of software." The first version works only on the Apple II and thus boosts that computer's sales. VisiCalc is credited with taking micros out of the home and making them "serious."

Adam Osborne

Publisher Adam Osborne sells his company to McGraw-Hill and founds Osborne Computer in Hayward, Calif.

video games

Video games appear everywhere: in restaurants, gas stations, bars. With threatening names like Centipede and Space Invaders, the quarter-gobbling dwarfs cause concern among parents.

electronic services

The Source offers an electronic service enabling home computer owners to read newspapers, get stock info, check airline schedules and browse through restaurant guides. Similar services will include CompuServe and Dow Jones News/Retrieval.


Shugart Associates markets the 5 1/2" Winchester disk drive, which stores 30 times as much data as a standard small floppy and transfers the information 20 times faster.

Texas Instruments unveils its first personal computer, the TI 99/4, based on a 16-bit processor and list-priced at $1,200. With modifications and aggressive marketing, this computer eventually lists for $99 before almost bankrupting the company.

Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 Color Computer for recreation and education.

TRS-80 color


Four eighth graders at Manhattan's private Dalton School use its terminals to link up with other computers. By trial and error, they gain entry into several Canadian companies' computers, temporarily destroying certain data and preventing legitimate users from accessing the systems. The FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police join forces and catch the 13year-olds after a week of their long-distance raids. No charges are pressed despite a loss of several thousand dollars' worth of computer time


Commodore introduces the VIC-20, destined to be the first home computer model to sell more than one million units. Waiting in the wings is the more powerful Commodore 64, the first popularly priced machine to have 64K of memory built in.

Osborne 1

Osborne Computer unveils the Osborne 1, the first portable micro. Its 24 pounds hold a disk operating system that can handle word processing and electronic spreadsheets.

Zork, a "second-generation" adventure game capable of responding to complex sentences, is introduced by Infocom. Originally written in a proprietary language on a minicomputer, the game is quickly converted by Infocom into versions for virtually every popular personal computer model.

The six-yearold personal computer industry passes the $1.5 billion mark.

At ENIAC's thirty-fifth birthday celebration in Philadelphia, the trail-blazing machine is pitted against a Radio Shack TRS-80 and commanded to square all integers from 1 to 10,000. The young micro wins handily, completing the exercise in a third of a second vs. ENIAC's six seconds.

Computer camps become popular among kids (and some adults).

computer camp

Clive Sinclair

Watchmaker Timex Inc. contracts with England's Clive Sinclair to market Timex/Sinclair 1000, the first fully assembled under$100 computer in the U.S.


The IBM PC debuts, with a memory that can store more than 250 pages of data and a system that can complete about 700,000 additions per second. The PC is as powerful as anything on the market, which shifts dramatically toward the industry's giant.

IBM chooses Microsoft's MSDOS operating system for its PC. When other hardware manufacturers hop on the IBMcompatible bandwagon, MS-DOS becomes the new standard for business applications programs.

In a lean Christmas shopping season, computer video games (with TV hook-ups) are huge hits. The favorites are Intellivision and Atari.


According to a study by Prof. Sanford Weinberg of St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, at least 30 percent of daily users of computers have some degree of "cyberphobia," or fear of computers. Victims range from high blood pressure sufferers to the policeman who shot the computer console in his car. Another Weinberg study shows cyberphiliacs (compulsive computer programmers) to be no better off: they are usually friendless and single.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter becomes the first former President to write his memoirs with a word processor. Like many tyro computer users, he hits a wrong key and deletes an entire chapter.

As the video game craze reaches fever pitch, 15-yearold Steve Juraszek of Arlington Heights, Ill., plays Defender for 16 hours, 34 minutes, on the same quarter. His score: 15,963,100.

For its annual "Man of the Year" issue, Time magazine features the computer on its cover.

Over 17,000 software packages are now available to run on Apple computers.


Lotus 1-2-3, the first integrated software package for personal computers, hits the market. Lotus founder Mitchell D. Kapor packaged an electronic spreadsheet, information management and graphics on one 5 1/4" disk.

Lotus 123

Radio Shack brings out a book-size computer: the Radio Shack' 100. The tiny machine weighs about four pounds, has built-in word processing and communications software, and costs just under $800. Other companies quickly following with book-size computers are Sharp and Nippon, taking advantage of the power and size made possible by CMOS chips.

Radio Shack 100

Apple puts out the Lisa 32bit Motorola 68000 microprocessor-based computer featuring high-res graphics, onscreen windows for multi-program use and a mouse for controlling cursor position and data entry. The initial $10,000 offering price is prohibitive, but Lisa establishes the state of the art for personal computers.

Computerized burglaries become so popular among teens that the FBI conducts a huge "sting" operation to round up micro-criminals in 13 cities. (Computers in brokerage houses, hospitals and the Defense Department had been raided mostly through GTE's Telenet, based in Vienna, Va. ) Word of the FBI crackdown is flashed to other hackers across the country via computer bulletin boards.

Less than two years after introducing inexpensive portable computers, Osborne files for reorganization under chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law. In the highly competitive microcomputer market, other high-tech firms founder. Texas Instruments and Mattel leave the home computer business, eventually followed by Timex.


New York's Chemical Bank makes the first large-scale launch of a home banking system. Its Pronto service is soon offered through 200 banks across the U.S.

Hewlett-Packard unveils the HP-150, the first personal computer to offer a touch screen.

President Ronald Reagan helps unemployed steelworker Ronald D. Bricker get his first job interview in a year. Bricker goes to work as computer repair technician for Radio Shack, realizes he is earning less than if he were collecting unemployment insurance and gladly returns to the steel mill when his old job becomes available.

A Korean Airlines Boeing 747 with 269 people on board is shot down by a Russian fighter plane for straying into Soviet air space. Western aviation experts  blame a one-digit human error by the crew in programming the plane's  navigational computer-enough to account for its being 300 miles off course.

navagation computer

The movie WarGames, in which a young hacker gains entry to a Defense Department computer and plays "global thermonuclear war," explores the adolescent fantasy of possessing ultimate power in the adult world.

war games

Reared by Doug Englebart, the mouse input device makes its popular debut with the launching of Apple's Lisa and adoption for IBM PC software.


As marketing takes over from engineering, Pepsi-Cola v.p. John Sculley becomes president of Apple.

Coleco Adam

Toymaker Coleco announces its Adam, the first inexpensive home computer system with built-in word processing capabilities. By Christmas eve Adam has disappointing sales; what saves the company from bankruptcy are Cabbage Patch dolls, their names computergenerated.

IBM brings out the PCjr, a home-oriented, lower-priced encore to its PC.



VisiCorp and Software Arts sue each other over marketing rights to the pioneering program in a move that could reflect an end to the cooperative era in the software industry.


George Orwell's 1984, thought by many to be a prophetic indictment of the computer age, is found to contain no mention of computers.

As competition heats up, commercial TV becomes a battleground for the personal computer wars. Apple and Kaypro ads go on to win "Cleos", the "Oscars" of TV commericals.

tv ad

tv ad

Apple signals a new generation of personal computers with its powerful, compact Macintosh, whose 3 1/2" disks store more than the 5 1/4" disks used in most micros. With its mouse and pull-down menus and windows, it is truly "Lisa for the masses."

Computer magazine titles reach 450, the largest number ever devoted to a single subject. An ensuing shakeout decimates the ranks of computer publications.

During a period of refinement and consolidation, the biggest news in software is Lotus Symphony, the five-in-one integrated successor to 1-2-3 and "thought processing" programs like Think Tank by Living Video Text and integrated Framework from Aston-Tate.

…and beyond

Still in its relative infancy, the computer seems to be infinitely perfectible. The march toward computopia is hardly linear-for every step forward there are several steps sideways and back-but there is a clear progression in the direction of greater intelligence and sophistication. Which should bring up even more often the fundamental question: Can computers replace us? Only time will tell ...

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