The Dawn of an Electronic Era

The computer age began when ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) was completed in 1945. The first multipurpose computer, ENIAC set speed records with an amazing 5,000 additions per second. Computers have come a long way since—a laptop today can do 500,000,000 additions per second.

That’s not the only difference. ENIAC weighed more than 30 tons, filled an 1,800-square-foot room and included 6,000 manual switches. It used so much electricity that it sometimes caused power shortages in its home city of Philadelphia. By contrast, a notebook PC today might weigh in at about 3 pounds.

Booting Up

You may know that “booting” your computer means starting it up. But did you know the word comes from “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”? That’s an expression that means taking charge of yourself, which is what a computer seems to do when it starts up!

Bugging Out


Moth Illustration

The term “bug” has been used for problems in machinery since electricity was invented. But the first computer bug was actually a moth! In 1945, a computer being tested at Harvard University stalled when a moth got caught inside. The engineers taped the moth into their computer log with the note, “First actual case of bug being found.”

Computer Timeline


1945
The computer age begins with the debut of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator). It is the first multipurpose computer.
1975
The MITS Altair, a PC-building kit, hits stores
Bill Gates and Paul Allen establish Microsoft.
1976
Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak start Apple Computer.
1977
Apple Computer introduces the Apple II computer.
1978
Floppy disks replace older data cassettes.
1981
IBM introduces a complete desktop PC
1983
TIME magazine names the PC “Man of the Year”
1984
The user-friendly Apple Macintosh goes on sale
1985
Microsoft launches Windows.
1992
The Apple PowerBook and IBM ThinkPad debut
1996
Palm releases the PalmPilot, a hand-held computer also called a “personal digital assistant.”
1997
The term "weblog" is coined. It's later shortened to "blog."
1998
Google opens its first office, in California.
1999
College student Shawn Fanning invents Napster, a computer application that allows users to swap music over the Internet.
"E-commerce" becomes the new buzzword as Internet shopping rapidly spreads.
MySpace.com is launched.
2000
To the chagrin of the Internet population, deviant computer programmers begin designing and circulating viruses with greater frequency. "Love Bug" and "Stages" are two examples of self-replicating viruses that send themselves to people listed in a computer user's email address book.
America Online buys Time Warner for $16 billion. It's the biggest merger of all time.
2001
Wikipedia is created.
Apple introduces the iPod.
2003
Spam, unsolicited email, becomes a server-clogging menace. It accounts for about half of all emails. In December, President Bush signs the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), which is intended to help individuals and businesses control the amount of unsolicited email they receive.
Apple Computer introduces Apple iTunes Music Store, which allows people to download songs for 99 cents each.
2004
Mark Zuckerberg launches Thefacebook at Harvard. The site expands to other universities.
Google introduces gmail.
2005
YouTube.com is launched.
Youtube, a video-sharing website, goes live.
2006
There are more than 92 million websites online.
Twitter, a website for mini-blogging and social networking, debuts.
2007
Apple releases the iPhone in the United States. iPhone users can access social media sites and apps through their phone. The smartphone becomes a portable, hand-held mini-computer.
2010
Apple introduces the iPad.
2011
Social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook help activists organize an uprising in Egypt. The trend of using social networking websites to organize protests and demonstrations continues throughout 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa. Various governments attempt to shut down social media and internet access to crackdown on protest movements throughout 2011 to varying degrees of success.

Computers and the InternetHow Do Computers Work?

More on Dawn of an Electronic Era from Fact Monster:

  • John Mauchly - John Mauchly Born: 1907 Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio ENIAC data translating device—Engineers ...
  • John Presper Eckert, Jr. - John Presper Eckert, Jr. Born: 1919 Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pa. ENIAC data translating ...