Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation

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Hollerith's "Computer Tabulating Recording Company" is renamed "International Business Machines Corporation" (IBM).
First use of the term digital applied to a computer that operates on data in the form of digits or similar discrete elements: "The emitter...differs from the other emitters in that it has twelve digital conducting spots."
Vannevar Bush's article "As We May Think" predicts the evolution of hypertext.


Grace Hopper develops the first compiler, laying the foundations for programming languages.



Beginner's All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) is developed at Dartmouth College.


Moore's Law established - Gordon Moore correctly predicts that the number of transistors on a microprocessor will double approximately every 18 months.


The term "microcomputer" is first used in print.


Generalized Markup Language (GML) is introduced.


The programming languages C and FORTRAN 66 are created.


Ohio State University introduces one of the first online catalogs.


Queen Elizabeth II Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first world leader to send an e-mail.

Bill Gates drops out of Harvard to devote his full attention to Microsoft.


Dallas Public Library introduces one of the first online public catalogs (OPACs).


FORTRAN 77 programming language is created.


LZW image compression algorithm is developed and is adopted for compression of modem communications and TIFF, GIF, PDF, Zip, and Postscript files. Belated assertion of the LZW patent in GIF files leads to the development of the PNG image file format in 1995.


As personal computers become more powerful, people become accustomed to faster machines and graphical interfaces. Use shifts from centralized mainframes to personal computers distributed over a network.


More than 30 million computers are in use in the United States.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) becomes the first supercomputer center in the US.

United States agrees to the terms of the Berne Convention, promoting international standards in copyright protection and resulting in the elimination of copyright notice for copyright protection.

TEI P1 "Guidelines for the Encoding and Interchange of Machine Readable Texts" are published.

The early 1990s see an explosion in online publishing and a rush to digitize print materials.


The HTML 1.0 standard is published.

CERN releases the World Wide Web into the public domain.


Fewer than 75 peer-reviewed electronic journals are online.


Java, an object-oriented programming language, is announced by Sun.

Netscape announces Javascript, an object-oriented scripting language.

HTML 2.0, the first formal HTML standard, is published.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 1.0 is introduced.

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative originates.Dublin Core logo


Internet2 project is formed to provide a high-bandwith network for the national research community.


The Google search engine is officially launched.

The Long Now Foundation purchases part of a mountain in Nevada to build the 10,000-year clock that “ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium." The Foundation also sponsors the Long Server, Rosetta Disk, and 10,000-year Library projects.


PubMed Central and Biomed Centralare launched as digital archives of life sciences, biological, and medical journal literature.


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is signed into law. "The goal of the act was to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures." The law requires publicly traded companies to closely monitor electronic and paper document retention and imposes criminal sanctions for the destruction or loss of certain electronic records.

75% of journals are online in Science Citation Index.


The amount of information transmitted globally over the Internet is projected to double each year. double

The annual production of materials in Web-ready formats is projected to be "too large to estimate."

A British Library study predicts that by 2007 at least 50% of all theses and dissertations will be submitted digitally.

Annual publication rates of electronic-only formats grow faster than paper-only formats.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher publishes her archives online, a first in politics.


55% of adult internet users have broadband at home or work.

The NITLE Blog Census, begun in May 2003 in order to characterize the burgeoning blogshere, estimates the presence of 1,208,351 active blogs in April 2004.

Final results delivered from PANIC Project, which was one of the first projects to incorporate the use of web services for the preservation function.


The Planets project is launched.

American Counsel of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities and Social Sciences releases "Our Cultural Commonwealth" report (PDF).

TwitterTwitter is founded, bringing forth a new social networking tool based on brief updates, or tweets.


NSF implements the Office of CyberInfrastructure, which publishes the Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st century Discovery report.

The Digital Preservation Repository Certification Task Force published the TRAC: Criteria and Checklist (PDF).

The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosts the first DigCCurr International Symposium on Digital Curation.


Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access is created to address the economic sustainability of digital preservation programs. The Task Force also releases its Interim Report (PDF).


OAIS Version 2 Candidate is released by the Mission Operations and Information Management Services Area (MOIMS) of CCSDS.

The World Digital Library is launched. World Digital Library

Fedora and dSpace launch Duraspace.

NDIIPP launches a pilot program to test cloud technologies for preserving digital content using DuraCloud.

new T Vold T V All Television broadcasting in the U.S. went digital by June 12, 2009.


The NSF funded Blue Ribbon Taskforce on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access released its Final Report.