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About the time line



This timeline is written in chronological order. Starting way before our kind knew what would happen in the 20th century. 
To  realize what went on before people could even count the editors decided to start this historic account at  less than 300.000 BC.  

The boundaries of the different era's are named after those used in history sciences. But that is where all analogy ends. Below you will find an explanation why.

cunei writing on clay tablet
Clay tablet engraved with with cuneiform

300.000BC - 1619AD

The era starts at what we call the Pre Historic Era of computing. In this chapter you will read what inventions people needed to make in order to be able to count and record their findings.
Also important thinkers and mathematicians are mentioned here as we thought them important for the trail of thought on how to come to a device that counts and calculates.

Why is this period called prehistoric?
Because it is before we had mechanized means to calculate. Analogue to the written history of mankind, pre history ends when there are written records of our history.

soroban / abacus

schikard calculator
Schickard calculator

1620 - 1885

The Antiquity period shows us what devices were made by our fore fathers to help them with calculations and counting, but still the devices do not look like a computer

Why is this period called Antiquity?
Because what we see here are remnants of attempts to design calculating aids. The means to count are not quite the calculators as we would see them,  nor can they record or print anything.

Difference engine Babbage


1886 - 1946

Then we arrive at the pre industrial era where we see the birth of computers, at least a fair idea of it.
Babbage is one of the most famous names here.

In this period Lady Lovelace invented the method to program a "computer". In other words the programming language was born. A computer language is named  after her : "ADA".

Why is this period called Pre Industrial?
In fact we decided to name this period pre industrial because no machines were made on industrial scale or leave alone in mass production. We will see some devices made by Pascal, Zuse and others. They tried to sell their devices to make some money but most did not sell more than 50 or some.
Though some machines are replicated in series they are however not made on a industrial scale or in mass production. (re: Zuse Z1, Millionaire) and took a long time to complete.

ibm system 360
IBM 360 system


Commodore 64
commordore 64

1947 - 20..

The industrial era brought us many examples of the ingenuity of our race. Also minituralisation took unequaled forms and culminated into the invention of the chip.

The computer industry started by churning out computers by the hundreds to produce over 4 million computers per year around 2000

Prices went down drastically because of mass production and private persons soon had their own computer: the personal computer.

Computers start to replace humans in a rapid pace doing the heavy and dirty work.

Why is this period called Industrial?
Almost all machines that come to the market are made in mass, large series that run into the millions. However there remain of course super and other specialty computers that will never be made in large series.

? The Post industrial era lifts a tip of the veil to us. New technologies are on the verge to break through. Like amorphous memory in organic material, computers that work with light in stead of electronic pulses, computers that do calculations by means of recombining DNA or RNA. Computers that can be painted on the wall making use of the budding nano technology etc. etc.

Which of all these inventions will be remembered after 100 years? Because they made it to the consumer or influenced the development of other machines greatly.


Juergen Schmidhuber wrote us:

(...)also I'd like to add that your notions of preindustrial era etc. are very nonstandard and confusing - the term "industrial era" usually refers to the time after 1760 when Watt built a steam engine in the UK; antiquity usually refers to around 500 b.c. when the Greeks invented the first algorithms. Maybe you want to replace your entry "Industrial Era 1947-..." by "Modern Computer History," but it starts in 1941 with Zuse's Z1, not in 1947....

Our comment:

When you look at the events that took place in the context of ordinary history you are strictly speaking right. But if you take the developments of computing in account the boundaries are different. That is why we wrote "Why ..." at each period of the timeline on the "About the timeline" page.

In this light the Z1 is strictly spoken not an industrial made machine, is one of a kind and never sold to anyone. Industrially made means to us: made in series in an industrial process, and sold to end users.
Industrial process is where you have a defined workflow of handling and manufacturing and not made to order by one single person.

the Timeline editor later commented:

Besides the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightment, both didn't happen everywhere at the same time it took years before it spread out to get to another country. De Industrial period was another example ot that. Some parts in the world never got industrialized. So it is all relative.

Story lines

There are also a number of story lines throughout the Chronological History of Computers:

The chronological events in the development of computers

  • Time flashes, historical or social events that might not have played a part in the development of computers but places the development of the computer in a historical perspective
  • Scientific discoveries or developments that will or have played a role in the computer industry
  • Other events or interesting information that will give the reader a better understanding of the achievement in developing the computer



When you really get curious then there are numerous hyperlinks to :

You just have to follow the leads or use the table of contents or other indexes on this site



Since it is not our intention to create an encyclopedia of computer history and related sciences we have taken the liberty to mention only the most important developments in the History of Computers.

But as time goes by we will be putting in more and more detailed information and  even more story lines onto this site.

We are thinking of embedding audio and video fragments into the various pages, but since that will take a lot of space (we only have 600 Mb to our disposal) and traffic (75Gb max) This will have to wait until space and traffic becomes cheaper and we find more sponsors to pay the bills.

So in the next 100 years ;=) it might even grow out into an encyclopedic form but it is not our prime objective.

Some sections are in the process of updating or redesign so they look ugly. Or the material you are looking for might not be there. In that case please inform us and send e-mail with you suggestions

See also the page about this project



Go Backgo to reference index Last Updated on 01-Feb-2005 For suggestions please mail the editors