Computer technology seems to progress at such an astronomical rate that it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t part of the everyday lifestyle. Of course, it wasn’t so long ago when the home computer was just a vision in someone’s mind, and it has really been since the 1970’s that things have really taken off. Here’s an evolution of home computer technology featuring the major events and breakthroughs that have lead to where we are today.
1970’s In 1974, the first workstation with a built-in mouse was designed by Xerox. It was called the Alto, and although it was never sold commercially, it was able store several files and link to a local area network. In 1976, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame designed the Apple I. It was a single board computer and helped launch he and Steve Jobs into the business of computers. The Apple I was replaced by the more complete Apple II in 1977 after around 200 of the original ones were sold. The Apple II featured a keyboard, printed circuit motherboard, A/C power cord and game paddles. Also in 1977, Atari launched the first video computer system game console. It was later renamed the Atari 2600, and sold over 20 million units during the 1980s. 1979 was a busy year for computer news. Atari introduced the Model 400 and 800 computers and IBM introduced it’s own personal computer. The IBM computer ran on a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor and utilized the Microsoft MS-DOS operating system.
1980’s By 1981, Sony had begun shipping the first 3 ½ inch floppy drives and diskettes. Hewlett-Packard was the first larger company to use the 3 ½ inch floppy with its systems. In 1982, the Commodore 64 came out with a price tag of almost $600. The C64 as it was known, had 64KB of RAM and graphics that were better than anything else that was available at the time. The C64 sold 22 million units by the time it was discontinued in 1993. Also in 1982, Lotus 1-2-3 was developed by a man named Mitch Kapor. This software was written directly into the IBM PC video system and ran much faster than its competitors. The first PC that had a graphical user interface was introduced by Apple in 1983. It was called ‘Lisa’ and it didn’t fair well due to its slow speed and a high price tag. On the opposite end, Compaq introduced the very first PC clone is 1983, that turned out to be a rousing success. It used the same software as the IBM PC, and resulted in a first year sales total of $111 million. Microsoft announced its first version of Word in 1983, and distributed 450,000 disks that demonstrated how it worked.
1980’s During the 1984 Superbowl, Apple introduced the Macintosh computer. It included many of the Lisa’s features with a much more reasonable price tag. In 1985, the National Science Foundation formed an organization called NSFNET, and linked five super computer centers together, in what would be the first step toward the modern-day internet. Also in 1985, the PageMaker program that was designed for use on the Macintosh was announced. It allowed users to combine text and graphics to simplify the desktop publishing process. In 1986, the Compaq introduced the Deskpro 386, which used Intel’s new 80386 chip, giving PCs the same speed and power as the older mainframe computers. A graphics and special effects company called Special Effects Computer Group at Lucasfilm was purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986 and renamed Pixar. Throughout the remainder of the decade, all the big players in the industry continued to try and outdo one another with more advanced microprocessors, storage capabilities and interface units.
1990’s In 1990, a researcher named Tin Berners-Lee developed Hyper Text Markup Language, also known as HTML, and the worldwide web was born. HTML allowed the internet access to the world wide web with features like Uniform Resource Locator or URL and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. The first world wide web server and browser were available to the general public in 1991. 1990 also saw the release of Windows 3.0 by Microsoft. It used an 80386 Intel microprocessor and allowed multiple programs to run simultaneously. In order to enhance the whole Windows 3.0 launch, Microsoft also offered enhanced versions of Microsoft Word and Excel. In 1993 the Pentium microprocessor was released, enabling personal computers to run faster than ever. The Mosaic web browser was also introduced in 1993, allowing users graphical access to content on the internet. The company Netscape delivered its first browser in 1994, and quickly took off in popularity and value. The internet boom of the 1990s had finally begun in earnest. The remainder of the decade saw the advance of the internet and the launch of Hotmail in 1996. In 1995, Sony released its first edition of the Playstation.
2000’s The 2000’s have seen even more advances in computing and the internet. In 2001, Mac OS X was released by Apple, replacing the classic Mac OS for Macintosh computers. Microsoft released a couple new versions, XP and Vista. The first Blackberry smartphone was introduced by Research In Motion during the first decade of the new century, as was the Apple iPhone. Other popular names like Wii, Google and Facebook were also brought into the public consciousness from 2000 through 2010. There’s no question that the evolution of home computing has really just begun, and with any luck the next thirty years will be just as interesting as the last thirty.