Category Archives: History

Intel Pentium Processors


March 22nd marked the anniversary of Intel’s release of fifth generation microarchitecture with the Pentium processors making their first appearance in 1993. X86 compatible, the Pentiums superseded Intel’s 486 technology and became a global brand which has extended over 2 decades.

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A Look Back at Windows 2000


Today marks the 14th Anniversary of the release by Microsoft of Windows 2000.  Windows 2000 succeeded Windows NT 4.0, and was referred to as Windows 5.0 during its development.  It would prove to be the last release by Microsoft under its Windows NT umbrella with Windows XP released the following year in October.


Having been designed to replace Windows 95, 98 and Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 offered increased reliability, greater ease of use, as well as improved support for mobile computing and internet compatibility. Windows 2000 allowed for easier hardware installation for its users as it now supported a vast array of Plug and Play hardware including wireless and networking devices, as well as USBs and infrared equipment.  Through Windows 2000 Microsoft also introduced support for operation system level hibernation without the need for special drivers as in previous releases.


With greater reliability and security key features of Windows 2000, Microsoft included Windows File Protection for the first time, to protect core files and prevent programs replacing them.  Microsoft also gave us the MMC Microsoft Management Console and Logical Disk Manager capability for dynamic storage, in addition to features such as Internet Explorer 5 and Windows Desktop Update now introduced into the NT line.


With personalised menus, expandable special folders and the ability to launch multiple programs from the Start Menus, a Re-sort button also allowed files to be sorted by name.  Windows 2000 also introduced us to visual improvements such as fade transition effects, with layered windows that were transparent, and supported balloon notification in the Taskbar.  With a default-enabled interactive Media Player for previewing video and sound files, additional assistive technologies for those with disabilities were also included by Microsoft.


Subtle logo changes and the addition of a melodic piano tune were added for start-up and shut-down also featured in the release.


Windows 2000 was made more accessible to those with visual and hearing impairments as well as other disabilities through the addition of assistive technologies, FilterKeys included SoundSentry which show a visual effect when sound is played, ToggleKeys with sound indicating when Caps, Number or Scroll Lock are pressed together with BounceKeys, SlowKeys and Repeat Keys offering further assistance. Serial Keys allowed for speech augmentation device support, with the Microsoft Narrator screen reader also offered for the first time, together with a screen magnifier.


Available in 4 editions, Windows 2000 was an instant hit with Microsoft reporting that over 1million units were sold within the first month of its release.


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A Look at the Sinclair ZX80


1980 bought us the Sinclair ZX80, offering the first computer with a price tag of less than £100, made by Science of Cambridge Limited, (Sinclair Research).  Proving hugely popular, the ZX80 weighed in at just 340 grams, and was small enough to carry in a briefcase measuring just 21 x 17 x 5cm.  The price of £99.95 opened up the market completely, with more people now able to afford a home computer resulting in over 50,000 unit sales and a waiting list for the ZX80 of several months.


Designed by Jim Westwood, Sinclair’s Chief Engineer, the ZX80 was hailed as a remarkable device by BYTE at the time, it had the ability to outperform many of its competitors, and yet was built using readily available components.  Taking a mere nine months to develop, the ZX80 consisted of a Z80 CPU with 1K of RAM, with an additional external RAM pack later available to expand the memory to 16K. The machine featured the Sinclair BASIC operating system and had 4 kB of ROM, it could be connected to buyer’s own televisions, with a cassette recorder providing for program storage.


The ZX80 was also available to users in kit form for the reduced price of £79.95 for those with an interest in building their own computer, with good soldering skills essential.


The appearance of the ZX80 was the design work of Rick Dickinson, featuring a white case with the distinctive blue keyboard which included the word Newline instead of Enter.  Whilst there appears to be several ventilation slots in the unit, these were just black stripes added for cosmetic purposes.  The lack of ventilation would see overheating a common problem that developed in these machines.


Closely followed by the release in 1981 of the ZX81, and the ZX Spectrum in 1982, an example of the ZX80 can be found at the Science Museum in London, featuring in the Making of the Modern World collection, reflecting the significance of the machine in home computing history in terms of a low cost yet high performance personal computer.


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Historic Apple Launches throughout January


With the New Year proving a popular choice for Apple when planning the announcement and launch of new additions to their product portfolio, we reflect on a selection of more recent Apple products which were historically launched in the month of January, following on from the Apple Lisa, the Macintosh 128K, the Macintosh Plus and the Macintosh SE/30 in the early years of Apple.


January 2013 would see the 3rd Generation Rev A of Apple TV released, with Apple’s digital media player originally launched on January 9th 2007, allowing for users to access digital content and streaming media from various sources.


January 2012 saw Apple launch iBooks Author, a free of charge tool which allows users to create, publish and distribute their own works.


January 2010 came the announcement of iBooks by Apple, their e-book application which would be released for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.


January 2008 saw the release of the MacBook Air, which featured a full size keyboard in the notebook, yet was lightweight and thin in design.


January 2006 marked the launch of the MacBook Pro which consisted of a 15” model, with later generations including a 13” and 17” model and featuring a sleeker shaped aluminium design known as the Unibody.


January 2006 was also the release date for the iMac desktop computers offered by Apple, which featured the Core Duo the Intel CPU for the first time.


January 2005 saw the release of the Mac Mini desktop, as well as the iPod Shuffle showcased at the Macworld Conference & Expo, adding a further element to Apple’s digital audio portfolio.


January 2005 Apple launched a suite of desktop applications named iWork, which included Keynote a presentation tool, Numbers a spreadsheet application, and Pages providing for word processing functionality, for its OS X and iOS systems.


January 2004 the iPod Mini was announced and featured the click wheel, an element which would also appear on the iPod Nano, which later replaced the mini.


January 2001 saw the PowerBook G4 launched at the MacWorld Expo, the PowerBooks were powerful machines with long battery life and with designs in both titanium and aluminium.



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Happy Birthday Hewlett Packard

On the 1st January 1939, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded a company, the name of which was agreed on the flip of a coin and Hewlett Packard was the result.  The organisation would come to be recognised globally as an industry leader in the field of information technology, through its continuous invention and pioneering design.


Having met whilst studying at Stanford University, the first product offered by the Electrical Engineering graduates was the HP Model 200A, a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator to enable the testing of sound equipment.  Within a year, the company had moved from the rented garage to new premises as the business began to grow and the first employees joined HP.  During the Second World War Bill saw active service in the US Army, whilst Dave continued to run the business with the focus shifting to include microwave technology with signal generators set to follow.


During the 1950’s with Al Bagley heading up the Frequency and Time Division Team, HP introduced the HP 524A, their high speed frequency counter solution. The decade also saw HP develop oscilloscopes to facilitate testing and measurement, with continued business success necessitating new headquarters to accommodate its staff, with plants also established in Germany and Switzerland.  Steps would be taken to acquire F.L. Moseley Co. who produced graphic recorders, a move that would be crucial in the development of the printing side of HP’s offering.  1961 would then see the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.


With a keen focus on pioneering design and innovation, HP Laboratories was established and the HP 2116a, HPs first computer was launched in 1966.  This would be followed in 1968 by the HP 9100A the first example of a desktop scientific calculator, offering unrivalled speed in problem solving with the term personal computer used for the first time in its advertising campaign.


The 1970’s would see the introduction of the HP 3000, facilitating distributed data processing for businesses, as well as the HP-35 a hand-held scientific calculator, a product later recognised by Forbes for its significant impact on the world, as well as being identified as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering.  During this decade the HP interface bus became an international industry standard.


Throughout the 1980’s HP continued to dominate the industry with the additions of the HP-85 its first personal computer, and the HP 9000 desktop technical mainframe solution, together with the HP-75C a handheld computer which allowed users peripheral connection.  It was at this time that China also becomes a focus for HP, with an office opening in Beijing. The 1980’s would also see the first appearance of HP-150 a Touchscreen PC, the introduction of HP’s LaserJet printers, and after extensive research and development HP’s RISC based architecture, allowing for increased speed and reduced costs.


With revenues reaching $20 billion in the early 1990’s HP continued to develop their extensive offering with deskjet colour printing via its HP Deskjet 500C, and also introduced a programme of recycling for its toner cartridges.  The HP Omnibook 300 was launched in 1993 providing users with a portable pc solution.  Continuing to revolutionise the market, the HP OfficeJet combined a fax, copier and printer for the first time and enjoyed huge success within the market.  1994 would also see HP develop the world’s brightest LED, allowing for new products and markets to make use of the lighting solution.  Work was also ongoing at this time with HP and Intel focussed on the development of a 64-bit microprocessor.  The HP Pavilion 5000 series of home computers was launched in 1995, and by 1996 HP’s programme for toner cartridge recycling had reached 10 million.


2003 saw HP move into the SMB market launching products and services focussed on small and medium sized businesses, and digital entertainment products also on offer included plasma TVs, Photosmart Printers and Personal Media Drives through its HP Entertainment Centre portfolio.  Continually reaching new milestones, by 2005 HP had shipped 10million ProLiant Servers as well as introducing new printing technology allowing for even faster photo printing.  At this time HP also acquired Snapfish.  TouchSmart PC and tablets were available for the first time in 2007, closely followed by the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC in 2008, with acquisitions taking place at this time including EDS and 3Com, and in 2010 Palm Inc. would also be added to the list.   Web connected home printer solutions were added to the portfolio in 2009, and the extensive recycling programmes operated by HP saw over 1 billion pounds worth of equipment recycled, and 1 billion ink cartridges produced using recycled materials at this time.


2011 would see Meg Whitman join HP, taking over from Leo Apotheker as President and CEO, with further innovations by HP resulting in the first wireless mouse with the use of wi-fi rather than a USB dongle.


Most recent developments by HP include Cloud solutions, with a focus on security and big data in their software solutions, and they continue to dominate in areas such as networking and storage solutions and server applications.  Each year HP Discover is held, a conference which takes place in Europe and the USA, where HP showcase their latest developments and advancements as they remain a leading force in the industry.


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Charles Babbage’s Mechanical Computers


Today, December 26th, marks 222 years since Charles Babbage was born in London, and little did his parents know that by bringing him into the world, they had given birth to a little boy who would grow up to become known as “the father of the computer”.

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Tommy Flowers and The Colossus

Tommy Flowers


Born: 22 December 1905


Died: 28 October 1998


Profession: Engineer


Nationality: British


Engineer Thomas Flowers (“Tommy”) was born in London’s East End in 1905 and undertook an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering as a young man, never dreaming that this would be the first stepping stone to a career filled with professional achievements, the most famous of which being the Colossus Computer. Working for the General Post Office (GPO) in 1926, he gained a thorough understanding of switching electronics through his work at the research station in Dollis Hill. This would later prove crucial to his work at Bletchley Park from 1941 onwards.


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Anniversary of the Gore Bill


Today marks the anniversary of the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (HPCA) or Gore Bill as it is commonly referred to, having been the creation of Senator and Vice President Al Gore, with the purpose to ensure the United States maintained their leadership in high-performance computing, through a coordinated Federal Programme.


Gore is noted by many, including internet pioneers Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, for his significant contribution in supporting the development of the internet, with Gore recognising very early on the potential impact the internet could have, and the wide-ranging educational and economic benefits it could bring, and influenced by a report by Leonard Kleinrock, a member of the team who created the ARPANET.


The passing of the bill would result in the establishment of the National Information Infrastructure (NII), also known as the Information Superhighway.  In addition to the NII, the HPCA also provided the essential funding for a National Research and Education Network (NREN).


Following the promulgation of the Act, the impact on the development of technological advances would be vast, and see the creation in 1993 of the Mosaic web browser, following the Bill’s funding of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.  Marc Andreessen, Founder of Netscape, was part of the team working at the University of Illinois and Andreessen would later conclude that left to the private sector, it would have taken years to achieve the results seen following the Gore Bill’s implementation.


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Events in Computing History – December

December 2nd


Event: Apple QuickTime was first released

Interesting Facts:

  • The first ever release of QuickTime, which introduced a video codec, had the code name of “Road Pizza”.
  • QuickTime 2.0 was the only ever software which didn’t release a free version, it added support for music tracks, which contained the equivalent of MIDI data and which could drive a sound-synthesis engine built into QuickTime itself (using a limited set of instrument sounds licensed from Roland).
  • The latest version of QuickTime is 10.6, which includes visual chapters, conversion, sharing to YouTube, video editing, capture of video and audio streams, screen recording, GPU acceleration, and live streaming.

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Rasmus Lerdorf

Happy Birthday Rasmus Lerdorf


Congratulations to Rasmus Lerdorf, the renowned programmer responsible for creating PHP scripting language, who celebrates his 45th birthday today.


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