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The Industrial Era


The Fourth generation of computers starts approximately in this era. These computers are characterized by fully electronic and programmable models. ICs are built which contain more than 500.000 components. With this step the FOURTH GENERATION of computers started

  • In this era more than one standard silicon based CPU will see the light.
  • Light based processors see literally the lights in laboratory.
  • Even the first models of quantum computers will be "constructed" in laboratories, but to say construction might be exaggerating.


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

1947 1949 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974
1976 1978 1980 1981 1982 1984 1986 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 2000
2002 2005 2007                    


History of Software

pre history
pre-industrial era
Industrial era

History of Videogames




Integrated software (Word processor, Spreadsheet, Database, Graphics, Communication) are now common amongst advanced users.

The strict line between professional and nonprofessional  users is more and more disappearing. The only limitation is the price of new software and hardware. Businesses can afford more expensive hard and software than the nonprofessional. The latter started with computers soon called micro computers or home computers. The most famous are the Commodore 64 and Apple II. Also other small micro computers became affordable. They were priced from 300 US$ and up, e.g. Timex Sinclair SX 80

Prodigy founded by Sears and IBM.

Sears and IBM plan to launch a national online service, dubbed Prodigy in 1987. Prodigy becomes one of the three leading online services before it loses ground to the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s. The company is bought out by its management in 1996 and becomes an Internet service provider. (6)

The first RISC computer of IBM, the RT PC, is introduced on the market.

The idea of Reduced Instruction Set Computers originated in 1976. This new way to construct a processor makes that it can only handle single instructions, which only last one clock cycle. Because of the one cycle process, it seems that the CPU program runs faster than the original full instruction set CPU.

The first IBM portable computer (IBM 5140) "The Convertible" becomes a huge flop.

It is too expensive, has not enough memory and most people find the machine too heavy.

Of course, Hewlett Packard can not remain behind and introduces a complete new line of computers based on the HP Precision Architecture (1).

The project received the code name "Spectrum" and the costs of development over 5 years are more than 250 million dollars. It is HP's most expensive research project up to a long time to come.

The commercial introduction of the MINI-SUPER (computer).

With a relatively low price of 2 million US dollars it has the same computational power as the first generation super computers with regard to the speed of computing.

The CD ROM (compact disc read only memory) is introduced by SONY.

On this disc one can store 650MB of information.

IBM introduced the 1 Mbit (128 Kb) memory chip. At the same time a 1Mb chip is introduced in Japan.

SAA (Systems Applications Architecture) will form the bridge between all IBM systems, such as the systems S/370, S/3X and PS/2 models can communicate through this software.

SAA is a development philosophy which is first launched by IBM. If implemented thoroughly it takes care that the systems as well as the software have the same look and would be compatible with other soft- and hardware. This means that the buildup of the information screens are bounded to rules which increases the efficiency and ergonomy of the information systems. 

philip k. katzPhilip K. Katz develops PKArc. A program that makes files smaller, hence: compression.

After a legal dispute several years later the program will be renamed into PKZip. The advantage of using a compression program is that compressed files will take a shorter time to send or receive from other computers, but they also take less space on your hard disk.
Katz puts the program into the shareware domain: pay only as you like and use it. He soon will make a fortune and that was something not anticipated by him, as he will tell a journalist of the Milwaukee Journal later.(5)

In this year the stock market on Wall street is fully automated.

It only took the traders a couple of days to realize that they could trade  from their desks using their own computers as well. Within one week the system went in operation the trading rooms will be empty. The stock market's management was quite surprised, which is an under statement of their feelings. Also they feel  a little embarrassed  with the speed Wall street turned into an electronic ghost town.

Berkeley Softworks introduces the Operating system GEOS.

Iinitially thought for the Commodore 64 and later ported to other computers (CPU's) as well. This was a sleek and fast OS that had less bloated than MS window's.(8)

Neural networks are created from silicon chips.

These computer chips mimic the way brain cells may retrieve stored information and solve problems.

avatarThe term Avatar from the Sanskrit is introduced and applied to represent a virtual person.

The first reference of Avatar in the video game Habitat is applied from Sanskrit. The term refers to Avatar as virtual (on-line) bodies. However it took Stephenson's SF novel Snow Crash (1992) to popularize the term Avatar and soon after that it became a standard description for virtual personages in computer games and the World Wide Web.(7) On internetforae, Twitter or chatprogramms Avatars are depicted by small iconic pictures mostly next to the name of the user. And are the representation of the users (mostly human) in the virtual world.


On April 2, IBM officially introduces a new family of personal computers: the PS/2-series.

Starting with the 30  series (8086 CPU) and ending with series 80, based on the 80386 CPU. This system-line introduced the so-called VGA graphics (Video Graphics Array), a new data concept: Micro Channel Architecture (MCA). The  3 1/2" floppy disk drives which are mounted in the type 68000 machines (Apple, Amiga) are now installed in the IBM PS/2 as well. But there is not an operating system (OS/2) available at the introduction of the new IBM PS/2 machines. Quickly hybrids of these  OS's are getting to the market and fill in the gap left by IBM, such as: Pcmos 386, Windows/286, Windows/386 and similar ones.

OS/2When OS/2 finally appears on the market in December, it is big, slow and  riddled with bugs.

ibm os2 v1

With this release of OS/2 a mouse can be used with IBM PCs for the first time.

OS/2 1.00 is the first operating system for the Personal Computer to provide multitasking based on hardware support. It is in text mode only and allows only one program to be on the screen at a time. Even when other programs run in the background. It also allows one very limited session in which DOS programs can be run. The maximum hard disk size supported is 32 MB.
All 1.x versions of OS/2 are designed to run on Intel 80286 systems, but can run on 80386 systems as well. (13)

In April MS-DOS 3.3 appears on the market.

This version can create partitions on the hard disc. DOS 3.3 appears to be one of the most stable versions for DOS operating systems for the next four years.

IBM starts with the development of the GF-11.

This should be a computer with 576 parallel processors each with 2Mb memory and every chip should be able to execute 20 million computations per second. In this way the GF-11 could make, at top speed, 11 billion computations per second.

Inmos introduces the T800 transputer (2 Mega Flops) that slashes all records for its speed.

Inmos also introduces the first transputer with a numerical coprocessor. With this transputer possibilities seem unlimited for scientific computations.

The 1.44 Mb micro floppy drive and its accompanying floppy discs are introduced.

Bill Atkinson develops with his team (around twenty people amongst which is Dan Winkler ( programmer ) and  Marge Boots ( illustrator) the HyperCard system.

It is one of the predecessors of Hypertext but based on programming languages such as SmallTalk and Logo. HyperCard is an author system and meant to form links for a vast amount of unstructured information. The links are called: "hyper links".
For the time being this system will only run on the Apple Macintosh. It will take several years before other platforms (amongst them Intel) make a similar Hyper Card system available.

Eli Yablonovitch of Bellcore corporation describes the theory of how to store light pulses into memory blocks.

The memory blocks consists of photonic crystals that contains "chambers" in where the light beams are trapped. This can be done by making the chamber the exact size of the wavelength of the light and the diffraction of the material used is large enough to create a reflection between the "wall" of the chamber and the medium in which the light is trapped.(3)

photonic_crystal.gif (2593 bytes)

It will take about 10 years to come to a next step in this technology by two Dutch scientists. (1998)

Light will become the future power to drive computers. It is faster and uses less energy. But this technology is much more complicated than that of electrons. And the needed theories are still not known, a lot of work needs to be done. Science is not yet advanced enough to make any practical and marketable device.

The RISC architecture is invented by a research team on Berkeley university under project leader David A. Patterson.

This research will result in the SPARC processor going to be used by Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu.
At Stanford a team led by John Hennesy, also invented the concept of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computers). The microprocessors which emerged from these 2 projects the MIPS and SPARC are used in most modern workstations.


The smart card not larger than a credit card is introduced in its final form. It contains microprocessors and memory chips (see the gold colored spot in the above example), giving it capabilities similar to a personal computer.

The idea of a smart card however has been invented 20 years ago by two Germans: Jurgen Dethloff and Helmut Gottrup. They filed a patent in 1968 for using plastic as a carrier for microchips. In Japan Kunitake Animura filed a similar patent in 1970. And finally the Frenchman Roland Moreno filed his patent for the smart card in 1974; this time a workable concept. (9)
It is the latter that will become widely accepted in Europe were some 20 years later every bank card, credit card, security pass and chip card, will contain a microchip. Expanding on the idea, SIM cards will be put into cellular phones, passports and money. All will be supplied with microchips to enhance security against falsification, or, as government (agencies) make us believe to fight terrorism by storing personal data on e.g. a passport's chip. The first argument, falsification, is closer to realism than the latter.


The OS/2 developers version 1.1 is available.

The OS/2 operating system still does not make use of all the possibilities of the so-called Protected Mode.

Finally, IBM enters the supercomputer arena, and starts with a research group with some of Cray's ex-employees.

IBM researchers Barry Devlin and Paul Murphy coined the term information warehouse.

IT companies begin building experimental data warehouses.

The NeXT (68030 CPU) computer is introduced after two years of research and developed by Steve Jobs (one of the developers and inventors of the APPLE computer).

For the time being the computer is only sold to students for the high price of US$ 10.000. The limited software available is written in the language C and offers a development environment under UNIX.

Quote by Bill Gates, of Microsoft, when asked if he would develop software for the NeXT computer: "Develop for it? I'll piss on it."(11)

Maxis releases Sim City, a video game that simulates the building and maintaining a of a city.

The city has to be build up from scratch by placing houses, factories, power plants, police and fire stations on the "playing" board". The population of the city grows accordingly and thus the tax income of the city. The aim is to make as much money as possible while keeping your citizens happy. Low taxes good public transportation security are factors that keeps them happy. To keep the game appealing to players accidents, crime, fires and disasters were factors of disaster randomly introduced. The term SIM will become a word for anything that is simulated by computers and stands for many other simulation games.

Nine leading PC producers present a new concept, the Enhanced Industry Standard Architecture (EISA).

It will provide an alternative for the Micro Channel Architecture 32 bits bus concept introduced by IBM. This action is mainly a response against the licensing policy of IBM that does not want to release the MCA concept for use. Later only against an abnormal high price.

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority established.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority is established by the government. Based in Marina del Rey, California, and headed by influential Internet pioneer Jonathan Postel, the group will manage the registration of domain names for the next decade.(6)

Internet Relay Chat invented.

Finnish student Jarkko Oikarinen develops Internet Relay Chat, which will grow into a major Internet application, attracting millions of people to communicate in real time. Notably, Internet Relay Chat will be used to send real-time information during the Gulf War and other crises during the 1990s.(6)

Worm plagues Internet.

A malicious program called a worm affects some six thousand computers, ARPA forms the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). (6)

At the event of the birth of the computer virus, there are several opinions:

History will prove them utterly wrong.

Work on standardization of C++ begins.

pink projectApple's "Pink" project.


Operating System developers at Apple finished working on System 6. And to determine what the future of the MacOS should look like, all developers have a meeting discussing new concepts. They write down their ideas on index cards. Ideas that could easily be integrated into the existing System Software are written on blue cards and the more difficult and time-consuming concepts are written on pink cards.
The "Pink" project is born and started to compete with the System 7 (codenamed "Blue") team. Pink is a project for a new microkernel-based object-oriented operating system. (14)
Below an impression of such an O-O system.


A few years later development of Pink stays way behind System 7, which release will be on May 13 1991. That will trigger Apple to cancel the Pink project and combine forces in a joint venture with IBM in that same year. The project will then be called Taligent. That in its turn will be discontinued soon thereafter. See 1991

thocpCD-Recordable disc and recorder technology introduced.

thocpThe first anti-virus is written.(15)

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Last Updated on September 17, 2012 For suggestions please mail the editors 

Footnotes & References