Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation

This timeline highlights key events, projects, publications, and technological changes affecting the use of digital technology and efforts to preserve it. You can apply filters to the timeline by clicking on the green tabs below. For a complete, unfiltered, list of entries, choose Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation in the breadcrumbs above. The seven subject categories include:


  • Enigma machine

    Dr. Arthur Scherbius begins manufacturing the Enigma machine, capable of transcribing coded information. Enigma is later used by the German forces in WWII.


  • "Bomba," a highly specific electro-mechanical device, successfully decodes many German Luftwaffe and Navy messages for the Allies.


  • Construction of the ENIAC, one of the first electronic computers, is completed. ENIAC filled an entire room, weighed thirty tons, and consumed two hundred kilowatts of power.

  • Moth

    Grace Hopper finds the first computer bug. A moth had been caught in the circuitry of the Mark II computer system at Harvard.


  • The first commercial computer, UNIVAC I, is introduced.


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

  • IBM introduces IBM 701, the first commercial scientific computer.


  • The ENIAC is turned off for the last time. It’s estimated to have done more arithmetic than the entire human race had done prior to 1945.

  • IBM introduces RAMAC, the first commercial disk drive. It used 50 hefty aluminum disks, stored 5Mb, occupied the space of two refrigerators, and weighed a ton.


  • IBM's Cambridge Research Lab begins the CP-40 project to build the first VM (virtual machine) timesharing system.

  • One of the first general purpose mainframe computers, the IBM System/360, is announced.

  • Early computer

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


  • Introduction of DIGITAL's PDP-8, the world's first mass-produced minicomputer.


  • IBM System/370 is introduced. The 370 is one of the first lines of computers to implement the notion of a virtual machine, allowing users to share mainframe resources.

  • PDP-11 the first of DIGITAL's 16-bit family of machines is delivered.


  • UNIX Time Sharing System First Edition is patented by Bell Labs.


  • The programming languages C and FORTRAN 66 are created.

  • Pong

    Atari releases Pong, the first commercial video game.

  • Intel introduces its 200-KHz 8008 chip, the first commercial 8-bit microprocessor. This sparks the development of smaller, faster, and cheaper computers.


  • Mouse and pad

    Xerox Alto is the first personal computer with a built-in mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI) from which most modern GUIs are derived.


  • The Altair 8800 is sold as a kit. Its creator, Ed Roberts, coins the term "personal computer."

  • The Kurzweil Reading Machine combines omni-font OCR, flat-bed scanners, and text-to-speech synthesis to create the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. This is the first practical application of OCR technology.

  • First appearance of an interpreted BASIC programming language.


  • Steve Wozniak and Randy Wigginton demonstrate the first prototype Apple II at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting.

  • The world's first supercomputer, the Cray-1, is introduced.


  • The Commodore PET, Apple II, and Radio Shack's TRS-80 are all released.

  • Introduction of the VAX-11/780 "supermini" computer.

  • CP/M Operating system developed by Digital Research Corporation becomes the dominant standard for the personal computer in business, but incompatible floppy disk formats and the success of MS-DOS and the IBM PC in 1981 eventually led to its demise.


  • The VMS 1.0 operating system is designed by Digital in conjunction with their 32-bit VAX processor for use in time sharing, batch processing, and transaction processing.

  • Philips releases the laserdisc player.


  • WordStar software becomes the first commercially successful word processor.


  • FORTRAN 77 programming language is created.

  • Digital faxes using uniform data standards appear.


  • Commodore ships the VIC-20.

  • The IBM PC 8080 is introduced.

  • MSDOS 1.0 operating system is released.


  • The Commodore 64 is sold with 64KB of RAM and Microsoft BASIC.

  • VAX-11/730 is released.

  • Sony and Philips introduce the first CD player.


  • Apple's Lisa is introduced, the first commercial microcomputer with a graphical user interface.


  • Apple Macintosh is introduced, the first mainstream commercial computer with a graphical user interface. In six months sales of the computer reach 100,000.

  • 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.

  • Philips and Sony introduce CD-ROM technology.


  • Chess piece

    A Carnegie Mellon doctoral student named Feng-hsiung Hsu begins to develop a chess-playing computer called "Chiptest," which evolves into Deep Blue.

  • Microsoft Windows 1.0 is created, representing a shift from the DOS operating system.

  • The combination of Aldus PageMaker for the Macintosh and the Apple LaserWriter laser printer usher in the era of desktop publishing.


  • NCSA develops NCSA telnet, making it easier to connect to a remote computer.

  • IBM sends clone manufacturers letters demanding retroactive licensing fees.


  • IBM AS/400, a minicomputer for small business and departmental users, is released.

  • VAX 6200 is released.


  • Archie software for searching FTP sites is released.

  • Microsoft Windows 3.0 is released, beginning the era of Microsoft's domination of the software industry.


  • Veronica, a Gopher search engine, is released.


  • Mosaic logo

    First graphical browser for the web, Mosaic, is introduced.

  • Windows NT is released, providing advanced network connectivity.


  • Netscape logo

    Netscape 1.0 web browser is introduced, replacing Mosaic.

  • Linux penguin logo

    Linus Torvalds, 21, writes an operating system called Linux, bringing the open-source movement into the mainstream.


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

  • Netscape announces Javascript, an object-oriented scripting language.

  • PowerMac

    The Xerox DocuTech Publishing System is designed for "print-on-demand" network accessed document publishing.

  • The Kodak DC40 and the Apple QuickTake 100 become the first digital cameras marketed for consumers.

  • Internet Explorer 2.0 web browser is introduced.

  • IEEE1394, a.k.a Firewire, is introduced as a new standard for connecting computer devices. Initially proposed as a successor to SCSI, Firewire’s fast data transfer speeds made it well suited for video devices, such as digital camcorders, and hard drives.

  • Iomega Zip disk

    Iomega debuts high-capacity drives "Jaz" and "Zip".


  • Apple introduces the iMac, which revolutionized the PC industry with its design, along with some key features such as the inclusion of USB ports and the purposeful exclusion of a floppy drive.

  • Microsoft Windows 98 is released.

  • MP-3 players for downloaded Internet audio appear.


  • A commercial Digital Video Recording (DVR) system is developed by TiVo, Inc. Reruns of Columbo can now be recorded digitally, saved, and viewed anytime.

  • OS X logo

    Macintosh OS X is released.


  • After 21 years of selling hard drives, Quantum switches to higher-level storage products and services.

  • Windows XP is released.


  • QuickTime 6.0 is released.

  • USB device

    Universal Serial Bus 2.0 (USB) is released. Building on USB 1.0 introduced in 1995, this serial bus can connect up to 127 devices, supports speeds of up to 480Mbps, allows plug-and-play and hot-swapping.


  • Apple's family of personal music players, the iPod, dominates the market with over 5.7 million units sold since their debut in late 2001.




  • Version 1.0 of the open source iRODS, a data grid software system, is released by the San Diego Supercomputer Center's Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) group.

  • ERA logo

    The National Archives and Records Administration starts populating the ERA system, an initiative aimed at preserving electronic records created by the U.S. Government. 



  • Memento, a software tool that allows users to easily browse older versions of websites, wins the 2010 Digital Preservation Award from the Library of Congress. "The Memento architecture means you no longer need to search archives or go to a special website to recover earlier versions of pages."

  • iPad

    First iPad released.



  •  DataUp tool merges with data sharing platform, DASH.