Saturday, October 11, 2003


Our first posting to COMPundit relates to the beginning (or history) of the COMputer.
There are many beginnings for the computer, reaching clear back into the early days of civilization and man's first systems of counting. It just depends on what we select to be important. We will utlimately cover many of the possible roots of computing.


A good succinct timeline is found at the Rhode Island Computer Museum website, starting with Stonehenge and Avebury.

A recent timeline starting at 1945 is found at
This site is recommended for photos - click e.g. "more on computers" in 1945 e.g. to see photos of the machines.

The Digital Computer Museum Catalog gives a comprehensive view going back into antiquity.

We find one time-line for "calculators", which preceded computers, at the Vintage Calculators Web Museum.

Triumph of the Nerds is a PBS-Timeline for computing.

The Birth of Modern Computing and Programming Ideas is found at the History of Programming Languages.

An excellent one-page History of Computation is found at Dunne.

A chronological account of computing with a time-line is found at the site of The IEEE Computer Society, the world's oldest and largest professional association of people in computing.

For a general overview, see History of Mathematics at Trinity College Dublin and "Early Math" at recovered science.

Here is our selection of landmarks from these and other time-lines, together with our selection of links to other, specialized websites for detailed discussion of persons or inventions:


3000 BC - astronomically oriented methods of calculation by megaliths
1800 BC Babylon - algorithm developed
1500 BC Egypt - shadow clock invented
650 BC Egypt - merkhet invented
500 BC Egypt - abacus invented
325 BC Salamis tablet constructed (early form of abacus)
150 BC Astrolabe invented
82 BC Antikythera navigational calculator constructed, probably by Geminus at Rhodes
65 BC Antikythera device lost in wreck at sea
50 BC Andronicos of Kyrrhos builds tower of the Winds at Athens
48 BC Julius Caesar reforms the Roman Calendar
ca 200 AD Construction started on American "Woodhenge" at Cahokia
ca 1200 AD Chinese abacus developed
1335 First great clock constructed at Milan
1410 Astrolabe clock constructed at Prague
1612 - John Napier - first use of the decimal point, Napier also invented logarithms
1622 - William Oughtred - created the slide rule using Napier's logarithms
1623 - Wilhelm Schickard - builds first mechanical calculator, but is perhaps preceded in this honor by Leonardo da Vinci
1642 - Blaise Pascal - first adding machine
1673 - Gottfried Leibniz - first calculator capable of multiplication
1801 - Joseph-Marie Jacquard - invention of an automatic loom using punched cards
1820 - Charles Xavior Thomas builds the Arithmometer - first commercially sold desktop calculator
1822-23 - Charles Babbage - known as the "father of computing" designs a "difference engine", a steam-powered mechanical calculator for printing astronomical tables and conveices a mechanical "analytical machine" - Babbage is honored today by the CBI, Charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Technology
1842 - Ada Augusta (Byron) King - world's first computer "programmer"
1854 - George Boole describes his Boolean Logic
1890 - Herman Hollerith (his company later became IBM) wins competition to do the US Census
1925 - Vannevar Bush builds a differential analyzer
1935 - Konrad Zuse builds his Z-1 mechanical calculator
1936 - John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry developed the ABC computing machine
1937 - Alan Turing develops the idea of a Universal Machine
1939 - George Stibitz - Complex Number Calculator (later the Bell Labs Model 1)
1940 - The Colossus is built - Tommy Flowers, Sir Harry Hinsley
1943 - Work on ENIAC started. ENIAC (Electronic Numeral Integrator and Calculator) - which begins modern computer industry was developed by John Brainerd, John Mauchly, J. Presper Eckert, Herman Goldstine
1944 - Harvard Mark I developed - Howard Aiken
1945 - John von Neumann develops the idea of internal computer storage of data (priority not accepted by all) EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Computer). Internal programming of computers - i.e. modern software - is largely due to the formative ideas of von Neumann, probably the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, also famous for the development of game theory.
1947 - ENIAC goes public; William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain invent the transistor Click the various radio buttons. Prior to the transistor, computers were of immense size - the transistor meant they could be miniaturized.
1948 - Manchester Mark I is first operating stored program machine
1949- UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) - Details
1952 - Automatic programming- - i.e. a compiler - Grace Hopper
1953 - IBM - The Defense Calculator is IBM's real entry into computing
1954 - FORTRAN - John Backus - first computer programming language
1954 - NSF (National Science Foundation) awards a grant in computing to John von Neumann - we will hear about the NSF and the internet later.
1958 - Integrated circuit (IC) - the microchip - invented by Jack St. Clair Kilby
(this will yet be edited, updated and continued)

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