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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                      



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Timeline Internet
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apple macintosh se
Apple MacIntosh SE/30 (7)

Apple introduces one of its best Mac Intosh products ever: MacIntosh SE /30.

A built-in hard drive with 128Kb RAM a 1.4Mb floppy that can read PC disks and is powered with a Motorola 60030 CPU. The machine keeps a good price on the second hand market because it is much in demand with business people

intel 80486intel 80486 die
housing and die Intel 486

in April this year INTEL continues its development of the 80386 with the 80486.

In fact it is a 386 but with a cache of 32 Kb and a coprocessor integrated in a single chip. In the coming two or three years the chip will not completely be bug free, a common trait of the industry. The processor contains 1.2 million transistors and operates at 20 MIPS.

ARPANET turned off (August).

With the successful introduction of TCP/IP, which allows different computer networks to communicate with each other, ARPANET is becoming obsolete, and ARPA decides to decommission the network. By the summer of 1989, all of ARPANET's sites are transferred to the faster NSFNET, and ARPANET is turned off for good. (6)

Quantum Computer Services in Vienna, Virginia USA, names online service America Online (October).

The company has developed a network with Apple, called AppleLink, but when the two companies part ways, Quantum changes the name of the service to America Online. Later, the entire company becomes America Online. (6)

Amiga 3000

The Amiga 3000 is for sale.

This computer is based on the 68030 and optional a '40 chip. The Commodore Amiga is made for graphical applications, the sound is still not well developed. This computer is made especially for professionals working in the field of graphical design and video.

The first of the in series produced 486 computer is made by Apricot ltd. (UK). The price for this specialty is around U$ 12,000.

Apricot PC1

reisers lawReisers law:

Software grows faster slower than hardware becomes faster

Maxell  is marketing the first 5.25" 10 Mb floppy discs developed by IBM.

The disk has a slow (80 ms) access time but still quicker than a regular 8" disk with 150 milliseconds.

All modern computers are now standard equipped with VGA monitors and cards, initially with 256 Kb but soon 512 Kb becomes the norm.

Through this improvement in graphics the development and acceptance of drawing programs are greatly stimulated. ACAD and ORCAD are some of the programs which have a full development environment (Computer Aided Design) which can now be used on a PC. Before only highly specialized and very expensive (> 150,000 U$) machines were capable of doing that.

Commodore is the first to bring the CD-I (compact disc interactive) to the market.

The principle was introduced a couple years ago by Rank Xerox, but Commodore succeeded to be the first to bring this product commercially on the market.
The system is based on the interaction between the hard- and soft ware. The hardware consists of a CD on which both the program and data are. By means of a mouse/controller one can react interactively on a game. Hence the end of a game is not always the same. For educational purposes one can by pointing to a picture or an item on the screen obtain more information. E.g. by clicking on a painting one can get more information of the painter. The idea of interactive media is based on the HyperCard principle: "links" from a subject to other information.

Tim Berners Lee didn't invent hypertext, but he invents software for the World Wide Web. HyperText Markup Language, also known as HTML.

Tim Berners LEe

The mild-mannered Berners-Lee is working at CERN, a high-energy physics lab in Switzerland. He has already written a few database programs to store information via random links, but this was only for his personal use. Then the idea came to him -Click!- to create a hypertext structure that would span the globe via the Internet, accessible to anyone with a mouse.... (4)

In just one decade this invention will revolutionize the way people are looking for information and sets the entire Internet in the frontiers of information technology. Upto now the Internet has been for scientists, government and advanced hobbyists. But thanks to the invention of WWW the Internet will soon become one pool of information with over 1 billion people connected and over 2 billion pages in 10 years time!
Tim Berners Lee also has the pre-sight not to commercialize or patent his invention, because in his view this would limit the use of this idea. As he learned from other projects with similar software (Mosaic) As a result people will soon start to make browsers (the one you are using now to read this history) to search and read information from the Web. Thus the web will become intensely popular. (Also read his own book on how the web came into existence)

Microsoft Corporation introduces Windows for IBM computers.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publishes the first standard for the C programming language: ANSI-C.

Prince, a development methodology, is created from PROMPTII and replaces it as the default method by the OGC (1)

This method with the backing of UK gets more support from users in countries on the continent of Europe.


One of these famous citations

Quote from a Lotus Development official, while demonstrating a new DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3: "We don't see Windows as a long-term graphical interface for the masses."(3)



In 1990 the World Wide Web is officially born when Tim Berners-Lee of the physics laboratory in Geneva developed the HTML and WWW software for it.

Mich Kapor

Electronic Frontier Foundation is founded. Mitch Kapor, Lotus founder, starts this watchdog group to protect freedom of speech on the Internet. (6)

First Internet service provider: The World. It becomes the first commercial provider of dial-up Internet access. (6)

Zenith, Compaq, Olivetti and  ALR launch, before IBM, computers of the Intel 486 series on the market.  Compaq is the most expensive (US$ 27,000)

The 20 Mb 5.25" floppy disc is for sale on a limited scale.

Two engineers associated with the Science Museum in London  - Reg Crick en Barrie Holloway - start with the rebuild of a part  (The Mill) of Charles Babbage's Differential Machine (1822-33).

They do this using the original schemes. In this way they proved that the machine could have worked if Babbage ever would have completed the project. The construction was finalized in September 1991 and displayed to the public.

Difference Engine Babbage rebuild

Window 3.0 has become a GUI (Graphical User Interface)  which adapts automatically to the built-in CPU and memory (RAM).

Special versions for e.g. the 80286 and 80386 are not necessary anymore.

window 3.01 screenshot

Microsoft and IBM have a problem because of the marketing of Windows 3.0 by Microsoft. In the opinion of IBM, Windows 3.0 is competing with the development and acceptance of the OS/2 system. MS maintains that this is not the case. However, Windows 3.0 is a serious competitor for OS/2. Window 3.0 is far closer to the demands of the user than OS/2 ever will be in the coming years. For this reason the Management of IBM thinks to loose their market share through in their eyes unfair competition by MS who was involved with IBM in the development of OS/2.

Intel announces officially the '80586' CPU , called the Pentium,   which will get in production in 1992.



Intel Pentium

In the same month IBM introduces the model 90 (80486 CPU), a powerful machine which is developed to support office automatization within a network surrounding.

Special for the model 90 is that it has the so-called open CPU architecture. This means cards can be replaced/added which makes it possible to equip the machine with e.g. a parallel processor. Also exchanging the CPU card with another (e.g. a 586) is now possible.

Other manufacturers will follow with other 'high-end' (read more expensive) models.

Hewlett Packard introduces the HP LaserJet III printer.


During the next few years the price will rapidly decrease and small companies can afford this printer. This is the first printer where font cartridges can be used so that several fonts can be selected.

In the mean time the HP printer technology has become the world standard. There is almost no printer available which can not emulate the HP II printer.

Nanotech IBM IBM scientist Don Eigler uses a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) to move single xenon atoms around on a nickel surface.

ibm logo
Courtesy of IBM Zurich Research Laboratory. Unauthorized use not permitted.

This is an experiment with far reaching effects. The engineers moved 35 atoms to spell out "IBM" in a 10 micrometers sized logo , a feat many engineers will repeat to make their mark.(2)

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As you can see, this was an exciting age in the development of computing technology. At this point, we are still a long way from the high-powered modern devices you can use to view this site, visit the Bingo Street bingo hall for some free social games, or research a term paper. Still, knowing the history of computers gives one a better understanding of how we got to where we find ourselves today.


Last Updated on April 18, 2012 For suggestions please mail the editor in chief 

Footnotes & References