Computers

IBM Announces the “Defense Calculator”, Model 701

IBM 701

May 21, 1952

The IBM 701 was the company’s first commercial scientific computer, but I guess they figured that calling it a “calculator” would help it sell better. Perhaps they were right, because only expecting to sell five, the company ended up selling nineteen to government, large companies, and universities.

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.

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.

Chernobyl Virus Melts Down PCs

Chernobyl VirusApril 26, 1999

The first known virus to target the flash BIOS of a PC, the CIH/Chernobyl Virus trigers on this day, erasing hard drives and disabling PCs primarily in Asia and Europe. One of the most destructive viruses in history, Turkey and South Korea alone report 300,000 infected systems.

 

IBM Licenses PC Patents

Tandy 5000MCApril 21, 1988

The Tandy Corporation holds a press conference to announce plans to build clones of IBM’s PS/2 system computers. The conference comes soon after IBM’s announcement that it would license patents on key PC technologies. IBM made this decision as they realized they were losing control of the “IBM-compatible” PC market and could make more money licensing the technologies. Within five years, IBM clones will become more popular than the original IBM machines themselves. Eventually IBM would leave the PC manufacturing business altogether, selling their PC division to Lenovo in 2005.

Moore’s Law Published

Transistor Count and Moore's LawApril 19, 1965

Electronics magazine publishes an article by Gordon Moore, head of research and development for Fairchild Semiconductor and future co-founder of Intel, on the future of semiconductor components. In the article, Moore predicts that transistor density on integrated circuits will double every eighteen months for “at least” the next ten years. This theory will eventually come to be known as Moore’s law and it still holds true to this day. It is predicted that Moore’s Law will continue to be valid through 2020 or later.

Osborne Executive Introduced

Osborne ExecutiveApril 18, 1983

The Osborne Computer Corporation officially announced the Osborne Executive portable computer, the follow-up to its extremely successful Osborne 1. This is the computer that according to lore, took down the company. Known as the Osborne Effect, the legend is that by leaking the announcement of  this computer earlier in the year, dealers cancelled all orders for the Osborne 1, effectively destroying the company’s cashflow and hindering operations going forward. This resulted in the cancellation of the company’s IPO and eventually to bankruptcy.

The reality may not be so simple, but my research shows that the Osborne Effect may have been a contributing cause to the company’s demise, along with the rise of competitors, the introduction of the IBM PC, and mismanagement by the company’s president, brought in by investors to provide “adult supervision”.

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