Timeline of Early Classical Computers

What’s not included

This timeline excludes most precursors to modern computing, including Babbage, Jacquard, and anything else prior to Hollerith and his punched cards.

  1. Microprocessor-based computers
  2. Personal computers
  3. Workstations
  4. Servers
  5. Networked clusters of servers
  6. Supercomputers based on large numbers of relatively standard microprocessors
  7. Smart phones
  8. Tablets
  9. Wearable computers
  10. Just about everything introduced after the early 1970’s.

Sources

There are a variety of existing timelines for computers online, but none had the conciseness and specific essential detail that I was looking for, so I cobbled my list together from various sources. In general, each entry in my timeline links to a Wikipedia page for that particular computer.

  1. The Computer History Museum Timeline of Computer History
    https://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/computers/.
  2. Wikipedia Timeline of computing
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_computing
    .
  3. Wikipedia History of computing hardware
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_computing_hardware
    .
  4. IBM — A History of Progress
    https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/interactive/index.html
  5. Google “timeline of digital computers” for many other sources.

Timeline of early classical computers

Just about every one of the machines on this list was a significant milestone of sorts in the annals of computing in the modern era. The point here for quantum computers is to identify how capable a given quantum computer is compared to any of these historic machines.

  1. 1886 — Hollerith punched card tabulating machines. First test. Used for U.S. Census in 1890.
  2. 1920’s — punched card tabulating machines with plugboards — unit record equipment.
  3. 1930’s — punched card accounting machines.
  4. 1940’s — peak of tabulating and accounting machines.
  5. 1940 — Bell Labs Model I Relay Calculator (Complex Number Calculator) (electromechanical relays).
  6. 1941 — Zuse Z3 (electromechanical relays).
  7. 1942 — Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) (first vacuum tube computer, use of binary arithmetic).
  8. 1943 — Colossus Mark 1 (UK) (vacuum tubes).
  9. 1943 — Bell Labs Model II Relay Interpolator (electromechanical relays).
  10. 1944 — Harvard Mark I — IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) (electromechanical relays).
  11. 1944 — Bell Labs Model III Ballistic Computer(electromechanical relays).
  12. 1944 — Colossus Mark 2 (UK) (vacuum tubes — called “valves” or thermionic valves in the UK).
  13. 1946 — ENIAC (vacuum tubes, decimal — not binary).
  14. 1947 — Harvard Mark II (electromechanical relays).
  15. 1947 — transistor invented at Bell Labs. Not used in a computer until 1953.
  16. 1949 — Whirlwind (MIT) (vacuum tubes).
  17. 1949 — Manchester Mark 1 (vacuum tubes).
  18. 1949 — EDVAC (vacuum tubes).
  19. 1949 — EDSAC (vacuum tubes).
  20. 1950 — MESM — first computer in Soviet Union — Kiev, Ukraine (vacuum tubes).
  21. 1950 — SEAC (vacuum tubes).
  22. 1950 — SWAC (vacuum tubes).
  23. 1951 — Ferranti Mark 1 first commercially available general purpose electronic computer (vacuum tubes). Based on the Manchester Mark 1.
  24. 1951 — UNIVAC I first commercially available general purpose electronic computer in North America, second in world after Ferranti Mark 1 (vacuum tubes).
  25. 1952 — IAS (Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, von Neumann) (vacuum tubes).
  26. 1952 — ILLIAC I (vacuum tubes).
  27. 1952 — MANIAC I (vacuum tubes).
  28. 1953 — RAYDAC (vacuum tubes).
  29. 1953 — Manchester TC (first transistor computer).
  30. 1953 — IBM 701 (vacuum tubes).
  31. 1953 — JOHNNIAC (vacuum tubes).
  32. 1953 — Whirlwind core memory (vacuum tubes).
  33. 1954 — IBM 650 (vacuum tubes).
  34. 1954 — Bell Labs TRADIC (first U.S. transistor computer).
  35. 1955 — IBM 704 with core memory (vacuum tubes).
  36. 1955 — SAGE/AN/FSQ-7 (vacuum tubes).
  37. 1956 — MINAC/LGP-30 (vacuum tubes).
  38. 1955 — Harwell CADET (first fully transistorized computer in Europe).
  39. 1956 — TX-0 (MIT) (transistor).
  40. 1956 — IBM RAMAC 305 (vacuum tubes).
  41. 1958 — last year for introduction of any new computer designs based on vacuum tubes. Eleven years after the invention of the transistor.
  42. 1958 — UNIVAC II (vacuum tubes).
  43. 1958 — IBM 709 (vacuum tubes, last for IBM).
  44. 1958 — Philco S-2000 TRANSAC used much faster surface barrier transistors.
  45. 1958 — RCA 501 (transistors).
  46. 1958 — SAGE goes online (vacuum tubes).
  47. 1959 — virtually all new computer designs based on transistors. Twelve years after the invention of the transistor.
  48. 1959 — IBM 1401 (transistors).
  49. 1959 — IBM 1620 (transistors).
  50. 1959 — IBM 7090 (transistors). 7090 = 709-T (for transistorized) — they sound the same!
  51. 1960 — DEC PDP-1 first minicomputer (transistors, logic modules).
  52. 1960 — CDC 160 (transistors).
  53. 1961 — IBM 7030 Stretch (transistors — first for IBM).
  54. 1961 — Burroughs B5000 stack-oriented instruction set optimized for Algol 60 programming (transistors).
  55. 1962 — IBM 7094 (transistors).
  56. 1962 — Atlas early supercomputer (Univ. of Manchester).
  57. 1962 — CDC 1604 early commercial success for transistors.
  58. 1962 — DEC PDP-4.
  59. 1962 — ILLIAC II supercomputer.
  60. 1963 — IBM 7040/7044 scaled down 7090.
  61. 1963 — CDC 3600 48-bit scientific computing.
  62. 1963 — PDP-5 first successful minicomputer.
  63. 1964 — DEC PDP-6 36-bit precursor to PDP-10, low-cost mainframe-class power.
  64. 1965 — CDC 6600 one of first real, successful supercomputers.
  65. 1965 — DEC PDP-8 cheap, widely popular 12-bit minicomputer.
  66. 1965 — IBM System/360 relatively cheap corporate machine.
  67. 1965 — IBM System/360 Model 75 high performance with advanced parallel and overlapped hardware for real-time computing — supported the Apollo space program.
  68. 1966 — IBM System/360 Model 91 high-speed data processing for scientific applications.
  69. 1966 — ILLIAC III specialized SIMD pattern recognition computer.
  70. 1967 — DEC PDP-10 cheap but powerful mainframe popular with research labs and universities, timesharing and ARPANET.
  71. 1967 — GE 645 hardware protected memory system designed specifically to support the Multics operating system, precursor to UNIX.
  72. 1969 — CDC 7600 ten times the performance of the CDC 6600.
  73. 1969 — Data General Nova (medium-scale integrated circuits). First 16-bit minicomputer.
  74. 1969 — IBM System/3 mid-range, low-end business computer.
  75. 1970 — DEC PDP-11 major line of cheap but powerful 16-bit minicomputers.
  76. 1971 — IBM System/370 (integrated circuits).
  77. 1971 — CDC STAR-100 vector supercomputer, very limited success.
  78. 1971 — Intel 4004 4-bit microprocessor.
  79. 1972 — Goodyear STARAN associative memory parallel processor.
  80. 1972 — ILLIAC IV first massively parallel supercomputer (256 processors).
  81. 1974 — Intel 8080 8-bit microprocessor.
  82. 1974 — Motorola 6800 8-bit microprocessor.
  83. 1975 — IBM System/32 popular low-end successor to IBM System/3.
  84. 1976 — Cray-1 very successful vector processor supercomputer.
  85. 1977 — DEC VAX-11/780 popular and successful superminicomputer.
  86. 1978 — Intel 8086 16-bit microprocessor.
  87. 1979 — Motorola 68000 16-bit microprocessor.

And then came the microprocessor

And then… came the microprocessors and everything changed, dramatically.

Applications

The question is how quickly useful applications will appear on quantum computers compared to the pace they appeared on traditional digital computers.

  1. 1890 — Hollereith punched cards used for U.S. Census.
  2. 1930’s — unit record equipment to support Social Security.
  3. 1940’s — relay computers — atomic bomb calculations.
  4. 1942 — ABC — solving linear equations.
  5. 1943–1944 — Colossus — used by British codebreakers to help in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher.
  6. 1945–1952 — ENIAC, ILLIAC 1 — Navier-Stokes fluid dynamics.
  7. 1946 — ENIAC — artillery firing tables, hydrogen bomb calculations.
  8. 1950 — ENIAC — weather forecast.
  9. 1950 — Whirlwind — proof of concept for aircraft early-warning radar.
  10. 1951 — Checkers.
  11. 1952 — Tic-tac-toe.
  12. 1952 — Predict results of a presidential election.
  13. 1955 — Theorem proof.
  14. 1957 — Chess.
  15. 1957 — FORTRAN programming language. Scientific applications in general.
  16. 1958 — Air defense (SAGE).
  17. 1961 — General Purpose Systems Simulator (GPSS).
  18. 1964 — Solve algebra word problems.
  19. 1964 — ELIZA natural language Q&A.
  20. 1964 Sabre — airline reservation system.

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