Computer Nerd Event

Windows 3.0 is released on May 22, 1990

Windows 3.0, a graphical environment, is the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and was released on May 22, 1990. It became the first widely successful version of Windows and a rival to Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga on the GUI front. It was followed by Windows 3.1. Windows 3.0 originated in 1989 when a group of Microsoft programmers independently decided to develop a protected mode Windows as an experiment. They cobbled together a rough prototype and presented it to company executives, who were impressed enough to approve it as an official project. Windows 3.0 succeeded Windows 2.1x and included a significantly revamped user interface as well as technical improvements to make better use of the memory management capabilities of Intel’s 80286 and 80386 processors. Text-mode programs written for MS-DOS could be run within a window (a feature previously available in a more limited form with Windows/386 2.1), making the system usable as a crude multitasking base for legacy programs. However, this was of limited use for the home market, where most games and entertainment programs continued to require raw DOS access.

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Computer Nerd Event

The concept of the integrated circuit is first published on May 7, 1952

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as IC, chip, or microchip) is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material. Additional materials are deposited and patterned to form interconnections between semiconductor devices. Integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronic equipment today and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the low cost of production of integrated circuits. Early developments of the integrated circuit go back to 1949, when the German engineer Werner Jacobi (Siemens AG) filed a patent for an integrated-circuit-like semiconductor amplifying device showing five transistors on a common substrate arranged in a 2-stage amplifier arrangement. Jacobi disclosed small and cheap hearing aids as typical industrial applications of his patent. A commercial use of his patent has not been reported. The idea of the integrated circuit was conceived by a radar scientist working for the Royal Radar Establishment of the British Ministry of Defence, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer (1909–2002). Dummer presented the idea to the public at the Symposium on Progress in Quality Electronic Components in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 1952. He gave many symposia publicly to propagate his ideas, and unsuccessfully attempted to build such a circuit in 1956.

Computer Nerd Event

Radio Shack releases the Model III TRSDOS 1.3 on May 1, 1981

TRS-DOS (which stood for the Tandy Radio Shack – Disk Operating System) was the operating system for the Tandy TRS-80 line of 8-bit Zilog Z80 microcomputers that were sold through Radio Shack through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tandy’s manuals recommended that it be pronounced triss-doss. TRS-DOS should not be confused with Tandy DOS a version of MS-DOS licensed from Microsoft for Tandy’s x86 line of personal computers (PCs). TRS-DOS was primarily a way of extending the MBASIC (BASIC in ROM) with additional I/O (input/output) commands that worked with disk files rather than the cassette tapes that were used by most other TRS-80 systems. TRS-DOS supported up to four floppy (mini-diskette) drives which used 51⁄4″ (five and one quarter inch) diskettes with a capacity of 89K (kilobytes) each (later 160K). The drives were numbered 0 through 3 and the system diskettes (which contained the TRS-DOS code and utilities) had to be in drive 0.

Computer Nerd Event

Robert Noyce is granted a patent for an integrated circuit on April 25, 1961

Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 – June 3, 1990), nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley”, co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip. While Kilby’s invention was six months earlier, neither man rejected the title of co-inventor. Noyce was also a mentor and father-figure to an entire generation of entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs at Apple, Inc. In July, 1959, he filed for U.S. Patent 2,981,877  “Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure”, a type of integrated circuit. This independent effort was recorded only a few months after the key findings of inventor Jack Kilby. For his co-invention of the integrated circuit and its world-transforming impact, three presidents of the United States honored him.

Computer Nerd Event

Moore’s Law was published in Electronics Magazine on April 19, 1965

Moore’s law is a rule of thumb in the history of computing hardware whereby the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The period often quoted as “18 months” is due to Intel executive David House, who predicted that period for a doubling in chip performance (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and their being faster). The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. All of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well (see Other formulations and similar laws). This exponential improvement has dramatically enhanced the impact of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy. Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Computer Nerd Event

A new programming language (COBOL) was discussed for the first time on April 8, 1959

COBOL is one of the oldest programming languages. Its name is an acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language, defining its primary domain in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments. The COBOL 2002 standard includes support for object-oriented programming and other modern language features. The COBOL specification was created by a committee of researchers from private industry, universities, and government during the second half of 1959. The specifications were to a great extent inspired by the FLOW-MATIC language invented by Grace Hopper – commonly referred to as “the mother of the COBOL language.” The IBM COMTRAN language invented by Bob Bemer was also drawn upon, but the FACT language specification from Honeywell was not distributed to committee members until late in the process and had relatively little impact. FLOW-MATIC’s status as the only language of the bunch to have actually been implemented made it particularly attractive to the committee. The scene was set on April 8, 1959 at a meeting of computer manufacturers, users, and university people at the University of Pennsylvania Computing Center. The United States Department of Defense subsequently agreed to sponsor and oversee the next activities. A meeting chaired by Charles A. Phillips was held at the Pentagon on May 28 and 29 of 1959 (exactly one year after the Zürich ALGOL 58 meeting); there it was decided to set up three committees: short, intermediate and long range (the last one was never actually formed). It was the Short Range Committee, chaired by Joseph Wegstein of the US National Bureau of Standards, that during the following months created a description of the first version of COBOL. The committee was formed to recommend a short range approach to a common business language. The committee was made up of members representing six computer manufacturers and three government agencies. The six computer manufacturers were Burroughs Corporation, IBM, Minneapolis-Honeywell (Honeywell Labs), RCA, Sperry Rand, and Sylvania Electric Products. The three government agencies were the US Air Force, the David Taylor Model Basin, and the National Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Standards and Technology). The intermediate-range committee was formed but never became operational. In the end a sub-committee of the Short Range Committee developed the specifications of the COBOL language.

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Technology marched forth as the Cray-1 supercomputer is shipped on March 4, 1976

The Cray-1 was a supercomputer designed, manufactured, and marketed by Cray Research. The first Cray-1 system was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976, and it went on to become one of the best known and most successful supercomputers in history. The Cray-1’s architect was Seymour Cray and the chief engineer was Cray Research co-founder Lester Davis. In 1975 the 80 MHz Cray-1 was announced. Excitement was so high that a bidding war for the first machine broke out between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the latter eventually winning and receiving serial number 001 in 1976 for a six-month trial. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) was Cray Research’s first official customer in 1977, paying US$8.86 million ($7.9 million plus $1 million for the disks) for serial number 3. The NCAR machine was decommissioned in 1989. The company expected to sell perhaps a dozen of the machines, and set the selling price accordingly, but over eighty Cray-1s of all types were sold, priced from $5M to $8M. The machine made Cray a celebrity and the company a success, lasting until the supercomputer crash in the early 1990s. The Cray-1 was succeeded in 1982 by the 800 MFLOPS Cray X-MP, the first Cray multi-processing computer. In 1985 the very advanced Cray-2, capable of 1.9 GFLOPS peak performance, succeeded the two first models but met a somewhat limited commercial success because of certain problems at producing sustained performance in real-world applications. A more conservatively designed evolutionary successor of the Cray-1 and X-MP models was therefore made, by the name Cray Y-MP, and launched in 1988.