I was working on a story and needed to find out what personal databases were available in 1982. I Googled top personal computer database 1980 thinking that a product launched in 1980 was a likely candidate. I came upon the Chronology of Personal Computers by Ken Pollson and this post about 1980. I actually remembered reading this from before and even offered to contribute a little to his excellent summary.
1980 was a very interesting year. pfs:file was launched which was the first flat file database for people. Before then, most databases had been huge systems that only data specialists interacted with. The product was created by Software Published Corporation, which is a company I worked at in 1988.
There were other notable events that happened that year. Read the post and you’ll see tons of computer lore about early role playing games, people connections that lead to early behemoths of industry, and many new product launches. But do you know what else happened in 1980?
November 6 – Microsoft and IBM sign a formal contract for Microsoft to develop certain software products for IBM’s new microcomputer. Microsoft will receive US$200,000 to adapt the operating system to the IBM PC, and US$500,000 for DOS, BASIC, and compilers.
You can find many books, articles and posts about how Gates and company licensed an operating system they in turn sold to IBM. Their lock on MS-DOS and IBM was the key turning point that morphed a leading software company into one of the top companies in the world. That was 29 years ago and the rest is history (pun fully intended).
In honor of this unexpected find related to a book I hope to finish someday, I thought I would list my top events in computer history. And to make it challenging, I am going to limit it to 5 and only 5. I challenge you to come up with your own 5! Please put your lists in the comments. Here’s my list:
- Netscape goes IPO and starts the hype based cycle which ironically may be ending right now as we speak. This has to be the top event as it launched basically everything we do now
- Jobs and Woz launch the Mac in 1984. Here’s that famous commercial. The Mac opened our eyes to the idea of modern computing using intuitive interfaces.
- Gates, Ballmer and company at Microsoft license DOS and enter in agreement with IBM. Clearly, Microsoft was the most influential software company before the Internet and remains near the top today along side Google and a few others. Maybe that will be another list some day.
- James Gosling and the folks at Sun create Java. The Internet explodes on the back of the development community.
Limiting this to just 5 is really rough. If I had to pick, my 5th is the following:
- Claude Shannon publishes “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” in 1948, which defines how to reliably communicate information over an electronic wire.
Even I can’t meet my own challenge. Here are 3 honorable mentions:
- Launch of the iPod by Apple turns the MP3 fad into a must have device.
- MySpace allows everyone to be on the Web.
- Palm Pilot launched in 1996 and PDA’s entered the mainstream. I am guessing a few of you would debate this one, and perhaps I am influenced by working on Pocket Quicken for Intuit at about this time.
I have to stop now before I spend as much time on this as I have thinking about my top 25 things people don’t know about me on facebook. Enjoy! And try it!