Chronology of Personal Computers (1947)



December 23

  • Three scientists at Bell Telephone Laboratories, William Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardeen demonstrate their new invention of the point-contact transistor amplifier. The name transistor is short for “transfer resistance”. (Miniaturization of electronic circuits via the transistor is a key development making personal desktop computers small, reliable, and affordable.) [185.84] [202.131] [266.9] [1064.237] [1149.69] [1298.186]



  • A complaint is filed against IBM, alleging monopolistic practices in its computer business, in violation of the Sherman Act. (The government’s antitrust investigations and trial against IBM will drag on for thirty years, finally being dismissed in 1982. IBM will cautiously monitor its microcomputer business practices, fearful of a repeat of government scrutiny.) [569.138] [1298.186]



  • A U.S. District Court makes a final judgement on the complaint against IBM filed in January 1952 regarding monopolistic practices. A “consent decree” is signed by IBM, placing limitations on how IBM conducts business with respect to “electronic data processing machines”. (Though personal computers are twenty years in the future, this consent decree will limit IBM’s success and ability to compete in the marketplace.) [569.138]
(month unknown)

  • The first transistorized computer is completed, the TX-O (Transistorized Experimental computer), at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (While not a microcomputer, this is is a step forward in the evolution of reducing the size of computers.) [624]
September 13

  • IBM introduces the IBM 350 Disk File, the first hard drive, as part of the IBM RAMAC 305 computer. The drive features fifty double-sided 24-inch diameter platters, served by one arm and one read/write head. Capacity is about 5 MB, and transfer rate is 8800 characters per second. (The first hard drives for personal computers will appear in about 15 years, also with a capacity of about 5 MB.) [609.89] [838.S2] [945.61] [1089.392] [1606.54] [1612.55] [2065.93] [2097.20] [2238.99] (November [798.152])


September 12

  • At Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby demonstrates the world’s first integrated circuit, containing five components on a piece of germanium half an inch long and thinner than a toothpick. [110] [556.9] [732.23] [766.151] [1298.154] [1697.3] (October [1064.237]) (1959 [9] [606.5])


  • At Fairchild Semiconductor, Robert Noyce constructs an integrated circuit with components connected by aluminum lines on a silicon-oxide surface layer on a plane of silicon. [606.5] [732.25] [766.151] [1298.186] (1958 [1064.237])


  • Digital Equipment introduces the first minicomputer, the PDP-1, for US$120,000. It is the first commercial computer equipped with a keyboard and monitor. PDP stands for Program, Data, Processor. (The minicomputer represents an important size and power step from mainframe toward personal computers.) [203.96] [415.36] [1112.140] [1149.20,31] (minicomputer introduced in 1972 [205.4]) (PDP means Programmed Data Processor [1559])


  • Douglas Engelbart’s group at Stanford Research Institute in California studies interactive devices for displays. Of the different devices tested – pointers, joysticks, trackballs – a brown, wooden box with two rolling wheels and a red push button on top achieves the best results. Douglas Engelbart is credited with inventing the mouse pointing device for computers. (The mouse will be re-born some twenty years in the future, when personal computers become powerful enough to support graphical user interfaces.) [1112.140] [1254.88] [1298.186] [1559] [1918.74] (1962 [1084.30]) (1964 [1606.54])


May 1

  • At Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, the BASIC programming language runs for the first time. The language was developed by professors John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz, BASIC is an acronym for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. It is based on FORTRAN and Algol, and was developed for a General Electric 225 mainframe computer. (BASIC becomes the most popular introductory programming language for microcomputers, often stored in ROM and executing commands interactively.) [9] [132] [266.140] [801.65] [1038.155] [1069.268] [1149.23] [1280.40] [1299.26] [1556.9] (1965 [1112.142])
(month unknown)

  • The American Standard Association adopts ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) as a standard code for data transfer. (This standard, defining 7-bit character codes, will be used for most personal computers in the Western world.) [1112.140]


April 19

  • Electronics magazine publishes an article by Gordon Moore, head of research and development for Fairchild Semiconductor, on the future of semiconductor components. Moore predicts that transistor density on integrated circuits would double every 12 months for the next ten years. (This prediction is revised in 1975 to doubling every 18 months, and becomes known as Moore’s Law.) [876.17] [941.58] [947.102] [1000.20] [1298.186] (1964 [29.91] [732.18]) (every 18 months [876.17] [947.102]) (every 18-24 months [941.58])



  • Steven Gray founds the Amateur Computer Society, and begins publishing the ACS Newsletter. (Some consider this to be the birth-date of personal computing.) [208.64]


June 4

  • The US Patent & Trademark Office grants patent 3,387,286 to Dr. Robert Dennard, of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. The patent is for a one-transistor DRAM cell and the basic idea in the three-transistor cell. (Dynamic RAM (Random Access Memory) will become the standard short-term storage medium for programs and data during processing.) [911]
(month unknown)

  • Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore found Intel Corporation. (Intel begins as a memory chip producer, but will soon switch to the new field of microprocessors.) [346.58] [1280.40]
October 4

  • An advertisement in Science magazine by Hewlett-Packard introduces first programmable scientific desktop calculator, which Hewlett-Packard calls “the new Hewlett-Packard 911A personal computer”. (This is claimed as coining the term “personal computer”.) [213.5] [1559]
December 9

  • Douglas C. Engelbart, of the Stanford Research Institute, demonstrates his system of keyboard, keypad, mouse, and windows at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco’s Civic Center. He demonstrates use of a word processor, a hypertext system, dynamic file linking, and remote collaborative work with colleagues on a shared screen. [180.42] [185.98] [716.88] [753] [1280.40] [1298.186] [2319.18] [2501]


End of 1947-1968. Next: 1969.

1947-1968 1969-1971 1972-1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008-end


A list of references to all source material is available.Other web pages of interest:

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