Sometimes it’s necessary to take a look back in time in order to see what lies ahead. As we say goodbye to the year 2012 — and the trend toward social media — let’s take a ride on the historical technology highway and look back at some of the significant events in the history of computer technology
After all, it’s been a little over 30 years since IBM released its first personal computer in 1981. The first PC can be traced back as early as 1974. However, some claim the “original” PC, called “Simon,” goes all the way back to 1950. Edmund Berkeley first described Simon in his 1949 book, “Giant Brains, or Machines That Think,” and he went on to publish plans to build Simon in a series of Radio Electronics issues in 1950 and 1951.
Also in 1981, Adam Osborne jumped into the “portable computer” arena with the introduction of the Osborne 1. It weighed a mere 24 pounds — now that’s what I call portable. We used to refer to them as “luggables.”
Here are some other significant technology events that took place before and after 1981.
Many years before the birth of the PC
Feb. 24, 1955: Baby boy born to university students, adopted at birth by Paul Reinhold Jobs and Clara Jobs and named Steven. What a profound impact this one individual would have on the technology world. RIP Mr. Jobs, your legacy will live on.
Oct. 28, 1955: Baby boy born to Mary Gates named William Henry Gates III. I once waited in line in Redmond, Wash., at a well-known worldwide fast food chain while he frantically searched his pocket for a $1-off breakfast coupon. The guy in front of me, not recognizing Bill Gates, offered to buy his breakfast to hurry up the line. Bill respectfully declined, found his coupon and bought his own breakfast. He was already a gazillionaire at the time.
June 1969: ARPANET goes online; it evolves to become the Internet. Once called a fad, I think it’s here to stay. Proof that everything you read isn’t true.
The concept of timesharing was prevalent in business. Most businesses couldn’t afford their own mainframe, so they rented computer time from a timesharing provider. The business would enter information into a mainframe system over communications, and a courier would deliver reports to your office. Did you ever use timesharing in your shop? How ironic that “cloud computing” is now the standard for running many software applications. We have come full circle in 40 years.
1971: First network email message sent by Ray Tomlinson of Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. Just think of the impact email has had on your business and personal life.
1972: Ray Tomlinson, author of first email software, chooses the @ sign for email addresses. Thanks, Ray.
November 1972: Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and the company ships Pong, the first video game. Remember the countless hours spent directing that little object back and forth on the television set? Steve Jobs joined Atari in 1974, by the way.
1974: The basic design of the Internet is developed. However, it did not become accessible and readily available until the 1980s.
April 1975: Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Micro-Soft. The hyphen is later dropped to read Microsoft.
March 1976: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak create the Apple I.
April 1, 1976: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found the Apple Computer Co. on April Fools’ Day — nothing foolish about these two guys.
1979: The Tire Rack is founded as a single-point tire shop in Indiana. Today it operates in over 1.8 million square feet of warehouse space across the U.S. selling lots and lots of tires over the Internet.
March 1979: Cellular phones are introduced in Chicago (AT&T) and Japan. Do you remember the “bag phone”?
September 1979: After preliminary work in 1978 by Jef Raskin, the MacIntosh project begins. The code name was Macintosh; developer Raskin’s favorite apple was the McIntosh.
November 1979: The FCC completes its radiation tests on six personal computers and only Atari passed. This brings a whole new meaning to “glow in the dark.”
The minicomputer became the de facto affordable business computer for small businesses. Software companies sprang up everywhere, developing business applications for everyone. The likes of DEC, Prime, ComputerVision, Texas Instruments, Wang, Data General, Honeywell and HP were cranking out minicomputers that were able to multi-task. Software companies began developing specialized applications in markets like tire sales and auto repair.
October 1980: Paul Allen from Microsoft negotiates with Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products for the rights to DOS. The rights are eventually purchased for $50,000. Who got the better deal, Microsoft or the U.S. when it bought Manhattan from the Indians?
1982: Time magazine names the computer as “Man of the Year” for 1981.
1982: John Warock founds Adobe Systems to market his postscript technology.
Jan. 19, 1983: Apple Computer releases the Lisa computer with a huge advertising and marketing blitz. It features a 68000 (5MHz) CPU, 1MB RAM, 2MB ROM, two 5.25-inch floppy drives (860KB), a 12-inch built-in B&W monitor, 720x364 graphics, a graphical user interface (GUI), a 5MB Profile hard drive, and six integrated programs; retail price: $10,000. Development costs are reported to be in excess of $50 million, plus $100 million for the software. Lisa, the name of the engineer’s daughter, stands for Local Integrated Software Architecture. Less than 100,000 units were produced, and they suffered from significant technological problems. This was a big loser for Apple Computer due to design flaws and the fact that it was overpriced for the market.
April 1983: The domain name system is established and the “dot.com” is born. Lots of people will make lots of money selling domain names in the upcoming years. Would you believe there are still businesses out there without a website? Are you one of them?
May 1983: Microsoft introduces the Microsoft Mouse, including card and software; retail price: $200. Imagine a mouse for $200. Today, you can buy an entire computer for that price.
1984: CD-ROMs become available for computers. This had a major impact on data storage and music dissemination. No more inserting floppy after floppy to install operating systems and software.
1985: Grolier’s Electronic Encyclopedia is available on CD-ROM (text only) — no more traveling encyclopedia salesmen coming to your door.
1987: PowerPoint is released. As a result, you will never look at bulleted thoughts in presentations the same way for the rest of your life.
1989: The World Wide Web is invented by Tim Berners-Lee, not Al Gore.
1989: Creative Labs releases the “Sound Blaster” card for the PC. You couldn’t wait to install that card and hook up speakers to your PC so you could listen to your computer. Do you remember setting the IRQs (interrupt requests) on the boards?
Minicomputers gave way to the microcomputer. The introduction of local area networks chained these new, less expensive, more powerful machines together. The dominant minicomputer giants began folding up their tents like a circus leaving town.
1991: Creative Labs released “Sound Blaster Pro.” This included a CD-ROM kit, a soundboard, speakers and software. You just had to buy it and install it in your PC.
1992: The Graphical Browser was born. Oh, and you had to buy it for your computer.
The first widely used Web browser was NCSA Mosaic. The Mosaic programming team then created the first commercial Web browser called Netscape Navigator, later renamed Communicator, and renamed again to Netscape. The Netscape browser led in user-share until Microsoft Internet Explorer (introduced in 1995) took the lead in 1999 because of its distribution advantage. A free open source software version of Netscape was then developed called Mozilla, which was the internal name for the old Netscape browser, and released in 2002. Mozilla has since gained in market share, particularly on non-Windows platforms, largely due to its open source foundation. And, in 2004, Mozilla was released in the quickly popular FireFox version.
1993: Email became readily available via the Internet by commercial suppliers. By 1997, email surpassed snail-mail, and most people familiar with both have never looked back. Email brought a whole new meaning to the word SPAM; it’s no longer just a breakfast meat.
1993: Compaq, Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), Microsoft, and NEC conceived the USB port in a group session to replace the mix of I/O ports with a universal high-speed data transfer port. The group approved standards in 1996, but the first implementation of USB did not occur until 1998. Today, everyone knows what a USB port is!
1993: Intel introduces the Pentium processing chip in March.
1993: PDF by Adobe is introduced. This file format is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout, flat document including the text, fonts, graphics and other information needed to display it. The software has been virtually free since 2001, but eventually becomes a free standard in the industry in 2008.
1994: JPEG file standard for images is developed and released. Today when someone wants a picture of something, they often just say, “Send me a jpeg.”
1995: JAVA was born at Sun Microsystems. This language allows for applications to be written once and run anywhere. Today, JAVA runs on virtually any device; you would be amazed at some of the places where JAVA apps are running.
1995: The first macro virus is detected. By 1996, the MS Word macro virus known as “Concept” becomes the most widely spread computer virus to date.
1996: MP3 Audio format is introduced.
1997: First DVD becomes available. Blu-Ray won’t be available until 2006. Did you know that DVDs use red lasers? What color lasers do you suppose Blu-Ray discs use?
1997: Broadband is introduced to the world of cable and digital telephone; this technology makes telecommuting a practical reality.
1997: 43% of U.S. families own a computer.
1998: Google is born and quickly becomes the gateway to the Web. Today it’s the number-one website in the world.
The 2000s, the world’s computers did not stop
Websites became the must-have for every business. Tire dealers begin installing local and wide area networks and connecting their stores together with vans, dedicated circuits, communications lines and frame relay. It was only a matter of time that the Internet would carry voice and data for most businesses.
2001: The PC is 20 years old and has 835 million users worldwide.
2001: The Apple iPod is released; it provides more music in the palm of your hand than you could ever imagine. Do you remember walking around with a Sony CD Walkman (1984)?
2003: Apple launches iTunes, starts the digital music revolution.
2004: Facebook is launched. No business believes they will be participating in this arena.
2005: The Apple iPod adds video to its capabilities.
March 2006: Twitter is born. Today, there are more than 500 million people “tweeting” and the company is on its way to a $10 billion valuation. Businesses are using it every day. It’s one of the top 10 most-visited websites. It’s an instant means of communication with your target market.
2006: There are about 1 billion PC owners on the Internet.
2007: Apple introduces the first iPhone. Everyone is playing catch-up.
September 2007: All light motor vehicles in the U.S. must have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on board. Computers continue to permeate every aspect of automobile components. The repair market continues to rely on technology.
2008: Facebook reaches 100 million users.
2008: The Apple App Store is launched, and now there’s an App for everything. Apple keeps the proliferation of Apps under its control. They give away the ability to develop Apps, but maintain control of the distribution of them. Smart, very smart.
2010: Apple releases the first iPad, another revolutionary product in a line of many “bigger is better” products, and other manufacturers soon follow.
June 2011: Google launched Google+, a direct competitor of Facebook.
July 2011: Facebook has more than 800 million active users.
In 2012, there are more Internet searches performed on mobile devices than on desktops. This gives rise to making your website optimized for the mobile world and the use of text messaging for marketing.
June 2012: Google+ has 250 million users and growing.
October 2012: Facebook reaches the one billion active users mark.
As we look to the future, we can be sure of a few things. Technology will continue to evolve and have a dramatic role in shaping the world.
Businesses will need to pay more attention to the social media world and play an active role in it or lose out to their competition.
Mobile devices will continue to improve and become more and more a part of everything we do. The world will continue to get smaller and communicate faster.
Stay tuned. One thing is certain: There will be more great discoveries and inventions each and every year. You need to make sure that you embrace technology in your business plans. Technology is a magnificent thing; use it to your advantage. Don’t let it pass you by. ■
As CEO and president of WECnology LLC (www.wecnology.com), Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at (603) 249-5530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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