Timeline: 40 years of the personal computer

The Tandy TRS-80 was launched 40 years ago. Picture: Rama & Mus�e Bolo
The Tandy TRS-80 was launched 40 years ago. Picture: Rama & Mus�e Bolo
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The first mass-produced, off-the-shelf personal computer to reach the high street was green-lit by the Tandy Corporation 40 years ago this month.

It didn’t do much, because hardly anyone knew what it was for. But it betrayed one familiar trait from the start: on its first demonstration, before the boss of the retail empire that was to sell it, it crashed.

40 years of the personal computer... and how the first one ended up in a pig farm in Yorkshire

Here is a brief timeline of how the home computer evolved...

• 1973 - Engineers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre in California demonstrate the first graphical user interface, mouse and networked PC. But it’s just an in-house experiment.

• 1975 - Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft.

The Commodore PET, launched in 1977, became popular in classrooms

The Commodore PET, launched in 1977, became popular in classrooms

• 1976 - Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found Apple Computer, and begin selling hand-built Apple I computer boards.

• 1977 - Tandy introduces the TRS-80, Commodore launches the PET, and Apple sells its first mass-production model, the Apple II.

• 1978 - Intel releases the 8086 processor, the beating heart of the first mass-market IBM PCs.

• 1979 - Texas Instruments introduces the TI-99/4 personal computer.

• 1980 - Sinclair Research introduces the ZX-80 microcomputer, and 1kB of memory.

• 1981 - The BBC microcomputer is launched, with a rapid take-up in schools. IBM introduces the IBM 5150 Personal Computer, the template for every Windows PC for years to come, with a 8088 processor, 16kB RAM, and a 5.25-inch floppy drive. Commodore introduces the VIC-20 computer with 5kB of memory.

• 1982 - Commodore introduces the Commodore 64, with 64 kB of memory. Epson introduces the first notebook computer. Lotus announces the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

• 1984 - Apple introduces the Apple Macintosh, with 512x342 monochrome graphics, 9-inch monitor and mouse.

• 1985 - Atari introduces the 130ST and 520ST computers. Commodore introduces the Amiga 1000 computer. Microsoft produces Windows v1.0.

• 1986 - Compaq builds the first 80386 computer.

• 1989 - Apple builds the Macintosh Portable.

• 1990 - Windows v3.0 is released.

• 1991 - Apple introduces the Macintosh PowerBook series.

• 1992 - Windows v3.1 is launched - the first to gain universal acceptance, if not popularity. IBM and Motorola announce the PowerPC 601 processor.

• 1993 - Intel introduces the first Pentium processor.

• 1994 - Apple introduces QuickTime 2.0 video, with support for interactive television, music, and full-screen video.

• 1995 - Netscape releases the Navigator web browser. Microsoft launches Windows 95 and the Internet Explorer browser.

• 1998 - Microsoft ships Windows 98 and becomes the world’s most valuable company.

• 1999 - Apple introduces the iBook portable.

• 2001 - Apple launches the first iPod and rolls out the Mac OS X operating system. Microsoft introduces Windows XP and the Tablet PC.

• 2002 - Apple announces its new iMac computers, with a 15-inch flat-panel screen inside a dome.

• 2004 - The European Competition Commission calls Microsoft an abusive monopolist. Mozilla releases the Firefox 1.0 Web browser.

• 2005 - Apple’s iPod range now extends to the Shuffle, Mini and Nano. Intel releases the first desktop dual-core processor. Sales of portable computers in the US exceed of desktops.

• 2007 - The first smartphone - Apple’s iPhone - is launched, along with the iPod Touch.

• 2009 - Microsoft launches Windows 7

• 2010 - Apple launches its first iPad, along with the fourth-generation iPhone.

• 2015 - Microsoft launches Windows 10.