Computers

Into the Ether(net)

EthernetMay 13, 1980

Digital Equipment, Intel, and Xerox jointly announce the Ethernet network specification. Ethernet is the predominant networking standard of today’s business and home networks.

The Z3

Z3 at Deutsches MuseumMay 12, 1941

German engineer Konrad Zuse unveils the Z3, now generally recognized as the first fully functional, programmable computer. Because Germany was fighting World War II, not much was known about the Z3 until after the war.

VisiCalc Unveiled

VisiCalcMay 11, 1979

At the West Coast Computer Faire, Harvard MBA candidate Daniel Bricklin and programmer Robert Frankston give the first demonstration of VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet software. First released for the Apple II, VisiCalc made a business machine of the personal computer. VisiCalc was a huge success, selling more than 100,000 copies in the first year. VisiCalc also spurred the sales of the Apple II, as people would buy the Apple II just to run VisiCalc. Overall, the spreadsheet validated the usefulness of the home computer and was likely a major factor for IBM accelerating their entry into the PC market.

*Some sources list VisiCalc’s first demonstration as May 12th. I’d like to find a definitive source.

Linux Gets Happy Feet

Tux the PenguinMay 9, 1996

Linus Torvalds decides to adopt Tux the penguin as a mascot for the Linux operating system. Perhaps had he known the movie Happy Feet would be released a little over 10 years later, he would have chosen a Warbler instead.

IBM 704 Introduced

IBM 704May 7, 1954

IBM announces the IBM 704 Data Processing System, the world’s first mass produced computer to feature floating point arithmetic hardware. Besides this ultra-geeky distinction, the IBM 704 will leave its mark in computer history before it is discontinued on April 7, 1960. Both the FORTRAN and LISP programming languages were first developed for the IBM 704, as well as the first music application, MUSIC. Physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr. of Bell Labs will synthesize speech for the first time in history on an IBM 704. Not bad for a mainframe.

Wolfenstein 3D Blasts Onto Scene

Wolfenstein 3DMay 5, 1992

Id Software Inc. releases the game Wolfenstein 3D, the original first person shooter game for DOS computers. The game becomes an instant success, putting id Software on the map and launching the first person shooter genre. If you’re curious, you can play the game today on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.

Love Stinks

ILOVEYOU Bug

May 4, 2000

The Love Letter computer virus, aka the “ILOVEYOU” bug, spreads to personal computers running Windows around the world in just six hours. Spreading through e-mail, the virus entices victims to open the message with the subject of “ILOVEYOU”. About 2.5 to 3 million PCs will become infected. The cost of system downtime is later estimated at $8.7 billion. It is thought to be the fastest-moving and most widespread virus in history.

 

Dell Founded

Young Michael DellMay 3rd, 1984

Dell Computer Corporation is founded by Michael Dell, running the direct-to-order PC company from his dorm room. Dell, Inc. eventually became the largest manufacturer of PCs in the world for many years. It is currently surpassed by HP and Acer.

Microsoft Acts Mousey

Original Microsoft MouseMay 2, 1983

Microsoft introduces the Microsoft Mouse for IBM and IBM-compatible PCs. The mouse featured two buttons and is available by itself or will later be bundled with the new Microsoft Word software, which Microsoft would release in September. Microsoft will manufacture nearly one hundred thousand units of the device, but will only sell five thousand before introducing a second, more popular version of the device in 1985.

Commercial Computer Mouse Introduced

Xerox MouseApril 27, 1981

Xerox introduces the Xerox 8010 Star Information System, the first commercial system utilizing a computer mouse, among other now commonplace technologies. The 8010 was geared towards business and was not a commercial success, therefore the mouse remained in relative obscurity until the Apple Lisa, but more prominently the Apple Macintosh, brought the mouse into the mainstream.