Timeline of Computing History

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To commemorate the 50th year of
modern computing and the Computer
Society, the timeline on the following
pages traces the evolution of computing
and computer technology.

Timeline research by Bob Carlson, Angela Burgess,
and Christine Miller.
Timeline design and production by Larry Bauer.
We thank our reviewers: Ted Biggerstaff, George
Cybenko, Martin Campbell-Kelly, Alan Davis,
Dan O’Leary, Edward Parrish, and Michael Williams.

Timeline of Computing History

4000-1200 B.C.
3000 B.C. The abacus is invented
Inhabitants of
in Babylonia.
the first known
civilization in
Sumer keep

250-230 B.C. The Sieve of
records of
Eratosthenes is used to determine
prime numbers.
transactions on
clay tablets.

About 79 A.D. The “Antikythera
IBM Archives
Device,” when set correctly
About 1300 The more familiar wire-
according to latitude and day of
and-bead abacus replaces the Chinese
The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania
the week, gives alternating
calculating rods.
29- and 30-day lunar months.
4000 B.C. — 1300

1612-1614 John Napier uses the printed
decimal point, devises logarithms, and

1622 William Oughtred
1666 In
uses numbered sticks, or Napiers Bones,
invents the circular
for calculating.
slide rule on the basis
of Napier’s logarithms.
produces a

1623 William (Wilhelm)
that can add
Schickard designs a
and subtract.
“calculating clock” with
a gear-driven carry
mechanism to aid in

The Computer Museum
multiplication of multi-
1642-1643 Blaise Pascal creates a gear-driven
digit numbers.
adding machine called the “Pascalene,” the
The Computer Museum
first mechanical adding machine.

1801 A linked sequence of punched
cards controls the weaving of patterns
in Joseph-Marie Jacquard’s loom.

1774 Philipp-Matthaus Hahn builds and
sells a small number of calculating
machines precise to 12 digits.

1777 The third Earl of Stanhope
invents a multiplying calculator.

IBM Archives
1674 Gottfried Leibniz builds the
1786 J.H. Mueller envisions a
“Stepped Reckoner,” a calculator using
“difference engine” but cannot
a stepped cylindrical gear.
get the funds to build it.
IBM Archives

1822 Charles Babbage
1820 The Thomas
begins to design and
Arithmometer, based
build the Difference
on Leibniz’ stepped-
drum principle, is
demonstrated to the
French Academy of
Science. It becomes the
first mass-produced
calculator and sells for
many years.

IBM Archives
1811 Luddites destroy
machinery that threatens
to eliminate jobs.

1811 — 1822

1832 Babbage and
1834-35 Babbage shifts his focus to
Joseph Clement
designing the Analytical Engine.
produce a portion
of the Difference

1838 In January
1829 William
Samuel Morse
Austin Burt patents
and Alfred Vail
an awkward but
workable typewriter,
elements of the
the first writing
telegraph system.
machine in America.
IBM Archives
IBM Archives
1829 — 1838

1842-43 Augusta Ada,
1847-49 Babbage completes 21 drawings for
Countess of Lovelace,
the second version of the Difference Engine
translates Luigi
but does not complete construction.
Menabrea’s pamphlet
on the Analytical
Engine, adding her
own commentary.

1854 George
publishes “An

1844 Samuel
Morse sends a
of the Laws of
message from
describing a system for symbolic and
Washington to
logical reasoning that will become
The Computer Museum
Smithsonian Institution Photo No. 89-22161
the basis for computer design.
1842 — 1854

1876 Alexander
1876-1878 Baron
1858 A
Graham Bell
Kelvin builds a
invents and
harmonic analyzer
cable spans
patents the
and tide predictor.
the Atlantic
Ocean for
the first
time and
service for
a few days.

National Inventors Hall of Fame
Charles Babbage Institute,
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
1861 A transcontinental
1882 William S. Burroughs
telegraph line connects the
leaves his bank clerk’s job
Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
determined to invent an
Smithsonian Institution Photo No.
adding machine.
Smithsonian Institution
1858 — 1882

1893 The first
1901 The
calculator is
appears and
very little
over the
next half

1895 Guglielmo
Marconi transmits
a radio signal.

The Computer Museum
1889 Herman Hollerith’s Electric Tabulating Sys-
IBM Archives
tem outperforms the competition and in the fall
is selected for use in the 1890 census.

1896 Hollerith establishes the Tabulating Machine Company.
1889 — 1901

1906 Lee de Forest adds a third valve to
1911 Hollerith’s Tabulating Machines Co. and
control current flow to Fleming’s diode to
two other companies combine to form C-T-R—
create the three-electrode vacuum tube.
Tabulating, and

1907 Gramophone music
Recording Co.
constitutes the first regular radio
broadcasts from New York.

1908 British scientist
1911 Dutch
Campbell Swinton
describes an electronic
1904 John
scanning method and
Onnes at Leiden
A. Fleming
foreshadows use of the
patents the
Smithsonian Institution Photo No. 351
cathode-ray tube for
diode vacuum tube, setting the stage
IBM Archives
for better radio communication.
1904 — 1911