Consider this an ode to the founding fathers of the computer. You know, back before “likes” were the definitive social currency and memes were the exemplar for contemporary expressive art. Back to when the computers were the size of a room and reached capacity storing a single document. We’ve come along way, but it’s important to remember these big moments in computing history so that next time you post that #selfie, you do it with a little appreciation that it has to travel to SPACE and back.
1946 ENIAC: Although there were iterations before the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), it’s credited as the first electronic general-purpose computer. This means that it could be programmed and reprogrammed to solve numerical problems. It is essentially a mammoth calculator. Yeah, like the one you have on your iPhone. Fun fact: One of its first tasks was to determine the feasibility of a hydrogen bomb during WWII.
1953 IBM 701: The 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine was IBM’s first commercial offering. IBM designed the computer to handle design, developments, and other technical operations for the Korean War, and in turn Jim Birkenstock (the company’s Director of Product Planning and Market Analysis, not sandals) sold 18 units to defense and engineering firms. The system used vacuum tube memory that could hold a total of 2048 words. How’s that for perspective?
1975 IBM 5100: IBM’s 5100 is noted as the first portable computer. It’s no Macbook Air, but the 50-pound microcomputer did fit on a desk! This historical PC came with 16, 32, 48 or 64K main storage components. Yes, that’s kilobytes. In order to convey that to you in today’s standards we would have to use exponents, and we’re not that into doing math. It could have been yours for the low, low price of $8,975 to $19,975. In 1975.
1977 Apple II: The Apple II was the first product developed by Steve Wozniak, and is regarded as a pioneer in terms of mass-produced microcomputers. At only $1,298 it was much more affordable than the aforementioned and it touted quite a few more features. One of which was the color graphics ability, as expressed by the famous rainbow logo.
1991 Macintosh PowerBook: Moving along, the Macintosh PowerBook brings us into laptop territory. Despite the misleading nature of the word “microcomputer” it wasn’t until the PowerBook that you could actually haul around your machine. It was targeted towards professionals for that reason, and had a successful 15-year run. It wasn’t until 2006 that the PowerBook was discontinued and replaced by the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.
1994 IBM Simon: IBM’s Simon is a little bit fancier than the phone Zach Morris was always lugging around. Credited as the first smartphone, the Simon was a handheld touch screen device that could send and receive calls, e-mails and faxes. Simon is also an OG when it comes to app; it was one of the first gadgets with an address book, calendar and calculator.
2002 Microsoft Tablet PC: Before there were phablets, tablets, convertibles and hybrids there was the Microsoft Tablet PC. The pen-enabled personal computer was the first of its kind and offered qualities similar to that of a notebook (including Microsoft XP software) with increased portability and a lower price point.
2007 Apple iPhone: Inspired by the Newton MessagePad, a device developed by Steve Jobs in the 1990s, the original iPhone was the first mobile device to be entirely touch responsive. The design received a lot of media and consumer attention and inspired the Web 2.0 movement by inviting third parties to create applications. The iPhone is still ranked as the best-selling smartphone in the world, so they must be doing something right.
2010 Apple iPad: Although some still criticize the iPad as a blown-up and cleverly marketed version of the iPhone, there is no denying that the introduction of the iPad in 2010 single-handedly created a massive market for tablets. Five years and six generations later, the iPad (and iPad mini) are major forces in the tablet game.
2015 Apple Watch: We know. There were others before the Apple Watch. But it’s the first that focuses on lifestyle as opposed to purely fitness. Even before the release, CEO Tim Cook is projecting that app integration will make the product just as essential as the iPhone. Only time will tell.