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The Computer over the Years: Remember your first?

By Mary Beth Hamilton,
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

As a tribute to the piece of technology most of us rely on day-in and day-out we decided to look at the computer over the years. We’ll start way back in 1940 and bring you up to the 90’s where we’ll stop so you can reflect back on your first PC.harvard PC

Let’s start our trip down memory lane.

1940: We welcomed the Complex Number Calculator (CNC) as the world’s first electrical digital computer. According to AT&T, this “computer” provided the first demonstration of remote computing.

1943: The Z3 computer is known as the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computing machine and was built by German engineer Konrad Zuse.

1944: At 51 feet long and eight feet tall the Harvard Mark-1 computer, also known as the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, was a sight to be seen. And it held the distinction as the United State’s first automatic digital calculator.

1951: Need a computer to handle cake delivery scheduling? The LEO I (a.ka. Lyons Electronic Office) is for you. It holds the honor of being England´s first commercial computer and was built to solve clerical problems at Lyons tea shops.

1960: With a price tag of $120,000, the Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) PDP-1 included a cathode ray tube graphic display, needed no air conditioning and required only one operator. It is also credited with creating the hacker culture at MIT.

Also in 1960, AT&T designed its dataphone, which is considered to be the first commercial modem.

1965: Continuing its innovation push, DEC released the first commercially successful minicomputer called the PDP-8. It sold for the reasonable cost of $18,000, making it widely popular.

1971: Scientific American magazine advertised the first personal computer at the price of $750. The Kenbak-1 was a general-purpose computer, with 256 bytes of memory. Unfortunately after selling only 40 machines, Kenbak Corp. closed its doors.computer

1974: The first work station with a built-in mouse for input – Alto – was designed at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The computer stored several files simultaneously in windows, offered menus and icons, and could link to a local area network. 

1981: Welcome portability! The first portable computer, the Osborne I, came on the market. It included a 5-inch display, 64 kilobytes of memory, a modem, and two 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drives. The price was around $1,800 and it weighted a mere 24 pounds.

1984: Do you know what computer was recognized by the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest selling single computer model of all time? The Commodore 64 of course. It featured 64KB of RAM and impressive graphics for the time and a price tag of around $600.

1987: Rounding out the 80s, IBM released its PS/2 machines, making the 3 1/2-inch floppy disk drive and video graphics array standard for IBM computers.

We hope you enjoyed our brief walk down memory lane. Now we’d like to hear about your first computer.

Share your stories and memories with us!

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