Timeline: the history of the computer

Computers were an indispensable part of the living room 20 years ago, but by then they had already undergone considerable development. A look into the history of the computer!

1822 – English mathematician Charles Babbage builds the first "real" computer.

1958 – Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce present the very first computer chip.

1964 - Douglas Engelbart unveils a prototype of the very first computer with a mouse and a graphical user interface (gui).

1975 – The Altair is unveiled, the first microcomputer to conquer the consumer market.

1976 – Apple launches the Apple I.

1981 – IBM's first personal computer is launched.

1983 – Apple launches the Lisa, the first personal computer with a GUI. The device mercilessly flops, but does lead to the development of the Macintosh.

1993 – Intel introduces the Pentium, which made computers a lot faster and more powerful.

2003 – The 64-bit microprocessor, the AMD Athlon 64, becomes available to the consumer market.

2017 – Apple launches the iMac Pro, the most powerful all-in-one computer to date.

Of course, the history of the computer cannot be captured in ten points on a timeline, so many models and types of computers have appeared over the decades, that we could fill a page with them. It is true that there are a number of moments in history that characterize the development of the computer as we know it today. Those are the moments that this timeline is all about.

The very first computer

Opinions differ quite a bit about what really is the first computer (after all, the abacuses from ancient history could already be counted in the category of computers), but the invention that we consider most important is Babbage's machine from 1822. That ' computer' was powered by steam (how cool, we want that too!) and was able to automatically calculate the outcome of various tables of numbers. Bizarre to think that nowadays we only need to enter some numbers in Excel for this.

Provided Altair

When we look at the Altair now, we can hardly imagine that there is a single consumer who would be enthusiastic about this. Developer Ed Roberts thought so too in 1975 when he offered the kit as a kit for $397: he expected to sell a few hundred of them. However, hobbyists found the computer fascinating and instead of hundreds, thousands were sold within a few months. What could you do with it? Not much. The computer had an 8080 processor, ran at 2 MHz and had 256 bytes of memory. Commands were entered using a row of switches and the result of those commands could be read on the front using LEDs. Roberts also demanded that computer stores sell his Altair exclusively. That was a strategy that didn't have the desired effect, because stores didn't cooperate and within a year Altair was overtaken by the competition and pushed out of the market.

Apple 1

It is not surprising that the Altair did not have a long life when you consider that the kit that came on the market a year later was a lot simpler. The Apple 1 was the first computer where everything was soldered onto a single circuit board. It worked with a keyboard and monitor, making it much more user-friendly than the other computers up to that point. The Apple I is a highly sought after collector's item. In 2013, at an auction in Cologne, more than half a million euros was paid by an anonymous Asian buyer for one of the last six working Apple I computers known at the time.


In 1981, the IBM Personal Computer appeared on the scene. The $1,565 price tag may seem monstrously high, but where a professional IBM computer cost $9 million twenty years earlier, it's not that bad. You got the keyboard with it; a screen was not necessary, because you could connect the device to your television. Those who needed it could still purchase a separate screen, as well as a printer, a floppy disk drive, extra memory, etc. This enabled consumers to expand and upgrade their computer for the first time.

iMac Pro

Whether you love Apple or hate the company, there's no denying that the company has been instrumental in the development of the personal computer. The company did just that with the arrival of the Apple 1, the all-in-one computer and the Mac mini. At the end of last year, Apple took that one step further by making the iMac a real powerhouse, with an 18-core processor at 4.5 GHz, 128 GB of memory and a built-in 4 TB SSD. The impressive thing is that the iMac Pro is barely thicker than the regular iMac.

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