Reasonably Priced Business Computer (IBM/360)

The IBM/360 is the first mass computer, designed as a general-purpose computer affordable for mid-sized businesses yet powerful enough for large enterprises. Background In 1962, IBM’s revenue was $2.5 billion. CEO Thomas Watson Jr. believed in the vision of a general-purpose computer that supports timesharing, the ability of a computer to do multiple things at […]

Electronic Airline Reservation System (SABRE)

As the Cold War heated up during the 1950s, the United States installed an enormous number of missiles, radars, and nuclear weapons to track and respond to nuclear war. WWII radars were good enough for propeller planes but the delay between detection and analysis proved too slow for jet engines and missiles. SAGE As the […]

Time-Sharing/Multitasking Computer

Early Computers Early computers stored programs and data on punch cards. Most cards contained 80-characters, which is why early terminal programs were typically 80-characters per line. Punch cards are exactly what they sound like, physical cards. Each card is one line of a computer program or one piece of data. As users typed, a machine […]

Machine Translation

Background In 1933, Soviet scientist Peter Troyanskii presented “the machine for the selection and printing of words when translating from one language to another” to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Soviet aparchnicks during the Stalin era declared the invention “useless” but allowed Troyanskii to continue his work. He died of natural causes in […]

Microcomputer Operating System (CP/M)

Operating systems tie the parts of a computer together, transforming it from silicon into something we can interact and use. Gary Kildall In 1973, Gary Kildall wrote the first widely used microcomputer operating system, CP/M. It gained popularity over the years. Kildall had a Ph.D. in computer science of Univ. WI. He created a simulator […]

Floppy Disk

Floppy disks allowed inexpensive, portable storage of digital information. Floppies were faster, more flexible, more convenient, and lower cost than tape drives. Floppy drives made computers simpler to use, more convenient and increased productivity for computer operators who did not have to load tapes. Noble invented the floppy disk as an IBM engineer. His first […]

Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)

Relational databases simplify the storage and retrieval of related information. For example, rather than storing the state a person lives in a relational database might store a number to a single list of all states. Significantly, this reduces overall storage needs and makes indexing and searching significantly easier and subsequently faster. Edgar Codd, working at […]

Plasma Panel

1964 Donald BitzerGene SlottowRobert Wilson Plasma panels form fonts, images, and other patterns using plasma, rather than tubes. The panels are flat, cool, and use less power than CRT tubes. Bitzer developed the plasma panel as the monitor for his teaching computer, PLATO. PLATO is a lesser-known fountain of innovation. Along with Bell Labs, Xerox […]


Computers were big. They were enormously expensive and physically giant machines. IBM’s nickname from this time was Big Blue on account of the size of the company and their computers. History Olsen developed, by current standards, small transistor-based computers at MIT. He left in ’57 to form a company, the Digital Computer Corporation. It was […]