OTEC Home Page

Annotated Reference List

History of Calculators, Computers, and Internet

"Who controls the past commands the future. Who commands the future conquers the past." George Orwell

There is a huge amount of IT historical information available on the web. Most of the sampling of references given below were easily located using the Google Search Engine.


Abacus: The Art of Counting with Beans [Online]. Accessed 7/16/01: http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~elf/abacus/.

This Website includes history, pictures, and directions for use. It also contains a copy of an article discussing a 1946 contest in Tokyo between a calculator user (an American GI) and an abacus user (a Japanese).

Calculating Machines [Online]. Accessed 7/16/01: http://www.webcom.com/calc/. Quoting from the Website:

The history of mathematics goes a long way back with devices and methods of calculation. Starting with the ancient Abacus, the slide rule and the logarithms, the mechanical calculating machines, the electromechanical calculators and finally the electronic computer. This site deals mainly with the mechanical calculating machines from a collector's point of view.

Calculators Online Center [Online]. Accessed 11/24/02: http://www-sci.lib.uci.edu/HSG/RefCalculators.html.

Provides information about a huge number (more than 16,500 as of 11/24/02) of different types of calculators. Many of the calculators are special purpose, such as calculators for recipe conversion for cooks. This website is well maintained and regularly updated.

Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) [Online]. Accessed 11/15/01: http://www.cbi.umn.edu/tc.html. Quoting from the Website:

The Charles Babbage Institute is an archives and research center dedicated to promoting study of the history of information processing and its impact on society. CBI preserves relevant historical documentation, conducts and fosters research, offers graduate fellowships, and sponsors symposia, conferences, and publications.

CBI historians design and administer research projects in the history of information processing and engage in original research that is disseminated through scholarly publications, conference presentations, and the CBI web site.

The CBI archives program collects, preserves, and makes available for research primary source materials relating to the history of computing. The collection consists of corporate records, manuscript materials, records of professional associations, oral history interviews, trade publications, periodicals, obsolete manuals and product literature, photographs, films, videos, and reference materials. CBI also serves as a clearinghouse for resources on the history of computing.

Charles Babbage Institute Newsletter [Online]. Accessed 11/15/01: http://www.cbi.umn.edu/research/

PDF files of this newsletter than began publication in 1979. Hardcopy publication ceased with Vol. 23 No. 4 Summer 2001. The newsletter is now published only in electronic format.

Collecting Calculators: History of Calculators [Online]. Accessed 7/16/01: http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Park/7227/. Quoting from the Website:

This site includes historical and collectible information for collectors of calculators. While our focus is on early electronic calculators of the 1960's and 1970's, we will also discuss some of the other types such as the larger electronic and electro-mechanical "monsters" like the Anita and the Monroes as well as the compact mechanical units like the Curta and Addiator. This site was the home for the no longer active International Association of Calculator Collectors -- a worldwide group of collectors who published the International Calculator Collector.

Computers: History and Development: Online: Accessed 6/16/01: http://www.digitalcentury.com/encyclo/
update/comp_hd.html. Quoting from the Website:

Nothing epitomizes modern life better than the computer. For better or worse, computers have infiltrated every aspect of our society. Today computers do much more than simply compute: supermarket scanners calculate our grocery bill while keeping store inventory; computerized telephone switching centers play traffic cop to millions of calls and keep lines of communication untangled; and automatic teller machines (ATM) let us conduct banking transactions from virtually anywhere in the world. But where did all this technology come from and where is it heading? To fully understand and appreciate the impact computers have on our lives and promises they hold for the future, it is important to understand their evolution.

Creative Computing November 1984 [Online]. Accessed 10/3/02: http://www.atarimagazines.com/

This 10th anniversary issue of Creative Computing contains a large number of articles that are reflective on the previous 10 year's progress in the field of computers in education. Among other things, those 10 years span the introduction of the microcomputer into education. The issue contains an extensive article about David Ahl who started the publication. This article includes some of the history behind Ken Olsen's (one of the founders of, and president of Digital Equipment Corporation) often quoted statement: "I can't see any reason that anyone would want a computer of his own."

Hellig, Jeff (n.d.). Computer haven. Accessed 1/10/06: http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Lakes/6757/. Quoting from the Website:

This page is dedicated to early microcomputers, thier continued use, thier preservation, and the exchange of information about them. It is also dedicated to those people who feel that there still may be a thing or two to be learned from them. In pursuit of this, I will be presenting as much information within these pages as I possibly can. Which means that the pages contained here may not be as flashy as some of the other pages out there, but I hope that the content will more than make up for that. From the day I put this page up, it was my intention to concentrate on content and not appearance.

History of Computers (n.d.). Accessed 1/10/06.: http://www.maxmon.com/timeline.htm

The timeline for this view of computer history begins 350 million years ago, and then continues with carving on notches in bones about 30,000 to 20,000 BC. The timeline continues with many interesting articles. For example, there is a discussion of a wolf's jawbone more than 20,000 years old with fifty-five notches in groups of five. This bone, which was discovered in Czechoslovakia in 1937, is the first evidence of the tally system.

History of Computers [Online]. Accessed 6/16/01: http://www.hitmill.com/computers/computerhx1.html.

A large collection of links to people and machines that are an important part of the history of computers.

History of Computing [Online]. Accessed 6/16/01: http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/. Quoting from the Website:

This collection of materials relating to the history of computing is provided courtesy of the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, and is sponsored in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (CDA-9312611).

History of the Internet [Online]. Accessed 8/7/01: http://www.orangepeel.com/history/.

This is a report written by Steven Hartley in December 1996. In contains short discussions on a number of the key people and events in the history of the Internet.

IEEE Computer Society Annals of the History of Computing [Online]. Accessed 7/16/01: http://www.computer.org/annals/. Quoting from the Website:

The entire collection of Annals of the History of Computing is now available online in the Digital Library Archives. Access all issues from No. 1 in 1979 to current in the Archives.

Internet Archive [Online]. Accessed 11/16/01: http://www.archive.org/index.html.

This is a free and searchable archive of Web pages going back to 1996. As of November 2001 it contained about 10 billion pages. Quoting from the Website:
The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public in accordance with our Terms of Use.

Licklider, J.C.R. (1960. Man-Machine Symbiosis [Online]. Accessed 8/6/01: http://memex.org/licklider.pdf.

This paper provided insight into and groundwork for much of what was to come in the next 20 years.

Museum of HP Calculators [Online]. Accessed 7/16/01: http://www.hpmuseum.org/.

Although this museum has a primary focus on HP calculators, it also contains a large amount of information and pictures on pre-electronic aids to calculation.

Randall, Alexander (2/14/06). A lost interview with ENIAC co-inventor J. Presper Eckert. Computerworld. Accessed 2/15/06: http://computerworld.com/hardwaretopics/

The ENIAC first "officially" became operational on February 14, 1946, exactly 60 years before this Computerworld article was published. The article contains interview information from 1989. Here are two questions from the interview:

Q. You said the largest tube gadget in 1943 was the Nova Chord electronic organ. What did ENIAC use?

A. ENIAC had 18,000 vacuum tubes. The tubes were off the shelf; we got whatever the distributor could supply in lots of a thousand. We used 10 tube types, but could have done it with four tube types; we just couldn't get enough of them. We decided that our tube filaments would last a lot longer if we kept them below their proper voltage. Not too high or too low.

Q. There's a story that ENIAC dimmed the lights in Philadelphia when it was in use.

A. That story is total fiction, dreamed up by some journalist. We took power off of the grid. We had voltage regulators to provide 150 kilowatts of regulated supply.

Redin, James. The Death of the Slide Rule [Online]. Accessed 7/15/01: http://www.dotpoint.com/xnumber/hp.htm. Quoting from the Website:

"Our object in developing the HP-35 was to give you a high precision portable electronic slide rule. We thought you'd like to have something only fictional heroes like James Bond, Walter Mitty or Dick Tracy are supposed to own."

Hewlett-Packard, "HP-35 User Manual." 1972. 

Sahr, Robert. Inflation Conversion Factors for Dollars 1700 to Estimated 2010 [Online]. Accessed 2/22/02: http://www.orst.edu/Dept/pol_sci/

As an example, consider a computer system costing US$1 million in 1967. To convert to dollars for the year 2000, divide by .194. The result is US$5.15 million.

Or, consider the data given in UNIVAC Memories. The $130,000 2.25 ton 100 megabyte hard drive of 1968 is equivalent to #130,000/.202 = $644,000 in year 2000 dollars.

Simon, Herbert A. (2001). Herbert A. Simon 1916-2001 [Online]. Accessed 11/15/01: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/

Herbert Simon was one of the pioneers in the field of Computer and Information Science. His interests were wide ranging, and he contributed to many parts of the field. He is especially known for his contributions in Artificial Intelligence. He was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for his work in Economics. The Website listed above contains a copy of his 1987 article The Steam Engine and the Computer: What Makes Technology Revolutionary. This article suggests that (in 1987) the field of IT was still very young relative to how long it takes a major technology (such as the steam engine) to have a significant impact on the world.

Teachers Teaching with Technology (TTT) [Online]. Accessed 12/10/01: http://www.t3ww.org/t3/research.htm.

This is the Research page of the TTT site sponsored by Texas Instruments. It has a focus on calculator. It includes access to papers by Dr. Bert Waits, co-founder of TTT and a national leader on use of calculators in mathematics education.

Twenty Year Usenet Archive Now Available [Online]. Accessed 12/23/01: http://www.google.com/googlegroups/
archive_announce_20.html. Quoting from the Website:

Google has fully integrated the past 20 years of Usenet archives into Google Groups, which now offers access to more than 700 million messages dating back to 1981. This is by far the most complete collection of Usenet articles ever assembled and a fascinating first-hand historical account.

We are compiling some especially memorable articles and threads in the timeline below. For example, read Tim Berners-Lee's announcement of what became the World Wide Web or Linus Torvalds' post about his "pet project". World Wide Web or Linus Torvalds' post about his "pet project".

UNIVAC [Online]. Accessed 6/16/01: http://wwwcsif.cs.ucdavis.edu/~csclub/museum/

This site provides access to the history of many different types of computers as well as a large number of photographs. Quoting from the Website:
The UNIVAC I (the name stood for Universal Automatic Computer) was delivered to the Census Bureau in 1951. It weighed some 16,000 pounds, used 5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per second. It was the first American commercial computer, as well as the first computer designed for business use. (Business computers like the UNIVAC processed data more slowly than the IAS-type machines, but were designed for fast input and output.) The first few sales were to government agencies, the A.C. Nielsen Company, and the Prudential Insurance Company. The first UNIVAC for business applications was installed at the General Electric Appliance Division, to do payroll, in 1954. By 1957 Remington-Rand (which had purchased the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1950) had sold forty-six machines.

UVIVAC Memories [Online]. Accessed 2/20/02: http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/univac/index.html. Quoting from the Website:

People who have used a 100 megabyte hard drive that weighed two and a quarter tons and cost more than US$130,000 in 1968 experience a special sense of wonder when tucking one of today's 2.1 gigabyte drives, just purchased for less than US$1000 and weighing less than half a kilo, into their pocket.

In 1968 you could pick up a 1.3 MHz CPU with half a megabyte of RAM and 100 megabyte hard drive for a mere US$1.6 million.

What is a Dollar Worth [Online]. Accessed 3/8/02: http://woodrow.mpls.frb.fed.us/

This Website is maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. It inlcudes:
  • Consumer Price Index and Inflation Rates, 1913-
  • Consumer Price Index and Inflation Rates (Estimate), 1800-
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics &emdash; regional and commodity/service group indexes
  • How the CPI is used to make these calculations


Note for a section that could be added to this page (6/18/01). At one time (Early to mid 1970s???) the Oregon State System of Higher Education was thinking about acquiring a CDC 6600 to serve all of their college and universities. This was to be housed at Oregon State University. The CDC 6600 was the first supercomputer. It cost about $10 million, and had a speed of about 10 million operations per second. It was the fastest commercially available machine in the 1965-1969 time period (check on dates, to make sure this is correct). Various other schools fought this proposal, and it was never implemented. It is amusing to think about the power of a modern laptop (perhaps 50 times that of this supercomputer) and that many individuals own such laptops.

Top of Page