A squirrel chews through an electrical power line outside Nasdaq’s Trumbull, Conn., data center in 1994 interrupting trading for 34 minutes. Nasdaq’s backup power supply fails to kick in. It’s Nasdaq’s third system malfunction in two weeks.
Apple releases the Newton handheld computer in 1993 to reviews that mock its poor handwriting recognition capabilities. Apple drops the Newton in 1998.
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, releases files detailing his work on a project to allow documents to link to each other easily on the Internet, thereby earning the sobriquet Father of the World Wide Web.
The Automatic Sequent Controller Calculator (also called the Harvard Mark I), a mechanical calculator, is dedicated in 1944. Built by Howard Aiken with IBM backing, it is 51 feet long, weighs 5 tons and has 750,000 parts. It can perform three additions or subtractions per second.
America Online suffers a 19-hour blackout in 1996, denying service to more than 6 million subscribers. You don’t have mail.
Thomas Edison patents the mimeograph machine in 1876. It remains in widespread use until electronic copiers take over in the 1970s.
Netscape Communications, makers of the Navigator Web browser, launches its initial public offering in 1995. The stock opens at $28 per share, making the 15-month-old startup worth more than $1 billion.
Netscape opens at $71 on its second day of trading.
IBM unveils the IBM PC, a 16-bit personal computer, in 1981.
Netscape posts a letter to the Justice Department in 1996 charging that Microsoft is in violation of a 1995 consent decree that prohibits the vendor from leveraging its operating system dominance in other markets. Netscape says Microsoft is pressuring PC makers to use its Explorer browser instead of Netscape’s Navigator. That allegation leads to the government’s 1998 antitrust suit against the Redmond, Wash., giant.
Outrage follows the U.S. Census Bureau’s announcement in 1890 that the U.S. population is only 62 million. Citizens expected a number closer to a proud 75 million. The man in the street blames new automatic counting machines for the low tally. Government officials stand by their number and boast of a $5 million labor savings thanks to the machines.
Xerox executives decide in 1977 not to market the Alto PC developed at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), believing personal computers will never catch on. The Alto’s graphical user interface is noted by Apple Computer cofounder Steve Jobs during a tour of the facility in 1979. Some of these GUI ideas later appear in the first Macintosh in 1984.
Defense Department contractor BBN ships its first networking machine to UCLA in 1969. The machine and several others form the backbone of ARPAnet, the Internet’s precursor.
A 1997 Carnegie Mellon University study finds that rather than fostering a sense of community, extended Internet surfing can make people feel depressed, stressed out and lonely.
Sources: Annals of the History of Computing, www.historychannel.com, Today in Science, www.datesinhistory.com, Computerworld, IBM, The Learning Network, www.cntower.ca, The Associated Press, Wired.com, Court TV