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.
After years of hysteria regarding the Y2K bug, the world’s computers begin using the date 2000 with no major catastrophes. There is still debate whether the “Year 2000 Problem” was overblown by the technology industry or if the frantic updating done by armies of software developers leading up to Y2K averted disaster. I tend to lean towards the latter.
Unix epoch time begins at 00:00:00 UTC/GMT. Basically, UNIX operating systems count time in seconds starting from midnight January 1, 1970 Greenwich Mean Time. Yeah, this is beyond the threshold of geekiness for most of you, but don’t come crying to me when the Y2K38 problem bites you in the butt.
The world waits in anticipation of the year 2000 and the potential disasters that might be brought about by the Y2K bug. Personally, having worked years in a corporate environment getting ready for Y2K, I was pretty confident that nothing major would happen. So just for fun, I set up my home with a remote control to turn off all the lights in my house and the TV our friends would be watching at our New Years’ Eve party. Seconds after midnight, I pushed the remote control in my pocket and everything went out. There were definitely a few people at my house that night who thought the apocalypse had come. Technology practical jokes are so much fun!
Time Magazine awards its “Man of the Year” award to the personal computer, calling it “Machine of the Year,” the first non-human to receive the award since its creation in 1927. Describing the personal computer as 1982’s “greatest influence for good or evil,” the article titled “The Computer Moves In,” recognizes that the capabilities of the personal computer can be multiplied almost indefinitely by connecting it to a network of other computers, which can be used to access electronic databases or send electronic mail. The article stated that 80% of Americans expected that “in the fairly near future, home computers will be as commonplace as television sets or dishwashers.” Beating out other candidates such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Time stated, “There are some occasions, though, when the most significant force in a year’s news is not a single individual but a process, and a widespread recognition by a whole society that this process is changing the course of all other processes. That is why, after weighing the ebb and flow of events around the world, TIME has decided that 1982 is the year of the computer.” 724,000 personal computers were sold in 1980 and this figure doubled in both 1981 and 1982. Certainly, those who were paying attention at the time recognized that the personal computer was transforming society.
The Christmas virus begins to effect IBM mainframe computers around the world. Technically defined as a worm, the Christmas virus drew a Christmas tree text graphic on the victim’s monitor and searched out other network users. Named CHRISTMA EXEC because IBM systems only supported eight-character filenames, it was the world’s first widely disruptive computer worm.