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History of the Personal Computer

Although home/personal computers are now almost as common as televisions, there was a time when they were considered exotic, impractical and even a little bit frightening.

In the first few decades after World War II, most people looked at home computers as foreign things only science and tech geeks could use — or even want. As recently as 1977, the year Star Wars was released and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple ][, Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., famously declared, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

How things have changed!

Here’s a quick timeline on the evolution of the personal computer over the past six decades:

Simon1950 – Edmund Berkley publishes plans for “Simon,” a relay-based digital desktop computer, in Radio-Electronics magazine. The programmable computer can be built with off-the-shelf parts for the then-princely sum of $300. Want to know what the square root of 671 is? Ask Simon!

1961 – Scientific Development Corp. markets the Minivac 601, a fully out-of-the-box “desktop computer.” Although it has only six relays, the Minivac sells for just $135, which makes it affordable to just about any computer enthusiast. Note: Like all computers at this time, the Minivac 601 has no monitor; information is delivered via a series of blinking lights.

First Computer Mouse1963 – Stanford Research Institute’s Douglas Englebart invents the first prototype computer “mouse.” His invention would not become the computing industry’s most popular interface device for another 20 years.

1964 – Students are Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., run BASIC programming language for the first time. BASIC stands for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, and becomes the most popular programming language for microcomputers.

1965 – E-mail is invented to allow computer users to communicate with each other through a time-sharing mainframe.

Intel 4004 Microprocessor1969 – Intel gets a contract to produce a printed circuit for a Japanese calculator company. To keep costs down, Intel engineer Ted Hoff devises a programmable microcircuit. Voila! The microprocessor is born!

1972 – Hewlett-Packard introduces the HP 9830, the first all-in-one desktop computer. Programmed with BASIC in its Read-Only Memory (ROM), the machine is marketed primarily to scientists and engineers and thus gets little attention outside of “nerd” circles. Retail price: $5,975.

Xerox Alto1973 – In a demonstration that would become part of computing history, Xerox shows off its “Alto” professional workstation. Forecasting breakthroughs that would not become mainstream for another 10 to 20 years, the machine includes a monitor, graphic user interface (GUI), mouse and even an Ethernet card. Decades ahead of its time, the Alto is never actually put on the market.

1975 – Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) sells its Altair 8800 personal computer via mail order through ads in Popular Electronics and other magazines. As the first computer to run Microsoft software, it sells in the thousands and becomes recognized as the “spark” for the emerging personal computer industry. Still no video screen through; data is still relayed through blinking lights. Price: $621 assembled.

Apple II1977 – It’s here! The Apple II is the first successful mass-marketed desktop computer. Priced at $1,259, its success guarantees Steve Jobs a steady income for the foreseeable future.

1979 – CompuServe is the first online service, allowing computer users to access news, weather and other services via a command line interface.

1981 – IBM introduces the IBM PC Model 5150. It’s the first computer to run Microsoft’s new MS-DOS operating system (which Microsoft has licensed from another firm), and also the first personal computer to actually bear the moniker “PC.” Total U.S. households with computers: 0.5 percent.

Commodore 641982 – Commodore unveils the Commodore 64 computer. It will eventually become the single best-selling computer of all time (more than 14 million units sold). PC Magazine begins publication.

1983 – Apple releases the Lisa, the first computer with the graphic user interface (GUI). This allows users to interact with the computer by “clicking” and manipulating images on the monitor screen.

Apple Macintosh1984 – Apple begins shipping its first Macintosh computer. It’s an “all-in-one” computer that promises to deliver Lisa’s GUI-simplicity at a lower cost. IBM introduces its first portable computer; it weighs 30 pounds. Trintex, later renamed Prodigy, becomes the first online service to use a GUI. Total U.S. households with computers: 7 percent.

1985 – Microsoft ships the first version of Windows for IBM and other DOS-based PCs.

1986Brain, the first IBM-based computer virus, appears. Total U.S. households with computers: 16.6 percent.

1990 Archie, the first Internet search engine, is invented by Alan Emtage at Montreal’s McGill University.

1991 – Tim Berners-Lee invents HyperText Markup Language (HTML), helping to launch the World Wide Web (WWW). Total U.S. households with computers: 26.6 percent.

1993 – Mosaic, the first GUI-based web browser, is introduced.

1996 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin develop the Google search engine.Google Logo

2004 – Mark Zuckerberg and several fellow students develop Facebook for “social networking” for students of Harvard University. Total U.S. households with computers: 65.0 percent.

2010 – Apple introduces the iPad. Total U.S. households with computers (with an Internet connection): 68.7 percent.

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree Online in Computer Information Science

You can have a career in Computer Information Science by getting your bachelor’s degree from Everest University Online, a division of Everest University. The Computer Information Science program includes instruction in:

  • Computer Applications
  • Computer Programming
  • Database Concepts
  • Programming Concepts
  • Computer Operating Systems
  • Principles Of Accounting
  • Fundamental Programming Techniques
  • Computer Networking Fundamentals

For more information on Everest University Online’s bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Science program, contact Everest University Online today!

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