The Dawn of an Electronic Era

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

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

The computer age begins with the debut of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator). It is the first multipurpose computer.
The MITS Altair, a PC-building kit, hits stores
Bill Gates and Paul Allen establish Microsoft.
Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak start Apple Computer.
Apple Computer introduces the Apple II computer.
Floppy disks replace older data cassettes.
IBM introduces a complete desktop PC
TIME magazine names the PC “Man of the Year”
The user-friendly Apple Macintosh goes on sale
Microsoft launches Windows.
The Apple PowerBook and IBM ThinkPad debut
Palm releases the PalmPilot, a hand-held computer also called a “personal digital assistant.”
The term "weblog" is coined. It's later shortened to "blog."
Google opens its first office, in California.
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. is launched.
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.
Wikipedia is created.
Apple introduces the iPod.
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.
Mark Zuckerberg launches Thefacebook at Harvard. The site expands to other universities.
Google introduces gmail.
2005 is launched.
Youtube, a video-sharing website, goes live.
There are more than 92 million websites online.
Twitter, a website for mini-blogging and social networking, debuts.
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.
Apple introduces the iPad.
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.

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