Computing and IT

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12/5/2017, A massive cyber-attack, the biggest in the world to date, hit almost 100 countries across the world. Computers were hit by ransomware, which encrypted their files and users could not recover them without paying several hundred pounds in Bitcoin. In the UK the NHS was badly affected; a vulnerability factor was the continued use of outdated software. The attack combined features of ransomware with a worm that enabled it to spread within computer networks. The identity of the attacker remains unknown.

2016, Google’s AlphaGo programme defeated Lee Sedol, a world Go champion.

2012, Google’s driverless cars succeeded in navigating autonomously through road traffic.

13/3/2012, The Encyclopaedia Britannica discontinued its print edition, now being online-only, after 244 years.

2011, Apple launched Siri, a voice-operated personal assistant that could answer questions, make recommendations, and carry out simple instructions such as ‘call home’.

2007, Google launched Translate, a statistical machine translation service.

15/7/2006, Twitter was launched.

23/4/2005, The first YouTube video, Me at the zoo, was uploaded at 8.27 pm by the site’s co-founder, Jawed Karim.

14/2/2005, The video sharing website YouTube was started by three workers at PayPal.

4/2/2004, Mark Zuckerberg and some Harvard roommates launched a social networking site called Facebook.

28/4/2003, The Apple company launched the iTunes music store.

31/12/2001, Microsoft ended support for Windows 1.0, Windows 2x, Windows 3x, and Windows 95.

25/10/2001, Microsoft released Windows XP.

23/10/2001, Apple Computers released the iPod.

15/1/2001, Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, was launched.

14/8/2000, Microsoft released Windows ME (Millennium Edition).

3/4/2000, Microsoft was found guilty by a US court of breaking US anti-trust laws by attempting to monopolise the Internet browser market.

14/1/2000, The height of the Dot-Com bubble; the Dow Jones Index reached an all-time high of 11,792.98.

1/6/1999, Napster was released, enabling users to share music files and changing forever the music industry.

5/5/1999, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second edition.

26/3/1999, The Melissa worm attacked the Internet.

18/9/1998, ICANN, the Internet naming company, was formed.

7/9/1998, Google was founded.

25/6/1998, Microsoft released Windows 98 (first edition).

8/5/1998, The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Microsoft Corporation, claiming it had abused its monopoly power by tying its Web browser, Internet Explorer, to its operating system, Windows.

10/2/1996, The computer programme Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov at chess, the first victory by a computer over a human.

24/8/1995, Microsoft launched Windows 5.

1994, QR (Quick Response) codes were invented by the Denso Wave company, to facilitate high speed scanning ofvehicle components.

15/12/1994, The Web browser Netscape 1.0 was launched.

30/4/1993, CERN posted the source code for the Internet for free, for anyone to use.

25/8/1991, Linus Torvalds introduced the first version of the Linux operating system.

4/3/1991, A primitive version of the world wide web began operating.

13/1/1989, The ‘Friday the 13th’ virus hit hundreds of IBM computers across Britain.

17/11/1988, The Netherlands became the second country to connect to the Internet, after the USA.

16/8/1988, IBM introduced software for artificial intelligence.

19/1/1986, The first computer virus, called Brain, began to spread.

20/11/1985, Microsoft released its first version of Windows, Windows 1.0.

15/3/1985, On the Internet, the first .com name was registered,, by the Symbolics Corporation. However .edu names still predominated.

1984, Dell Computers was started by Michael Dell, a 19-year old student at the University of Texas.

24/1/1984, The first Apple Macintosh computer went on sale.

30/11/1983, Microsoft Word was first released.

29/3/1983. The first laptop computer went on sale, in the USA. It was the TRS-80 Model 100, and came with 8k or 24k of memory.

1981, Richard Feynman first proposed the idea of a quantum computer.

5/3/1981, Clive Sinclair launched the XZX81 computer in the UK, at a price of £69.95 fully assembled.

1979, Bubble memory was invented. Using tiny magnetised areas, it could store the equivalent of a 40-page book on 215 square millimetres.

5/6/1977, Apple 2 computers first went on sale.

1/1977, The first succesful mass-market personal computer, the Commodore PET, became available to order; deliveries commenced later in the year.

26/11/1976, An obscure company called Microsoft was officially registered in the US State of New Mexico.

1/4/1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the Apple computer company. It sold its first Apple-1 computer in July 1976 for US$666.66, with 8 kB RAM.

1975, The first digital camera was constructed.

1974, Hewlett Packard (USA) produced the first programmable pocket calculator.

23/9/1974. The world’s first Ceefax service began, operated by the BBC.

1971, A small company called Intel released a microprocessor called the 4004. At 12 square millimetres it contained 2,300 transistors, with the gap between them measuring about 10,000 nanometres (billionths of a metre), the size of a red blood cell. In 2015 Intel was producing the Skylake chip, with the transistors just 14 nonometres apart, some 100 atoms across, smaller than the wavelength of visible light. However the continuous improvement in chip processing performance, known as Moore’s Law, may now (2016) be coming to an end as problems of heat and of electronic cross-talk between the closely packed tiny transistors rises.

1971, The first pocket calculators came on sale.

9/10/1971, Ray Tomlinson sent the first email.

11/1/1971, The first recorded use of the term ‘Silicon Valley’, in the weekly trade publication Electronic News. The term became widespread in the early 1980s as personal computers became more commonplace. The original name of the valley where the IT products are now made was ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’, referring to the many orchards once present there.

17/11/1970. A US patent was granted to Doug Engelbart for his invention of the computer mouse – so called because of its long cable tail. He had invented the ‘mouse’ in 1964.

29/10/1969, The Arpanet went live.

1967, Texas Instruments produced the first hand-held electronic calculator.

15/10/1967. The Guardian offered its readers ‘the first binary computer kit’ called Digi-Comp 1, for £3 10 shillings.

14/6/1967. At a telecommunications conference in London, the Postmaster General predicted shopping by picture television and news reports by computer before the end of the century.

1965, Gordon Moore proposed Moore’s Law – stating that the number of transistors on a chip of given size would double every 2 years.

1965, The silicon chip was introduced, in the USA.

1964, The Sharp Corporation (Japan) launched the first all-transistor desktop calculator, the CS-10A Compet.

1960, Transistors replaced valves in computers.

1960, Ted Nelson invented hypertext, which allowed cross referencing (hyperlinks) between sections of text and to diagrams.

4/8/1959. Barclays Bank became the first to use computers for its branch accounts.

1956, First use of the term ‘artificial intelligence’ at a workshop at Dartmouth College.

1956, In the US, the first computer programming language, FORTRAN, was developed.

28/10/1955, Bill Gates was born. He founded Microsoft in 1975 and was the world’s richest man, 1995-2007.

24/2/1955, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was born.

7/6/1954, Alan Turing, mathematician who broke the Nazi codes during World War Two, died.

24/5/1954. IBM announced the development of an ‘electronic brain’ and planned to rent the 30 models out to offices for US$ 25,000 a month. The computer used valves.

1950, The first mass-produced computer, Univac-1 (Universal Automatic Computer) was manufactured by the Eckert & Mauchly Computer Company in Philadelphia, USA.

21/6/1948, The first computer using stored programmes was built at Manchester University, UK

1946, John van Neumann, Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, USA, constructed the first binary computer.

1945, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator) was built at the University of Pennsylvania; the first completely electronic (valve-driven) computer. It weighed 31 tons.

1943, IBM stated that ‘there is probably a world market for maybe five computers’.

12/1943, The first electronic computer was built secretly at Bletchley Park; it began operations in December 1943 to crack the German Enigma codes ( ), also the far more complex Lorenz codes (  also ) . It worked with punched tape and could scan and analyse 5,000 characters a second. In 1946 the US military developed the first all-purpose, i.e. programmable, electronic computer. Called ENIAC, it weighed 30 tons and contained some 18,000 vacuum tubes. It was used for calculating trajectories of artillery shells, accounting for variables like wind velocity, air temperature, and type of shell.

1942, The first electronic digital calculator was built, by Professor John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry at Iowa State University

1931, Conrad Zuse of Germany produced the Z1 computer. It was the first to use a binary system, the absence of presence of electric charge to denote 0 or 1.

23/6/1912, Alan Mathison Turing, British mathematician who invented the Turing Machine, was born. He was the son of Julius and Sara Turing.

8/1/1889. The first electric computer for data processing was patented by Dr Herman Hollerith in New York. The company. Dr Hollerith formed to market his invention became the giant IBM. Charles Babbage had designed and partially built a mechanical ‘Analytical Engine’ between 1821 and 1871. The 1889 computer was designed to compute the results of the 1890 census, using punched cards. The inspiration for this machine came from a scheme on the US railways to enter the physical details of every passenger on their ticket by means of a punched hole card system – so that train robbers could be identified when they posed as ordinary travellers. The railway sceheme did not win wide acceptance.

18/10/1871, Charles Babbage, pioneer of computing, died.

1885, In the USA, Dorr Eugene patented the first ‘comptometer’, a key-driven adding machine.

1840, Ada Lovelace wrote the first ‘programme’or algorithm for a computer, the ‘difference engine’ of Charles Babbage.

1834, Charles Babbage, English mathematician, invented a programmable mechanical  computer. However the technologiy for manufacturing the components to the required precision did not yet exist (see 1801).

1801, The Flemish weaver  Joseph Jacquard developed a hole-punched card system for manufacturing elaborate patterns on fabrics. The holes allowed needles to pass through, or not, lifting corresponding threads of the warp. This systek inspired Charles Babbage (1834)

1642, Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, invented the first adding machine.

1622, English mathematician William Oughtred invented the slide rule.

1617, Scottish mathematician John Napier used ‘Napier’s Bones’ to demonstrate that multiplication and division can be preformed as a series of additions or subtractions. This paved the way for mechanical calculating machines.

3000 BCE, The abacus was in use by the Babylonians.


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