by Daniel J. Horgan

The Month of July in IT History: Computer Export Ban Lifted; Microsoft Offers First Version of Windows

Jul 01, 20032 mins

Computer Export Ban Lifted

1989 The U.S. Commerce Department announces on July 18 the lift of trade sanctions of midlevel PCs with the Communist bloc. The Soviet Union and China are importing equivalent systems from Brazil, India and Taiwan, and existing export rules prevent U.S. companies from profiting in the region. The decision opens the doors for American computermakers to market midlevel desktops, laptops and other portable computers to the previously restricted region. The move comes after years of stringent trade controls on such computer systems sales. Defense Department officials object to the move, calling it a threat to national security. Dick Cheney (above in 1989), President George H.W. Bush’s defense secretary at the time, says, “This will give [the Communist bloc] a computer capability that has military applications that should be avoided.” Pentagon officials contend that the computers available to their Cold War counterparts far exceeds the capacity of U.S. government systems. Four months later, the Berlin Wall falls.

Other Notable Events

2 Microsoft releases the first version of Windows in 1985. The operating system struggles to work with low-power PCs of the day.

5 Lotus acquiesces to IBM’s $3.52 billion takeover bid in 1995. It’s the largest software acquisition ever.

21 A plant worker in Jackson, Mich., becomes the first victim of a robot-related fatality when he is pinned against a safety bar by a factory robot in 1984.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and CEO, names Steve Ballmer the company’s president in 1998.

22 In 1962, a glitch in the guidance program code of the Mariner 1 sends the unmanned interplanetary spaceprobe flying off-course. NASA destroys the craft less than five minutes into flight.

26 In 1989, a grand jury indicts a Cornell student under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 for deploying a virus that shut down computers at NASA, Purdue and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He is the first person prosecuted under the 1986 law. He is later fined and sentenced to probation and community service.

SOURCES: Center for Security Policy, Christian Science Monitor, History Channel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, Journal of Commerce, Robotics Online, Time, Washington Times