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.
May 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.
May 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.
May 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.
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.
May 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.