Computer Technology Timeline

Technology throughout the ages has become an increasing presence in our daily lives. Within the last few years, the growth and change of personal technology has drastically evolved. From computers to smartphones, take a look at the timeline to see the evolution of some of the most used everyday technological devices.

Personal
Computers

ENIAC

1946

(Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) The first computer that took advantage of processing speeds to execute problems. Entirely electronic, it could perform over 5,000 addition problems in one second. Although originally designed to help with the war effort during World War II, ENIAC was not completed until after the war was over, and therefore it was given to the University of Pennsylvania.

Xerox Alto

1973

The first computer built to support a Graphical User Interface (GUI), which made computing for the consumer much easier than the standard command line - bringing us one step closer to the mass-marketed personal computing.

Altair 8800

1974

The first successfully mass-marketed personal computer. Interest in the Altair 8800 grew after it was featured on the cover of the magazine Popular Science. The Altair 8800 could be purchased as either a build-it-yourself kit or fully assembled. The fully assembled kit cost $621 in 1974 which is equivalent to $3170 when adjusted for 2018 inflation.

Apple I

1976

Apple’s first computer, it was designed and hand built by Steve Wozniak. In order to fund the project, Steve Jobs had to sell his VW bus and Wozniak had to sell his HP-65 calculator. This computer was set apart from its competition by its built in computer terminal circuitry versus other computers that required extra hardware to connect input and output devices.

Commodore PET

1977

(Personal Electronic Transactor) Commodore’s first all-in-one computer which included a built-in monitor, keyboard and cassette drive.

IBM Personal Computer

1981

Lightweight and easy to use, the IBM Personal Computer became a success with the general population because it was easy to adapt into the home. With the popularity of the IBM Personal Computer came the general usage of the term "PC."

BBC Micro

1981

This computer was created by Acorn who was under contract with the British Broadcasting Company for the BBC Computer Literacy Project. In the United Kingdom, the Micro was widely accepted by schools and for use in the home.

Commodore 64

1982

This computer is listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time - estimated at 10-17 million units sold. The Commodore 64 has been compared to the Ford Model T car for its role in bringing mass-produced, affordable computing into the middle class household.

Apple Lisa

1983

Though ultimately a commercial failure due to it’s high price ($9,995 - $27,000 when adjusted for inflation) and poor performance, the Lisa was the first GUI computer system to be mass produced.

Apple iMAC

1998

Heralding a resurgence for a struggling company, the iMac shed off the floppy disk drive in favor of USB ports while also incorporated bright colors and an emphasis on user experience. Apple carried this user-focused theme for the general population into the 21st century, helping create the company that we know today.

Portable
Computers

Osborne 1

1981

This was the first commercially successful portable computer. It needed to be plugged into a power source in order to operate but was still classified as portable since it could be hand carried when closed.

Compaq Portable

1982

The Portable had essentially the same hardware as the IBM PC but was put into a case that could be carried. With the computer on its side, the bottom of the case (which held the keyboard) could be removed to access the built in monitor.

IBM ThinkPad

1992

Known for its TrackPoint (the red pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard for use as a mouse), this model of portable computer broke onto the scene to widespread acclaim due to its durability. Little known fact: ThinkPads were used on the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

iBook

1999

This was the first mass consumer laptop capable of accessing the web and sending emails by using Wifi connectivity, which was then branded as AirPort. The original iBook was also known for its stylish "clam shell" design and variety in color options.

MacBook Air

2008

Even though it wasn’t considered a great computer due to it’s thermal issues and small battery, the MacBook Air pushed the boundaries of portable computing. It was such a small laptop that when introduced, Steve Jobs pulled the computer out of a manilla envelope.

First Chromebooks

2011

By Acer and Samsung - Primarily used to perform tasks using the Google browser, Chromebooks were the first systems not to use Apple or Microsoft software. Most applications and data for this affordable portable live in the cloud.

Smart
Phones

Nokia 9000

1996

Email, web browsing, faxing, and creating documents and spreadsheets - the Nokia 9000 Communicator combined all of these tasks into a single phone. The clamshell design hid the keyboard when functioning as a phone, but opened to reveal a display that offered web browsing on a phone for the first time.

Blackberry 850

1999

The start of the Blackberry revolution, the 850 Wireless handheld included a six or eight line display which enables users to send messages, access contacts, and set calendar meetings.

Ericsson R380

2000

The first phone to be marketed as a "smartphone," the R380 combined the functions of a mobile phone and a PDA (personal digital assistant) into a small, light case resembling a "normal" phone.

Apple iPhone

2007

It was made to be the combination of three devices: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a mobile phone, and an internet communicator. The touchscreen display eliminated the need for a physical keyboard or stylus and ushered in the age of the smartphone.

HTC Dream

2008

The first commercially released device to use the Android operating system. It was considered innovative due to its customizable interface, notification systems, and the ease of integration with Google services.

Google Pixel

2016

An Android smartphone developed and marketed by Google. The launch of the Pixel smartphone included integration with Google Assistant as well as an unlimited backup of full resolution Google photos for the life of the device.

Video
Games

Atari 2600

1977

The Atari Video Computer System is considered to have popularized gaming consoles that used cartridges which allowed the user to play games, instead of older models that could only play games that were preloaded onto the hardware.

Nintendo Entertainment System

1983

Before the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo was known as a toy and playing cards company. They eventually came to be known as a video game console powerhouse. Nintendo forged relationships with third party game developers that led to higher quality games and titles that have lasted to this day; Mario, Zelda, and Mega Man were all born from the NES.

Sega Genesis

1988

The Genesis system started to break the tight grip that Nintendo held on the video game world. Sega created opportunities for a broader community of gaming developers, increased the popularity of sports games, and pushed innovation with its content delivery and subscription service: the Sega Channel.

Sony Playstation

1994

The original Playstation console was the first console to ship over 100 million units - the brand itself has gone on to encompass four home consoles and two handheld devices which have the possibility of features which make up a media center and an online subscription service, the PlayStation Network.

Nintendo 64

1996

Named the 1996 Game of the Year, the N64 was known for its 64 bit 3D graphics and its iconic three pronged controller. And who can forget Goldeneye.

Microsoft Xbox

2001

This was the first video game console offered by an American company since 1996. The original Xbox has been succeeded first by the Xbox 360 and then the Xbox One, with smaller iterations in between. Much like it’s competitor, Playstation, the Xbox brand offers video games and media services, such as Xbox Live.

Nintendo Wii

2006

The revolutionary Wii was introduced as the Nintendo response to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. The Wii console introduced controllers that could detect movements in three dimensions, which made games more interactive than with the classic controllers

Nintendo Switch

2017

Considered by Nintendo to be a hybrid console, this was primarily made as a classic home console but had the capability to be taken on the go like a handheld with tablet-like qualities. Another innovative feature is the setup of the Joy-Con controllers, which can connect to the console to act as a handheld/tablet, or connect to an accessory to act as a classic controller, or even be separated to serve as two separate controllers for multiplayer use.

Other

Sony Walkman

1979

For $150 ($520 in 2018) people could comfortably listen to their music while on the move. The prototype was made by switching the record head of the Sony Pressman tape recorder with a playback head.

Sony D-50

1984

The Sony Discman came with the same functionality of larger home stationary units but with the ability to be mobile, sparking public interest in CDs.

Rio PMP300

1998

The first commercially successful portable MP3 player. Roughly the size of a deck of cards, it had an LCD screen that would display basic information about the song being played.

Apple iPod

2001

Originally coined the Walkman of the twenty-first century, the iPod was a portable media player that in later models took on more pocket sized computer functionality, with the ability to store media as well as browse the web.

Fitbit

2009

Originally this was an activity tracker that measured user movement to track user data such as calories burned or activity duration. The newer Fitbits can be synced to smart devices or computers to enhance data output for various aspects of fitness such as heart rate, sleep quality, and number of steps walked in a day.

Raspberry Pi

2012

Hailed as the BBC Micro 2.0, the Raspberry Pi was created to promote learning in the field of computer science. Capable of doing anything a desktop computer can do, a Raspberry Pi could be used in creative projects like parent detectors or weather stations.

Pebble Watch

2012

Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the Pebble smartwatch revitalized the idea of the smartwatch after the failed Microsoft SPOT. The Pebble smartwatch was praised for having a groundbreaking design but was also criticised for being too limited and simple with its functionality.

Google Glass

2013

A brand of "smart glasses" developed by Google, they were made to be a step up from using a smartphone or smartwatch. They provided users with an interactive "heads up display" through the use of augmented reality.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

2013

Called "the product of the future" by Samsung, the Galaxy Gear was considered to be a high quality smartwatch at it’s release. Later on it was criticised for its ungainly design and dependency to having a host smartphone.

Google Cardboard

2014

Created through a side project from a few Google engineers, Cardboard is a virtual reality platform made from a cardboard viewer that utilizes the user’s smartphone. Google even released the design so that anyone could make one, in essence making virtual reality cheaper and more accessible.

Apple Watch

2015

Much like it’s predecessors from other companies, the Apple Watch is a smartwatch that focuses on health and fitness applications that can also connect to a phone device through wifi or bluetooth. The watch can call and text but also supports many other iOS applications such as Maps, Music, Photos, and Wallet. After its release in 2015 it quickly became the best selling wearable device with 4.2 million sales in the second quarter of 2015.

Oculus Rift

2016

Started as a kickstarter campaign in 2012, the company Oculus raised $2.5 million in startup money to create virtual reality headsets. A few short years later in 2014, Facebook purchased the company. The first consumer version of the Oculus VR Rift was released in March 2016 with generally positive reviews. The headphones used in the headset produce a 3D audio effect while the positional tracker sensor creates a 3D space to track all user actions.

HTC Vive

2016

Developed by HTC and Valve, the consumer version of the HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset was released in April 2016. The headset’s technology enables the user to move around the room in a 3D space while the hand controllers allow the user to interact with the virtual environment.

Playstation VR

2016

Originally codenamed Project Morpheus, PlayStation VR is a virtual reality headset that was released in October 2016 to be paired with the Playstation 4. Over a year after it’s release, over 2 million Playstation VR headsets have been sold. Unlike other VR headsets, the Playstation VR does not require the use of a high-end computer in order to function, though users still need a Playstation 4. Consumers have praised the Playstation VR headset for its user-friendly interface and design.

Vuzix Blade

2018

Unveiled at CES 2018, the Blade augmented reality glasses can function as a fully functional computer but need a bluetooth connected smartphone to access email and other functions. The real innovation in these smart glasses comes with the integration of Amazon Alexa’s smart assistant, which will allow for a much more enhanced functionality over previous smart glasses.

2018 and Beyond

As technology develops, everyday objects are being added to the Internet of Things (IoT), which is a term used to describe devices that can share data through a network. Essentially, this gives everyday objects more functionality than some of the first mass-marketed personal computers. This system of integration has been used to turn households and even cities into systems that collect data to make life more efficient for its users.

PDA/
Reader/
Tablet

GRiDPad

1989

Built by GRiD Systems Corporation, the GRiDPad is considered to be the first commercially successful tablet.

Apple Newton

1993

This device led to the origins of the term "Personal Digital Assistant." The Newton, however, was short lived due to its high price and technological issues but was considered to be innovative as it was the first to feature handwriting recognition.

Palm PDA’s

1996

Widely popular because of their relatively low prices and ease of use, Palm PDA’s used the Graffiti technology which allowed users to use simple gestures to write on the touchscreen.

Amazon Kindle

2007

A series of readers created by Amazon, the Kindle allows the user to not only read, but also browse for new books, buy, and download them.

iPad

2010

The Apple iPad is a fully capable media tablet that gives the user the ability to shoot video and take pictures as well as listen to music and browse the internet. Apps can also be downloaded onto the iPad for increased functionality, much like the iPhone.