This article presents a timeline of events in the history of computing from 1990 to the present. For a narrative explaining the overall developments, see the related history of computers and history of computer science.
Computing timelines: 2400 BC-1949, 1950-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-present
|| Macintosh IIfx released. Based on a 40 MHz version of the 68030 it achieved 10 MIPS. It also featured a faster SCSI adapter, which could transfer 3.0 Mbit/s. |
|| Introduction of Windows 3.0 by Microsoft. It is a multitasking system that maintains compatibility with MS-DOS, allowing several MS-DOS tasks to be run at once on an 80386 or above. This created a real threat to the Macintosh and despite a similar product, IBM's OS/2, it was very successful. |
|| Commodore releases the Amiga 3000, the first 32-bit Amiga. It featured the Motorola 68030 processor and the upgraded ECS chipset. Amiga OS 2.0 was released with the launch of the A3000, which took advantage of its 32-bit architecture. Later variants included the Amiga 3000UX, launched as a low end UNIX workstation, running UNIX System V. The A3000T was the first Amiga to use a tower form factor, which increased expansion potential. |
|| Macintosh Classic released, an identical replacement to the Macintosh Plus of January 1986. Also came the Macintosh IIsi which ran a 68030 processor at 20 MHz to achieve 5.0 MIPS, and also a 256 colour video adapter. |
|| Macintosh LC released. This ran a 68020 processor at 16 MHz to achieve 2.6 MIPS, it had a slightly improved SCSI adapter and a 256 colour video adapter. |
|| Multimedia PC (MPC) Level 1 specification published by a council of companies including Microsoft and Creative Labs. This specified the minimum standards for a Multimedia IBM PC. The MPC level 1 specification originally required a 12 MHz 80286 microprocessor, but this was later revised to require a 16 MHz 80386SX microprocessor as the 80286 was realised to be inadequate. It also required a CD-ROM drive capable of 150 kB/s (single speed) and also of Audio CD output. Companies can, after paying a fee, use the MPC logo on their product. |
- Borland acquires Ashton-Tate Corporation and the Dbase program.
- Phil Zimmermann releases the public key encryption program PGP along with its source code, which quickly appears on the Internet.
|| The Intel 80486 SX is released as a cheaper alternative to 80486 DX, with the key difference being the lack of an integrated FPU. |
|| Creative Labs introduces the Sound Blaster Pro sound card. |
|| To promote OS/2, Bill Gates took every opportunity after its release to say 'DOS is dead', however the development of DOS 5.0 lead to the permanent dropping of OS/2 development. |
- This version, after the mess of version 4, was properly tested through the distribution of Beta versions to over 7,500 users. This version included the ability to load device drivers and TSR programs above the 640 KiB boundary (into UMBs and the HMA), freeing more RAM for programs. This version marked the end of collaboration between Microsoft and IBM on DOS.
|| The Linux kernel is born with the following post to the Usenet Newsgroup comp.os.minix by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish college student: |
- "Hello everybody out there using minix- I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones."
- Linux has become one of the most widely used Unix-like operating system kernels in the world today. It now runs on many different types of computers, including the Sun SPARC and the DEC/Compaq Alpha, as well as many ARM, MIPS, PowerPC and Motorola 68000 based computers.
- In 1992, the GNU project adopted the Linux kernel for use with GNU systems while they waited for the development of their own kernel, GNU Hurd, to be completed. The GNU project's aim is to provide a complete and free Unix-like operating system, combining the Hurd or Linux kernel with a complete suite of free software to run on it. Torvalds changed the licence of the Linux kernel from one prohibiting commercial use to the GNU General Public License on 1 February 1992.
- Introduction of CD-i launched by Philips.
- The PowerPC 601, developed by IBM, Motorola and Apple Computer, was released. This was the first generation of PowerPC processors.
- Commercial providers were allowed to sell internet connections to individuals. Its use exploded, especially with the new interface provided by the World-Wide Web (see 1989) and NCSA Mosaic.
- First web magazine, The Virtual Journal, is published but fails commercially.
- Doom was released by id Software. The PC began to be considered as a serious games playing machine. This was reinforced by another release in 1993 - "Sam and Max Hit the Road".
- Novell purchased Digital Research, DR-DOS became Novell DOS.
|| Intel releases the Pentium processor, with 60 and 66 MHz versions. The Pentium has over 3.1 million transistors and can achieve up to 100 MIPs. The lead developer was Vinod Dahm. |
|| MPC Level 2 specification introduced (see November 1990). This was designed to allow playback of a 15 frame/s video in a window 320x240 pixels. The key difference is the requirement of a CD-ROM drive capable of 300 kB/s (double speed). Also with Level 2 is the requirement for products to be tested by the MPC council, making MPC Level 2 compatibility a stamp of certification. |
|| Severe Flat Tire made the first live music performance on the Internet, using MBone technology. |
|| Windows NT 3.1 was released that supported 32-bit programs. |
|| MS-DOS 6.0. This included a hard disk compression program called DoubleSpace, but a small computing company called 'Stac' claimed that DoubleSpace was partly a copy of their Compression Program, Stacker. After paying damages Microsoft withdrew DoubleSpace from MS-DOS 6.2, releasing a new program - DriveSpace - with MS-DOS version 6.22. In operation and programming interface DriveSpace remains virtually identical to DoubleSpace. MS-DOS 6.22 remains the last standalone version of MS-DOS released, since Microsoft turned its efforts to Windows 95. The Windows 95 version of MS-DOS reports itself as MS-DOS 7 - and includes a few enhancements. |
- N.B. The Windows 95 version of MS-DOS report itself as version 7.0, Windows 95 OSR2 reports 7.1.
- Intel released the 90 & 100 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor.
- PC-DOS 6.3 Basically the same as version 5.0 this release by IBM included more bundled software, such as Stacker (the program that caused Microsoft so much embarrassment) and anti-virus software.
- Linus released Linux Kernel v1.2.0 (Linux'95).
- Intel releases the 120 MHz version of the Pentium processor.
- Intel releases the 133 MHz version of the Pentium processor.
- Sony releases its first Playstation - To date, over 100 million have been sold.
- Pentium Pro released. At introduction it achieved a clock speed of up to 200 MHz (there were also 150, 166 and 180 MHz variants released on the same date), and was the first product built around Intel's P6 architecture, later used in the Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium M, Core and Core 2 processors. It achieves 440 MIPs and contains 5.5 million transistors - this is nearly 2400 times as many as the first microprocessor, the 4004 - and capable of 70,000 times as many instructions per second.
- 3dfx releases Voodoo, the first consumer 3D accelerator, capable of rendering scenes in real time and in high resolution. QuakeGL (a GL port of Quake) is the first popular game utilising this new technology. Other games soon follow, including Tomb Raider.
- CompuServe blocked access to over 200 sexually explicit Usenet newsgroups, partly to avoid confrontation with the German government. Access to all but 5 was restored on 13 February 1996.
- Quake released - representing the dramatic increases in both software and hardware technology since Doom, of 3 years previous. Other notable releases included "Civilization 2", "Command & Conquer - Red Alert", "Grand Prix 2" and "Tomb Raider". On the more controversial front "Battle Cruiser 3000" was also released, but its advertising had to be censored.
- Windows 95 OSR2 (OEM System Release 2) was released - partly to fix bugs found in release 1 - but only to computer retailers for sale with new systems. There were actually two separated releases of Windows 95 OSR2 before the introduction of Windows '98, the second of which contained both USB and FAT32 support - the main selling points of Windows '98. FAT32 is a new filing system that provides support for disk partitions bigger than 2.1 GB and is better at coping with large disks (especially in terms of wasted space).
- Intel released 150 and 166 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor.
- Linux 2.0 released. 2.0 was a significant improvement over the earlier versions: it was the first to support multiple architectures (originally developed for the Intel 386 processor, it now supported Digital's Alpha architecture and would very soon support the SPARC architecture in addition to many others). It was also the first stable kernel to support SMP, kernel modules, and much more.
- The first public release of Opera, version 2.1 for Windows.
- Intel released the 200 MHz version of the Pentium Processor.
- id Software releases QuakeWorld, a version of Quake designed for Internet multiplayer games. A number of innovative features such as movement prediction make the game playable even over low-speed and high-latency Internet connections.
- Tim Berners-Lee awarded the Institute of Physics' 1997 Duddell Medal for inventing the World Wide Web (see 1989).
- "Grand Theft Auto" and "Quake 2" were released while Lara Croft returned in "Tomb Raider 2". As the standards for graphics kept increasing, 3d graphics cards were beginning to become mandatory for game players.
- Intel released Pentium MMX (originally 166 and 200 MHz versions), for games and multimedia enhancement. To most people MMX is simply another 3-letter acronym and people wearing coloured suits on Intel ads, and to programmers it meant an even further expanded instruction set that provides, amongst other functions, enhanced 64-bit support - but software needs to be specially written to work with the new functions. A major rival clone, the AMD-K6-MMX containing a similar instruction set, caused a legal challenge from Intel on the right to use the trademarked name MMX — it was not upheld.
- IBM's Deep Blue became the first computer to beat a reigning World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, in a full chess match. The computer had played him previously — losing 5/6 games in February 1996.
- Intel releases the Pentium II processor (233, 266 and 300 MHz versions). The Pentium II features a larger on-chip cache as well as an expanded instruction set.
- Intel releases the 233 MHz Pentium MMX.
- After 18 months of losses Apple Computer was in serious financial trouble. Microsoft invested in Apple, buying 100,000 non-voting shares worth $150 million — a decision not approved of by many Apple owners. One of the conditions was that Apple was to drop the long running court case — attempting to sue Microsoft for copying the look and feel of their operating system when designing Windows.
- Intel released the 333 MHz Pentium II processor. Code-named Deschutes, these processors used the new 0.25 micrometre manufacturing process, which allowed them to run faster and generate less heat.
- A U.S. court has finally banned the long-running practice of cybersquatting or buying domain names relating to trademarks and then selling them for extortionate prices to the companies who own the trademark. The case was based around a man from Illinois who bought panavision.com in 1995 and tried to sell it for $13,000. The current going commercial rate for domain name registration is around $100.
- Apple announces the iMac, an All-in-One with integral 15 inch (381 mm) multiscan monitor, 24x CDROM, 2x available USB ports, 56 kbit/s modem, 2 stereo speakers, and Ethernet but no floppy drive. It was encased in translucent Bondi Blue and Ice plastic. Quantity shipping began in August. Designed by Jonathan Ive, it was the model that put Apple back on the road to profitability.
- Microsoft released Windows 98. Some U.S. attorneys tried to block its release since the new O/S interlaces with other programs such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and so effectively closes the market of such software to other companies. Microsoft has fought back with a letter to the White House suggesting that 26 of its industry allies say that a delay in the release of the new O/S could damage the U.S. economy. The main selling points of Windows '98 were its support for USB and its support for disk partitions greater than 2 GB with FAT32 (although FAT32 was actually released with Windows 95 OSR2).
- Upstart eMachines announces two home PCs priced at $399 and $499, creating the sub-$600 market and launching a price war. Within four months, the new company becomes the #5 computer maker at retail.
- Linux Kernel 2.2.0 released. The number of people running Linux is estimated at over 10 million, making it not only an important operating system in the Unix world, but an increasingly important one in the PC world.
AMD releases a K6-III clocked at 400 MHz and a 450 MHz version for OEMs. It contains approximately 23 million transistors, and is requires motherboards using the Super Socket 7 socket, which supports a 100 MHz front side bus (FSB), an improvement over AMD's previous chips that used a 66 MHz FSB. The use of a 100 MHz FSB brought technological equivalency with the 100 MHz FSB featured on the Intel Pentium II.
- Apple releases the PowerMac G4. It's powered by the PowerPC G4 chip from Motorola. Available in 400 MHz, 450 MHz and 500 MHz versions, Apple claimed it to be the first personal computer to be capable of over one billion floating-point operations per second.
- AMD releases an Athlon clocked at 750 MHz.
- US Government announce restrictions on exporting cryptography are relaxed (although not removed). This allows many US companies to stop the long running process of having to create US and international copies of their software.
- Transmeta releases the Crusoe microprocessor. The Crusoe was intended for laptops and consumed significantly less electricity than most microprocessors of the time, while providing comparable performance to the mid-range Pentium II microprocessors. Transmeta and Crusoe, new competitors to Intel and their products, initially appeared exciting and promising.
- Official Launch of Windows 2000 - Microsoft's replacement for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT. Claimed to be faster and more reliable than previous versions of Windows. It is actually a descendant of the NT series, and so the trade-off for increased reliability is that it won't run some old DOS-based games. To keep the home market happy Microsoft has also released Windows ME, the newest member of the 95/98 series.
- Be Inc. released BeOS R5 for PowerPC and x86, which was the first release of BeOS for x86 to have a freely downloadable version which could be fully installed on a user's hard drive.
- AMD released an Athlon clocked at 1.0 GHz.
- Intel releases very limited supplies of the 1 GHz Pentium III chip.
- British Telecom (BT) claim the rights to hyperlinks on the basis of a US patent granted in 1989. Similar patents in the rest of the world have now expired. Their claim is widely believed to be absurd since Ted Nelson wrote about hyperlinks in 1965, and this is where Tim Berners Lee says he got the ideas for the World Wide Web from. This is just another in the line of similar incredible cases — for example amazon.com's claim to have patented '1-click ordering'.
- RSA Security Inc. released their RSA algorithm into the public domain, in advance of the US patent (#4,405,829) expiring on the 20th Sept. of the same year. Following the relaxation of the US government restrictions earlier in the year (January 14) this removed one of the last barriers to the world-wide distribution of much software based on cryptographic systems. It should be noted that the IDEA algorithm is still under patent and also that government restrictions still apply in some places.
- Linux kernel version 2.4.0 released.
- Apple released Mac OS X. At its heart is Darwin, an Open Source operating system based on BSD. Mac OS X finally gave Mac users the stability benefits of a protected memory architecture along many other enhancements, such as pre-emptive multitasking. The BSD base also makes porting Unix applications to Mac OS easier and gives Mac users a full-featured command line interface alongside their GUI.
- nVidia releases GeForce FX, a family of DirectX 9.0-compatible 3D cards with extensive support for pixel and vertex shaders. With this new product nVidia makes an emphasis on image quality, proclaiming a "dawn of cinematic computing", illustrated with the popular Dawn demo utilising extremely realistic skin and wing shaders.
- SCO Group announces it will sue IBM for 1 billion US dollars. The claim is that Linux contains code inserted by IBM that was the copyrighted property of SCO.
- Linux kernel version 2.6.0 is released.
- nVidia releases GeForce 6800, claiming it is the biggest leap in graphics technology the company ever made. Independent reviews show more than 100% increase in productivity compared with the fastest card on the market. Continuing the tradition, nVidia demonstrates Nalu, a mermaid with extremely realistic hair. A few weeks later nVidia's main rival ATi announces X800 with nearly the same level of performance and feature support. The card is showcased by the Ruby demo, delivering a smooth real-time rendering of what was previously in the exclusive realm of prerendered cinematics.
- Apple Computer releases Mac OS X v10.4 for the Apple Macintosh at 6:00PM (Pacific Time).
- AMD starts shipping their first dual-core 64-bit desktop processor, the Athlon 64 X2.
- Apple announces they are going to use Intel processors in upcoming Macintosh computers.
- Microsoft announces their next consumer operating system, Windows Vista, to be released in early 2007.
- Intel introduces the Core 2 processors, marking the retirement of Intel's Pentium brand name.
- Researchers create experimental processor that delivers 350 GHz at room temperature.
- Intel announces plans for an 80-core processor that would exceed 1 TFLOP, planned to be available in 2011.
- Nintendo releases The Wii.
- Apple launches Mac OS X (10.5) with built in file navigation features aimed at boosting productivity.