by Aaron F. Ross
c. 2000 BCE, China
The abacus is developed to assist in performing complex calculations.
c. 100 BCE, Greece
The oldest known analog computer, the Antikythera mechanism, is a complex clockwork device capable of predicting astronomical events, such as eclipses, decades in advance.
1455, Germany /
Johannes Gutenberg and Laurens Coster independently invent movable type.
Wilhelm Schickard builds the first mechanical calculator.
William Oughtred invents the slide rule.
Blaise Pascal invents a digital machine capable of adding and subtracting. Pascal imagines computers that can solve any logical problem.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz completes a mechanical calculator that can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and calculate square roots.
Joseph Nicephore Niepce invents still photography.
Charles Babbage begins building the Difference Engine, a mechanical computer. He conceives the first automatic digital computer, the Analytical Engine, 1834. It is never finished due to lack of funding.
Samuel Morse invents the electromagnetic telegraph and Morse code.
Louis Daguerre improves still photography using silver iodine.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, documents Babbage’s work and designs programs for the Analytical Engine. She is credited as the first software engineer.
George Boole invents symbolic logic, which applies mathematical theory to logic. This lays the foundation for all-purpose digital computing.
Italian-born Antonio Meucci develops the first working electromagnetic telephone, but fails to properly market his invention.
Eadweard Muybridge shoots motion studies using a series of still photographs.
Emile Baudot invents the printing telegraph, which automatically translates electrical pulses into alphanumeric characters.
Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray each attempt to patent the telephone on the very same day. Bell is eventually awarded the patent.
1877, Germany & USA
The dynamic microphone is independently developed by E.W. Siemens in Germany, and the team of Cuttris and Redding in the US.
Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.
Oberlin Smith invents a device which records sound on a spool of magnetic wire, but does not attempt to promote the idea. This is the forerunner of the modern tape recorder.
Emile Reynaud invents the Praxinoscope, the first practical motion picture projector.
Edison demonstrates the carbon-filament incandescent light bulb.
Edison accidentally discovers the principle of the vacuum tube.
Paul Nipkow patents the idea of a scanning disc, the basis of mechanical television.
George Eastman popularizes flexible photographic film and portable still cameras.
Herman Hollerith invents a statistical tabulation machine using punched cards. He founds a company which is later known as International Business Machines, or IBM.
Working for Edison, William K. L. Dickson begins development of the Kinetograph motion picture camera. Films are shown using a peephole viewer called the Kinetoscope.
Frederick Ives invents first complete system for natural color photography.
Edweard Muybridge uses his Zoopraxiscope to project images of human and animal locomotion at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Nikola Tesla recieves over 40 US patents on alternating current, which allows wired transmission of electricity over great distances.
Louis and Auguste Lumiere patent a portable motion picture camera and projector, called the Cinematographe.
Guglielmo Marchese Marconi transmits a wireless telegraph signal over the distance of one mile.
Ferdinand Braun invents the Oscilloscope, a scanning cathode ray tube.
Valdemar Poulsen perfects a wire audio recorder based on Oberlin Smith’s published ideas. Called the telegraphone, it is marketed as a dictation and telephone answering machine.
The Pathe company develops a system for automating the process of hand-coloring black and white motion picture films.
Reginald Fessenden demonstrates the first wireless communication of human speech.
1908, England & Russia
Scottish inventor A.A. Campbell-Swinton and Russian Boris Rosing independently suggest using a cathode ray to reproduce the television picture on a phosphorous coated screen.
G.A. Smith pioneers color motion pictures with a system called Kinemacolor.
Lee De Forest invents the Audion tube, which he later uses to develop the first audio amplifer.
The first commercial radios are sold by Lee De Forest's Radio Telephone Company.
A.A. Campbell-Swinton proposes a method of electronic scanning where the cathode ray tube is used at the camera as well as the receiver end of the system.
Edward Kleinschmidt introduces the teletype machine, a refinement of Baudot’s printing telegraph.
First commercial radio broadcast from KDKA in Pittsburgh.
John Logie Baird develops a crude but practical television system based on the Nipkow disk.
Philo T. Farnsworth creates the Orthicon tube, the first working electronic video camera.
Vladimir Zworykin patents the Iconoscope video camera. The design is partially stolen from Farnsworth’s work.
The Technicolor process for motion pictures is used in sequences of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.
Chester Rice and Edward Kellog invent the the moving coil loudspeaker.
Edwin Howard Armstrong begins work on frequency modulation (FM) as a technique of eliminating radio static.
Sound films begin with the release of The Jazz Singer, using Western Electric's Vitaphone system. Audio is recorded on phonograph disks.
Philo T. Farnsworth creates the first working electronic video reciever.
Experimental television broadcasts begin worldwide, using mechanical systems.
Hollywood film studios abandon the sound-on-disk system in favor of optical sound-on-film.
Philo T. Farnsworth publicly demonstrates the first electronic television transmission.
The Magnetophon audio recorder is the first to use plastic-base tape, based on the design of Fritz Pfleumer. The tape is manufactured by BASF.
Alan Turing publishes the mathematical fundamentals of computer science.
George R. Stibitz pioneers binary digital circuitry with the Complex Number Calculator.
RCA markets the first commercial television sets.
John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry build the first electronic digital computer, a special-purpose prototype for a larger machine that was never completed.
Alan Turing heads the Colossus project to crack the German code called Enigma. Colossus is a special-purpose computer with about 1,500 vacuum tubes.
Arthur C. Clark envisions geosynchronous satellites to relay radio signals.
American and British government investigators seize all information, technology, and patents pertaining to the Magnetophon audio recorder.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Vannevar Bush describes the MEMEX, a proposed desktop device which serves to augment human memory and association.
Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) computer developed by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. It is the first general purpose digital computer, and is used to calculate firing tables for World War II anti-aircraft guns.
Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid Corporation, invents instant photography.
The transistor is invented by William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter H. Brattain. This paves the way for everything from minature radios to computer microprocessors.
Cable television is introduced, but does not become common until the 1970s.
Mauchly and Eckert create the UNIVAC I, the first computer able to easily process alphabetical information. It was the first computer to be sold in the US.
FCC authorizes the NTSC standard for color television broadcast in the United States.
A research team at Ampex Corporation, led by Charles P. Ginsburg, perfects the videotape recorder. One of the engineers on the team is Ray Dolby.
Sputnik I, the first orbital satellite, is launched.
Jack S. Kilby invents the monolithic integrated circuit.
The SAGE computers for strategic air defense feature the first interactive graphic user interfaces.
Robert Noyce constructs the first integrated circuit on a silicon wafer.
The first social computing network, called PLATO, is developed by Donald Bitzer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Bell labs develops the first modem, the Bell 103.
Theodore Harold Maiman invents the laser.
At MIT, Ivan Sutherland creates Sketchpad, a program which allows users to draw directly on a computer screen.
Paul Baran develops the idea of distributed, packet-switching networks. This forms the basis for the hardware component of the Internet.
Douglas Engelbart invents the mouse pointing device for computers.
Ted Nelson coins the term hypertext.
Monochrome plasma displays are invented by Donald Bitzer and other researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are first employed as part of the PLATO system.
Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicts that, every eighteen months, computing power would double while cost remained constant. This is now known as Moore’s Law.
Carterfone company invents the acoustic coupler to bypass AT&T’s monopolistic restrictions against direct connection to the phone system.
Sony creates the first inexpensive, portable videotape camera and recorder package.
Ray Dolby invents audio noise reduction.
IBM builds the first floppy disk.
In what later came to be called “the mother of all demos,” Doug Engelbart demonstrates the graphical user interface, word processor, hypertext, and collaborative computing.
Ivan Sutherland invents what is later known as virtual reality, a fully immersive, interactive, simulated environment.
The Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPAnet) is created as the first national, packet-switched computer network. It is the direct predecessor to the Internet.
Willard Boyle and George E. Smith, researchers at Bell Labs, invent the charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor.
Professors and students at the University of Utah pioneer the emerging field of computer graphics.
A team of researchers at Corning Glass invent fiberoptic cable, which can carry 65,000 times more information than conventional copper wire.
Intel Corporation builds the first microprocessor, a “computer on a chip” called the 4004.
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers standardizes timecode, making it possible to synchronize audiovisual devices and enabling computer-assisted videotape editing.
James Fergason invents the liquid crystal display.
The Intelsat communications satellite system is launched.
Ralph Baer completes his work on the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console.
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center begins development on the Alto, a networked personal computer with a graphical user interface. It is a research project, and is never commercially released.
Ikegami introduces the first video camcorder for electronic news gathering.
Gary Kildall writes the CP/M operating system, and later develops it for Intel processors.
Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf develop TCP/IP, the software protocol of the future Internet.
Panasonic, a subsidiary of Matsushita, demonstrates high definition television.
Intel introduces the 8080, the first commercially successful microprocessor.
The Ethernet network standard is developed by Bob Metcalfe and others at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Metcalfe later forms 3Com Corp.
Ed Roberts’ company MITS markets the first personal computer: a kit called the Altair.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen write a version of the BASIC operating system for the MITS Altair, and form Micro-Soft Company.
Sony markets the first successful videocassette recorder for home viewing and recording of video. Unwilling to license its Betamax technology, Sony is pushed out of the home VCR market by its rival JVC’s VHS format.
Steven J. Sasson, working for Eastman Kodak, invents the digital camera.
Dolby Laboratories introduces hi-fi stereo sound for cinematic motion pictures.
Apple computer markets the Apple II, the first prefabricated personal computer.
The first mobile telephones are developed at Bell Labs.
Philips markets the first video laserdisc player.
Sony releases the Walkman, the first personal audio player.
Flat-screen LCD pocket televisions are patented by Matsushita.
Seagate Technologies announces the first Winchester hard disk drive.
Sony sells the first consumer video camcorder.
IBM introduces the IBM PC. They choose Intel’s 8088 microprocessor and Microsoft’s DOS operating system.
1982, Netherlands & Japan
Philips and Sony introduce the audio Compact Disc, which is later adapted for data storage as the CD-ROM etc.
The Internet is created when ARPAnet divides into military and civilian components. However, it is still only used for government research.
Cellular phone network starts in US.
Apple introduces the Lisa, the first commercial computer with a graphical user interface. This is the forerunner of the Apple Macintosh, released the following year.
Judge Harold Greene breaks up the AT&T-Bell System for antitrust violations.
Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner of Stanford University invent the multiprotocol network router. They form Cisco Systems.
Sony introduces Digital Audio Tape (DAT). The consumer market for DAT is crushed by record companies, but DAT is adopted as a professional mastering format.
Congress finally allows individual and commercial traffic over the Internet.
Englishman Tim Berners-Lee develops the World Wide Web.
NewTek ships the Video Toaster, the first desktop video editing system. It runs on the Commodore Amiga 2000 computer.
IBM releases Simon, the first smartphone.
The first full-color plasma displays are available from Fujitsu.
Agreement is reached on the ATSC standard for high definition television transmission in the United States.
Mosaic Communications releases Netscape Navigator 1.0, the first graphical World Wide Web browser.
Paul Debevec develops multiple techniques in high dynamic range imaging (HDRI).
2002, New Zealand
Using a combination of digital and traditional techniques, artists and technicians at WETA create a convincing motion picture adaptation of the novel The Lord of the Rings. The book was previously considered “unfilmable” due to its scale and complexity.