A little history of the digital (r)evolution
©Werner Hammerstingl, 1999, 2012

100 BC

100 BC A recently discovered "Computer" was built by unknown mathematicians. The device is referred to as the Antikythera Mechanism


1833 Charles Babbage (1801-1871), British mathematician, who assisted John Hershel in his astronomical calculations , and designed calculating machines which were the forerunners of computers designed the Babbage Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine was a steam-powered, programmable, mechanical computer designed (but never built) in 1833.


1937 Alan Turing invents the "Turing machine"


1939-1945 Combinations of mechanical and electrical devices were used secretly to encrypt and decode sensitive information.
1943 Alan Turing invents Colossus, history's first working electronic computer. This monster was powered by 2000 vacuum tubes and it was programmed with punched paper tape. Colossus was developed by the British to decrypt messages encoded by the German Enigma machine; it's success in cracking the Enigma codes is now considered an essential aspect of the Allied success in WWII.
1946 ENIAC, the worlds first fully electronic, programmable computer was is officially switched on . It began the cycle of progressive miniaturisation of computers from vacuum powered room sized behemoths, to transistorised machines in the 50's , integrated circuits in the 60's and chip driven micro-computers in the 70's. each progressive change in downward scaling was complimented by exponential growth in capacity.
1948 Tommy Thomas and David Edwards graduated in Physics at Manchester University in 1948. They then joined the Electrical Engineering Department at that University and the team constituted by Professor F.C. (Freddie) Williams and Tom Kilburn then constructing a prototype digital computer. That prototype was developed by Ferranti at their Manchester factory to become the Ferranti Mark I computer, the first commercial digital stored program computer in the world.
1950 A.M. Turing expresses the belief that: by the end of the century 'one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted'(Reichard 141)
Mid 50's Scientist Russel A. Kirsch and his colleagues, working at the National Bureau of Standards in the mid-1950's, construct a simple mechanical drum scanner and use it to trace variations of intensity over the surfaces of photographs (Plate, Mitchell, 4). They convert the resulting photomultiplier signals into arrays of 176 by 176 binary digits, feed them to a SEAC 1500 word binary computer, and program this computer to extract line drawings, count objects, recognise characters of type, and produce oscilloscope displays (Plate, Mitchell, 4).
1961 Atlas, the worlds largest mainframe computer is installed at Hartwell to aid atomic research and weather forecasting. (In the same year Yuri Gagarin U.S.S.R becomes the first space-man).
1964 N.A.S.A. scientists use digital image processing techniques to remove imperfections from images of the lunar surface sent back by Ranger 7
1969 The ARPANET, a linking of remote computer centres is the beginning of what is now known as the Internet. ARPANET began as a U.S. Government experiment in "packet-switched networking. ARPA, the Department of Defence (DOD) Advanced Projects Agency (which later became DARPA), the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency connected experimental computer networks by radio and satellite packets.
1975 The first colour screen becomes commercially available.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft.
1976 Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniac release the Apple I and Apple II microcomputers.
1979 Images of Jupiter and it's moons, send back by Voyager 1 are digitally re-constituted into beautiful colour prints.
1981 IBM introduces the first personal computer in 1981. It is quickly imitated by competitors who exploit the vulnerability of the IBM open system. Clones and look-alikes appear all over the place. The first IBM PC with it's Intel 8088 microprocessor chip had only 64K of RAM and no hard disk.
The ARPANET splits into two networks: the ARPANET and the Milnet (an unclassified military network). Connections between the two Networks was maintained. At first this interconnection between experimental and production networks was called the DARPA Internet, but later the name was shortened to just "the Internet". 213 Computers were registered on the Internet this year.
IBM introduces the first personal computer in 1981. It is quickly imitated by competitors who exploit the vulnerability of the IBM open system. Clones and look-alikes appear all over the place. The first IBM PC with it's Intel 8088 microprocessor chip had only 64K of RAM and no hard disk. The operating system developed by Microsoft was PC DOS or MS-DOS -an open architecture which allowed other PC manufacturers to build machines which worked with the same operating system. This marks the beginning of personal computers and their subsequent proliferation.
Sony introduces the MAVICA still video camera. The acronym stood for magnetic still video camera.
1983 IBM introduces the PC XT. It had more expansion slots (from 5 to 8) and an on-board 10 megabyte hard drive. It ran at 4.77 MHz.
1984 Apple computer which was founded by Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs in 1977 produces it's first Macintosh. The 128K Mac had no internal hard disk, no expansion slots and only 128K of memory. It's Motarola MC 68000 chip was named after the 68 000 transistors it contained.
1986 Apple computer produces it's first Laser Writer
1987 Commodore introduces the Amiga which has many features similar to the Macintosh but at a significantly lower price.
Apple Computer released the Mac II which was capable of displaying 16,7 million colours.
Motarola releases it's MC 68030 chip which more than quadruples (325 000 transistors) the capacity of the 68 000 chip released in 1982.
1988 Matrix produces a slide generator, which meant that images produced on the computer could be output to slides.
Barneyscan produces the first digital desktop slide scanner for 35mm transparencies.
Kodak make the first successful continuous tone print from a digital file. The print was 4x5" in size.
Comstock , one of the largest photo stock-agencies in the U.S, release a C.D. ROM that contained 441 eight bit monochrome images , saved in the TIFF file format for the Macintosh.
1989 Voyager 2 transmits digital images of Neptune over a distance close to 2.5 billion miles.
The JPEG standard for Image compression was adopted.
The Internet has grown from 213 Computers in 1981 to 80 000.
1990 William Gates of Microsoft Corporation began to purchase the electronic distribution rights to well known paintings and photographs (Mitchell p.81 quotes an article by G.Pascal Zachary: \0xD3Gates Quietly bids for Electronic rights to Works of Art\0xD3 in the Wall Street Journal, December 19, 1990, B1)
The Dycam, the first digital camera was introduced by a Californian company who called it a \0xD2 image capture peripheral\0xD3. It's resolution was lower than most still video cameras and it only captured in grayscale monochrome. It became available at less than a thousand dollars and was able to store 32 separate images in internal memory chips.(Aaland, 23)
Toshiba released it's Memory Card Camera the same year. It offered capacity for 12 colour images of 400 000 pixels each on a special memory card. It could shoot four images per second and weighed only two pounds.
Kodak created special digital backs to fit the Nikon F3 camera. One unit was designed for colour and another for monochrome. The monochrome unit was rated at 1. 3 million pixels.
The U.S. Government drops Federal financial sponsorship of the Internet.
Parallelling world events such as the 1990 Gulf War , university sponsored computer simulations play out real -world political dramas on the Internet stage> These computer simulations started in the Middle East Politics Classes at Melbourne University and connected with foreign relations classes at the University of Texas and Macquarie University in Australia. In this simulation the participants managed to talk Saddam Hussein into leaving Kuwait without going to war.
Motarola releases it's MC 68040 chip which quadruples the 325 000 transistors capacity of the 68 030 chip released in 1987. The MC 68040 chip contains 1.2 million transistors in an area of less than 2.5cm square.
1991 The Internet which had grown from 213 Computers in 1981 to 80 000 in 1989 is up to 313 000 connections by October 1990 and only three months later it has grown by another 63 000 connections (the equivalent of an annual increase of 80%). One year later that figure jumped to 727 000 computers connected to the net.
The American Forces make a great deal of the use of digital imaging in the Gulf War. The slaughter of civilians and armed Iraqi forces became like a televised video-game were satellite mounted imaging systems and nose-cone video cameras in laser guided missiles supplied real time spectacles of accurate (not always) high tech destruction methods. Six weeks after the War ended, the editors of Time magazine released the first News-magazine on disk. Entitled : Dessert Storm it contains Audio interviews, Maps, Photographic material, maps and other explanatory graphics. It was sold for $39.95 and the edition of 15 000 was a sellout. Dessert Storm could run on any Macintosh computer equipped with at least 1 Meg RAM and a CD ROM player. (Aaland,146)
1992 The National Gallery of Art in Washington released a videodisk containing about 10 000 images of works of art from it's collection
NASA distributed the data from it's Magellan radar scans of Venus on a set of more than 60 optical discs.
The NSFNET in the United States achieves a transmission speed of 45 Megabits per second over the Internet (about 5 000 typed pages per second).
Macintosh begins to package CD ROM drives as a built in feature of some of the range. Both the newer Centris series and the MacIIvx's are sold with CD ROM drives.
The Motarola MC 68040 chip released in 1991 contained 1.2 million transistors in an area of less than 2.5cm square. The New PowerPC 601 chip contains a staggering 2.8 million transistors in a similar area.

Bill Gates announces Microsoft's Windows everywhere strategy.


1993 Tim Berners Lee publishes the first Webpage that the public can access on the WWW
1995 Radius and Power computing produce the first MacOS clones. This move signals a major change in Apple Macintosh strategy which will eventually see both the PC and Apple platforms grow together .
Data storage drops sharply in price. Internal hard drives have gone into the Gigabyte range with a Micropolis 9 Gigabyte internal drive costing only $A 3900.- ($433 per Gig.)
The Internet which had has grown from 213 Computers in 1981 to 80 000 in 1989 now connects up to 20 Million computers.
The U.S government introduces a bill thru congress which makes information carriers liable to proscecution if they allow illegal or obscene material to be exchanged on their bandwith. Internet and telecommunication privacy is under direct attack.
1996 The Code known as RSA 129 cryptosystem (after it's inventors Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman) is broken within 6 months by a parallell processing frontal assault co-ordinated by Derek Atkins, a 24 year old electrical engineering student at MIT and his friends. It was originally (1977) calculated that the best available computer would take some 40 Quadrillion years to break this code which consisted of a calculation involving a 129 primary numbers.
The Internet which had has grown from 213 Computers in 1981 to 80 000 in 1989 now connects up to 40 Million computers.
The "Burning the Interface " exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is the worlds first exclusively CD ROM based art exhibition.
On July 12, Netscape achieved the " ten BILLION Hits" status when one of it's 38 million users logged on to use "Navigator " software to browse the WWW.
1998 On February 20th 1998, The website for the Winter Olympics clocked a record 103 429 hits per minute on it's IBM RS 6000 webserver
1999 Apple computers release the 500mhz chip in the new G4 series and consumers can now own a "supercomputer" (a million million calculations per second) for around $5000.-
2000 On January 1, 2000 the world holds its breath to see what will happen with Y2K, but the billions spent on compliance have paid off and Y2K problems are minimal and isolated. But everyone who is aware of the role computers have assumed in our society has had to reflect on our vurnerability and dependance on digital machines. Computers now govern much of our life, health, safety indeed our survival.
On February 15, 2000 the SUN Microsystem technology gury Dough Sutherland demonstrates his fully functional "Java Suit", a wearable computer which can, amongst other things, communicate with 24 satelites as it's owner walks down the street.
On September 5, 2000 French scientists announce that they have evolved the first robot that can evolve and replicate without human intervention. Alan Turing predicted that by the year 2000 computers would have "human intelligence"
2011 In Australia, Internet traffic reached 120 Petabytes per month