Computers

Simple as 1-2-3: IBM Buys Lotus

IBM LotusJuly 6, 1995

IBM completes a $3.5 billion buyout of Lotus Development, the producer of the once-dominant Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet software and the then-popular Lotus Notes groupware. IBM had hoped to leverage Lotus 1-2-3 to challenge the increasingly demanded Microsoft Excel software, but alas, there was little slowing down the Microsoft juggernaut during the 1990’s. Lotus 1-2-3 steadily lost marketshare, and IBM finally announced the end of support for the software in 2013.

Lotus Notes groupware faired little better than 1-2-3, succumbing to Microsoft Exchange as the dominant groupware platform among large companies, but it is still entrenched among certain corporations today under the name IBM notes.

Keyboards and Computers, Together at Last!

MIT Whirlwind ComputerJuly 4, 1956

MIT’s Whirlwind, which had been completed five years earlier, becomes the first computer in the world to allow its users to enter commands through a keyboard. Previously, all input was accomplished through dials, switches, and/or punch cards.

The First Mass-Produced Computer

IBM 650July 2, 1953

IBM announced its 650 series of computers, the first mass-produced computer, and the dominant computer of the decade. The IBM 650 stored information on a rotating magnetic drum and received it on programmed punch cards. Its memory stored numbers with up to 10 decimal digits.

The Transition to Transistors Begins

Replica of First TransistorJune 30, 1948

Originally designed to create improvements to electromechanical relays and vacuum tubes in telephone switching equipment, Bell Labs holds a press conference in New York to publicly demonstrate the first point-contact transistor. The transistor represents a significant advance in technology. As it is developed over the next few years, it will become the successor to the vacuum tube, the primary method of controlling electronic circuitry at the time. The use of transistors allows the development of the integrated circuit and microchips which kickstarted the rapid advance of electronic and computerized technology over the last 60 years. Every industry that utilizes technology, from communications to computers to space travel to video games to media, owes a great deal to the development of the transistor.

First Stored Program Run

Manchester Small-Scale Experimental MachineJune 21, 1948

The first program on the world’s first stored-program computer, the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) is run. This first program was designed to test the computer’s reliability and ran for 52 minutes performing 3.5 million operations.

SEAC Machine Dedicated

SEACJune 20, 1950

The National Bureau of Standards dedicated the SEAC (Standards Eastern Automatic Computer) in Washington. The SEAC was the first computer to use all-diode logic, a technology more reliable than vacuum tubes, and was the first stored-program computer completed in the United States. Magnetic tape in the external storage units stored programming information, coded subroutines, numerical data, and output.

IBM is Incorporated as CTR

CTR Company LogoJune 15, 1911

The Computing – Tabulating – Recording Co. (C-T-R), a consolidation of the Computing Scale Co. of America, The Tabulating Machine Co., and The International Time Recording Co. is incorporated in New York. In 1924, C-T-R adopted the name International Business Machines, better known as IBM.

Charles Babbage Unveils Difference Engine

Difference EngineJune 14, 1822

Charles Babbage unveils his design for a machine he called the Difference Engine, the first example of a mechanical computing machine. The British government funded the building of a Difference Engine, which Babbage never actually completed. However, Babbage’s design for the Difference Engine and his later Analytical Engine spurred future designs of working mechanical computers. In 1991 a working Difference Engine was constructed using Babbage’s plans, proving that his designs would have worked.

One Processor to Rule Them All

Intel 8086June 8, 1978

Intel introduces the 16-bit 8086 processor with clock speeds of 10, 8, and 5 MHz. The 8086 would become the basis for the series of processors used in “IBM Compatible” PCs and the x86  family (later marketed under the name “Pentium”) would dominate the market in the PC era. Ironically, however, it was the modified 8-bit 8088 processor that was used in the original IBM PC, primarily due to factors that would reduce overall cost. The current line of Intel “Core” processors are still based on the same architecture that was introduced with the 8086.

Really Geeky Modem Technology Patented

Hayes Smartmodem 300June 7, 1983

Michael Eaton is granted a patent for the AT Command Set for Modems, which had created a standard language for interacting with modems. Two years earlier, the rights for this command set were purchased by the Hayes Corporation and incorporated into the Hayes Smartmodem 300 as the “Hayes Command Set.” The protocol will become an industry standard used for years to come.

In the early 90’s, needing to use modems so that I could connect to pre-Internet bulletin board systems, I learned the AT command set. I then used and supported modems extensively for about 15 years, and occasionally still do. Because I worked with modems so much, I used to be able to speak the AT command set in my sleep. I know, it impresses the ladies.