January 19, 1999
RIM introduces the BlackBerry. The original BlackBerry devices were not phones, but instead were the first mobile devices that could do real-time e-mail. They looked like big pagers. I should know. I had one on my hip for two years while working at Anheuser-Busch in the early 2000’s. In 2001, I visited the BlackBerry production facility in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It was surprisingly small at the time. They way I heard it, the name “BlackBerry” came from the similarity that the buttons on the original device had to the surface of a blackberry fruit. Those crazy Canadians!
January 19, 1993
IBM announces a nearly $5 billion loss for fiscal year 1992. Several years of losses in the early 1990’s were the result of sweeping changes to the computer industry in the 1980’s that IBM was slow to recognize. Ironically, the biggest catalyst to this change was the rise of the personal computer. IBM helped create the most popular personal computing platform, but lost control of the platform to Microsoft and “IBM-compatible” clones of their original design. The monster they created in the PC industry nearly caused their own collapse. One indicator of this shift was the phrase “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” was replaced with “no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft”. IBM eventually reorganized its business, focused on its core strengths, and has recovered.
January 19, 1983
The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, is announced. At a cost of $9,995, the Lisa ended up being a commercial failure for Apple, but many of the technologies developed for the Lisa made its way into the Macintosh computer.
The “Friday the 13th” virus strikes hundreds of IBM computers in Britain. This is one of the most famous early examples of a computer virus making headlines. Over twenty years later, while other companies have systems that are practically immune to virues, Microsoft still hasn’t been able to develop a solution to prevent viruses from infecting their systems.
January 10, 2006
Seven months after announcing that Macintosh computers will transition from PowerPC to Intel, the first Apple computers to ship with Intel processors are released. The Intel-based iMac and MacBook Pro models will soon be followed by the rest of Apple’s Macintosh line in 2006. The importance of this transition can not be overlooked, as it enabled a level of compatibility with Windows computers never before possible. Through virtual machine software or Apple’s later introduced Boot Camp technology, people could run Windows software directly on their Macs at the same speed as a Windows based computer. This effectively removed a huge roadblock many people had to owning a Macintosh computer, even if it was more of a psychological security-blanket for many.
Steve Jobs introduces iTunes at Macworld. At the time, it only ran on Macintosh computers and there was no such thing as an iPod or an iTunes Store. I don’t think anyone at the time knew what a big deal iTunes was about to become. The graphic shows the evolution of the iTunes icon from top left to bottom right.
Steve Jobs unveils Mac OS X for the first time, declaring another computing revolution was on its way. It was certainly a revolution for Mac users at the time, and has lead the way for a resurgence of Apple in the marketplace. As Mac OS X is the basis for the iOS that runs the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, it certainly seems that Mac OS X has revolutionized computing even in ways Steve Jobs may have not fathomed at the time … or did he?
January 5, 1984
Richard Stallman begins work on the GNU operating system, intended to be a free UNIX-like OS. Combined with the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux is the most popular free and open-source operating system today. Believing that people should be able to freely modify the software they use, Stallman would later found the Free Software Foundation and write the GNU GPL, the most popularly used free software license.
January 2, 1979
Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, developers of the world’s first spreadsheet software, incorporate Software Arts to be the parent company for their product, VisiCalc. VisiCalc was introduced and then shipped later in the year and became the first “killer app” for the personal computer. By offering such a powerful business tool that anyone could run on their own computer, Bricklin and Frankston are credited with changing the perception of the personal computer from hobby into a business machine.