A Brief Timeline of Personal Computers

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The current version is available on the author's site at: https://pctimeline.info/mini.htm
A longer detailed timeline is available here: https://pctimeline.info/

Last updated: 2022 April 29.


  • Scientists at Bell Telephone Laboratories invent the transistor. Miniaturization of electronic circuits via the transistor is a key development making personal desktop computers small, reliable, and affordable.


  • At Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby completes building the first integrated circuit.


  • Digital Equipment introduces the first minicomputer, the PDP-1. It is the first commercial computer equipped with a keyboard and monitor. The minicomputer represents an important size and power step from mainframe toward personal computers.


  • John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz develop the BASIC programming language at Dartmouth College. BASIC becomes the most popular introductory programming language for microcomputers.


  • Douglas C. Engelbart, of the Stanford Research Institute, demonstrates his system of keyboard, keypad, mouse, and windows at the Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco's Civic Center. He demonstrates use of a word processor, a hypertext system, and remote collaborative work with colleagues.


  • Engineers at Intel turn a calculator chip-set design into the first commercial 4-bit CPU architecture, the 4004 microprocessor.


  • Engineers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) create the Alto workstation, with a bit-mapped video screen.
  • In France, the Micral microcomputer is introduced, based on the Intel 8008 processor.
  • The Scelbi Computer Consulting Company introduces the Scelbi-8H microcomputer kit, using an Intel 8008 microprocessor, for US$565, with 1 kB programmable memory.
  • Gary Kildall writes the CP/M operating system.


  • Intel releases the 2 MHz 8080 processor, capable of directly addressing 64 kB of memory.
  • MITS creates the Altair microcomputer, based on the Intel 8080 processor. Kits are sold for about US$400.


  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen implement BASIC for the Altair, and found Microsoft.


  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found Apple Computer, and begin selling Apple I computer boards.


  • Commodore introduces the PET 2001 computer, featuring a 6502 processor, 4 kB RAM, keyboard, display, and tape drive, for US$600.
  • Apple Computer introduces the Apple II computer, featuring a 6502 processor, 4 kB RAM, keyboard, game paddles, color graphics/text interface, for US$1300.
  • Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 computer, featuring Z80 processor, 4 kB RAM, keyboard, black-and-white video display, and tape drive, for US$600.


  • Intel releases the 4.77 MHz 8086 processor, with 16-bit data bus, and direct addressing of 1 MB of RAM.
  • Atari introduces the Atari 400 and 800 computers, based on the 6502 processor.


  • Texas Instruments introduces the TI-99/4 personal computer.
  • MicroPro International releases the WordStar word processor.
  • Software Arts ships the VisiCalc spreadsheet software for the Apple II.


  • Sinclair Research introduces the ZX-80 microcomputer, with 3.25 MHz processor and 1 kB RAM.
  • Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 Color Computer, for US$400.


  • Commodore introduces the VIC-20 computer with 5 kB RAM, for US$300.
  • Osborne Computer introduces the Osborne 1 portable computer, with built-in 5-inch monitor, 64 kB RAM, two 5.25-inch disk drives, and US$1500 worth of software, for US$1800.
  • IBM introduces the IBM 5150 Personal Computer, with 4.77 MHz 8088 processor, 16 kB RAM, 5.25-inch floppy drive, for US$1500. Microsoft DOS is available as an option.


  • Commodore introduces the Commodore 64, with 64 kB RAM, 16-color graphics, sound synthesizer, for US$600.
  • Intel ships the 6 MHz 80286 processor.
  • Epson introduces the first notebook computer, the HX-20, with 20x4 character LCD screen, 16 kB RAM, and weighing 3 pounds.
  • Compaq Computer introduces the Compaq Portable PC, with integrated 9-inch monitor and full IBM PC compatibility.
  • Lotus Development announces the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet software.
  • Satellite Software International introduces the WordPerfect word processing program for the IBM PC.


  • IBM introduces the IBM PC/XT, with 10 MB hard drive and 128 kB RAM, for US$5000.
  • Coleco Industries introduces the Coleco Adam computer, with Z80 processor, 80 kB RAM, sound, graphics, cartridge slots, tape cartridge storage, daisy-wheel printer, for US$600.
  • IBM ships the IBM PCjr, with 64 kB RAM, detached keyboard, cartridge slots, for US$700.
  • Microsoft announces the Windows graphical user interface for DOS.


  • Apple Computer introduces the Apple Macintosh, with 512x342 monochrome graphics, 9-inch monitor, mouse, 7.8 MHz Motorola 68000 processor, 128 kB RAM, for US$2000.
  • IBM releases the IBM PC/AT, with 6 MHz 80286 processor, MS-DOS 3.0, 256 kB RAM, and 1.2 MB floppy drive, for prices starting at US$4000.


  • Atari introduces the Atari 130ST and 520ST computers.
  • Commodore introduces the Amiga 1000 computer.
  • Microsoft ships Windows 1.0.


  • Intel ships the 16 MHz 80386 processor.
  • Compaq Computer introduces the first 80386-based computer.


  • Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh II and Macintosh SE.
  • IBM announces its new Personal System/2 computers, with VGA 256-color graphics, Micro Channel Architecture, Operating System/2, and 1.44 MB 3.5-inch floppy disk drive.


  • Intel introduces the 25 MHz 486 processor.
  • Apple Computer ships the Macintosh Portable.


  • Microsoft ships Windows 3.0.


  • Microsoft ships DOS 5.0.
  • Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh PowerBook series.


  • IBM and Microsoft ship the OS/2 2.0 operating system.
  • Microsoft ships Windows 3.1.
  • Intel introduces the PCI bus architecture.
  • IBM introduces the IBM ThinkPad line of laptop computers.
  • IBM and Motorola announce the PowerPC 601 processor.


  • Intel introduces the 60 MHz Pentium processor.
  • Microsoft ships the Windows NT operating system.


  • Apple Computer introduces QuickTime 2.0, with support for interactive television, music, and full-screen video.
  • Apple Computer ships Power Macintosh systems, using 60 to 80 MHz PowerPC 601 processors.
  • In Finland, Linus Torvalds releases the first version of a Unix-like operating system he calls FREIX. It is soon renamed Linux.
  • Novell acquires WordPerfect for US$1.4 billion, and the Quattro Pro software from Borland for US$145 million.
  • Commodore International shuts down business and is liquidated.
  • Microsoft signs a consent decree with the US Department of Justice, committing to changing its operating system licensing practices.
  • Apple Computer begins licensing its operating system to other manufacturers.
  • IBM releases OS/2 3.0.
  • IBM drops the PS/2, PS/1, Ambra, and ValuePoint lines, and XGA graphics, in favor of industry standards for its PC line.
  • Iomega introduces the Zip drive, with removable 100 MB storage cartidges.
  • Intel acknowledges that it shipped two million defective Pentium processors.


  • IBM releases the ThinkPad 701C, featuring an automatically expanding full-sized keyboard, dubbed the Butterfly.
  • The Universal Serial Bus (USB) debuts.
  • Netscape Communications releases the Netscape Navigator web browser.
  • IBM acquires Lotus Development for US$3.5 billion.
  • Microsoft ships Windows 95. One million copies are sold in four days.
  • Microsoft ships the Office 95 application suite for Windows 95, incorporating Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • Microsoft ships the Internet Explorer web browser.
  • Microsoft releases DirectX 1.0 multimedia API software developers' kit.


  • Novell sells WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel for US$180 million.
  • Intel announces the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), a new processor interface for graphics accelerators.


  • Intel ships the 200 MHz Pentium MMX processor.
  • Intel ships the 300 MHz Pentium II processor.
  • Apple Computer ships the Mac OS 8.0 operating system.
  • Apple Computer and Microsoft announce a five-year alliance, with Microsoft investing US$150 million. Apple will make Internet Explorer the default Web browser on its computers, and Microsoft will release Office for the Macintosh.


  • Compaq Computer acquires Digital Equipment for US$9.6 billion.
  • Apple Computer introduces the iMac computer, with 233 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 32 MB RAM, 4 GB hard drive, 15-inch monitor, for US$1300.
  • The Department of Justice and 20 states file an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.
  • Microsoft ships Windows 98.
  • Microsoft becomes the world's most valuable company.


  • Intel announces the 500 MHz Pentium III processor. The processor introduces 70 new Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE).
  • Sony Online Entertainment releases the EverQuest game for personal computers in the USA.
  • Apple Computer introduces the iBook portable computer.
  • Apple Computer releases the Mac OS 9 operating system.
  • Intel ships the 733 MHz Pentium III processor.
  • Judge Jackson rules that Microsoft has a monopoly on operating systems, and uses it in a harmful way.


  • Microsoft releases the Windows 2000 operating system.
  • AMD releases the first commercial 1 GHz Athlon processor.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Jackson rules that Microsoft acted illegally to protect its operating systems monopoly, and used its monopoly to attempt to monopolize the market for Web browser software.
  • Judge Thomas Jackson orders the breakup of Microsoft into two companies, one producing operating systems, the other producing application programs. Judge Jackson is later found to be prejudiced, and the break-up order is rescinded. Microsoft settles with the US Department of Justice, though the case continues with appeals.
  • Intel introduces the 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 processor.


  • Apple Computer ships the Mac OS X operating system.
  • Microsoft introduces the Tablet PC.
  • Microsoft launches the Windows XP operating system.


  • Apple Computer announces new iMac computers, with a 15-inch flat-panel screen attached by a pivoting arm to a 10.5-inch diameter dome.
  • To date, about one billion personal computers have been shipped worldwide.


  • SCO Group files a lawsuit against IBM, claiming IBM illegally used licensed Unix technology in its Linux software. SCO seeks US$1 billion in damages.
  • Advanced Micro Devices releases the Opteron processor, with 32-bit and 64-bit instruction operation, without requiring 32-bit code to be re-compiled.
  • To date, Intel has shipped one billion x86 processors.
  • Advanced Micro Devices launches the 2.2 GHz 64-bit Athlon 64 processor.
  • Apple Computer releases the Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" operating system, with over 100 new features.


  • The European Competition Commission labels Microsoft an abusive monopolist. The Commission says Microsoft must offer European computer makers two versions of Windows, with and without Windows Media Player, must share technical information on server software with rivals, and must pay a US$613 million fine.
  • Microsoft and Sun Microsystems settle long-standing hostilities in signing a ten-year technology sharing agreement. Microsoft pays Sun close to $2 billion to settle past issues and for royalty payments.
  • Intel announces it has scrapped plans to develop and release a 4 GHz Pentium 4 processor. Instead, it will focus on other ways to boost performance.
  • Mozilla releases the Firefox 1.0 Web broswer.
  • Blizzard releases the World of Warcraft online game. 240,000 copies are sold in the first 24 hours, making it the most successful PC game launch to date.


  • Apple Computer releases the Mac mini computer, for $500.
  • Intel releases the first desktop dual-core processor.
  • Apple Computer releases the Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" operating system.
  • For the first time in the USA, sales of portable computers exceed sales of desktop computers for the month.
  • Apple Computer announces it is abandoning the PowerPC processor in favor of Intel processors for future Macintosh computers.


  • Apple Computer releases its first Macintosh (iMac) computer with an Intel processor.
  • Microsoft releases the Windows Vista operating system to corporate clients.


  • Microsoft releases the Windows Vista operating system for retail sales.


  1. Polsson, K.R. 2022. Chronology of Personal Computers. https://pctimeline.info/

Last updated: 2022 April 29.
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