How Long Have Computers Been Around? History, Timeline, Evolution

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on December 21st, 2022

People may now live a more straightforward and pleasant existence thanks to technological advances. For example, communication is more straightforward regardless of location, work and research are easier to do, and information can be accessible by anyone, anywhere, as long as they have access to the Internet and utilize a computer or mobile device.

But have you ever pondered where computers came from or how long they have existed?

brown wooden display cabinet with assorted items

How long have computers been in existence? Computers have been around 200 years if you count mechanical computers. If you only consider the sorts of personal home computers that we use now, they have been around for nearly 50 years.


Charles Babbage, an Englishman, invented the first mechanical computer in 1822. (about 200 years ago). The Kenbak-1, the first personal computer comparable to those we use today, was launched in 1971 (almost 50 years ago) by American John Blankenbaker. When the Altair 8800 was unveiled in 1975, it was the first time the phrase “personal computer” was used.

Altair 8800 Computer with 8 inch floppy disk system. Circa 1975. Photo taken at the Vintage Computer Festival 7.0 held at the Computer History Museum. November 2004. Altair system owned Erik Klein Photo by Michael Holley

There’s a lot more to the history of computers that you might find interesting. From the creation of the mechanical computer in 1822 until the first “personal computer” in 1971, it took around 150 years. From 1971 to today, computer technology has advanced at an incredible rate in only around 50 years.

Please continue reading to find out how long computers have been around, where they came from, and what the future holds for computers.

How Have Computers Changed?

Personal desktop computers, laptops, and tablets have become such an integral part of daily life that it is impossible to recall a period when they did not exist. However, computers are still relatively young as we know and utilize them today.

Although computers have been in use since the abacus some 5000 years ago, modern computers have had the largest and most significant impact on civilization. In 1944, the first full-sized digital computer was created.

This computer, known as the Mark I, weighed five tons and was exclusively used for computations. Despite its small size and limited capabilities, it was the first of many to usher in a new age of computer development and growth.

The Definition of “Computer”

The term “computer” was initially used in 1613 to designate a person who performed computations or calculations. From 1613 through the nineteenth century, the definition of the term computer remained unchanged until the invention of machines whose primary duty was to conduct and finish these computations. Computers are currently known as electrical devices that store and process data based on the user’s orders.

The Original Mechanical Computer

Charles Babbage, an English polymath, began constructing the Difference Engine in 1822. This gadget could compute several numbers and produce tangible copies of the findings. As a result, the Difference Engine is widely regarded as the first automated computing machine.

Ada Lovelace, often recognized as the first computer programmer, assisted Babbage in developing the machine. Unfortunately, a full-scale working model was never created due to budget constraints.

Babbage introduced the Analytical Engine, the first universal mechanical computer, in 1837. An Arithmetic Logic Unit, a complicated digital circuit responsible for executing mathematical operations on binary values, was included in this gadget. The Analytical Engine, inspired by the Jacquard Loom, also used punch cards and had an inbuilt memory. But, again, this gadget was never developed due to a lack of funds.

The first machine was capable of recording and storing data.

Herman Hollerith invented a mechanism for machines to capture and store data on punch cards for the US census in 1890. Hollerith’s computer was ten times faster than hand tabulations, saving the census office millions. Hollerith would go on to find what is now known as IBM.

Konrad Zuse’s Z1 was the First programmable computer

The Z1 was created between 1936 and 1938. This gadget is often regarded as the first fully working modern computer. The Z1 was initially known as the V1 by its creator, Konrad Zuse, who built it in his parent’s living room. This device was a binary programmable computer with a 64-word memory that used a punch tape for both programming and output.

Alan Turing’s Turing Machine: First concept of what we consider a modern computer

Alan Turing, an English mathematician, logician, and computer scientist widely recognized as the pioneer of computer science, invented the Turing Machine in 1936. This machine opened the groundwork for future computer and computing theory. The Turing Machine produced symbols on paper the same way a human would if given logical instructions.

Tommy Flowers’ The Colossus: the first electric programmable computer

The Colossus was created due to the British requirement to decode encrypted German transmissions. Tommy Flowers created this invention, which was initially exhibited in 1943. This gadget was handy during World War II since it assisted the British in gaining crucial intelligence information. The Colossus was also the first programmable computer.

The ABC by Professor John Vincent Atanasoff: the first digital computer

The ABC stands for Atanasoff-Berry Computer, a technology invented by Professor John Vincent Atanasoff and Cliff Berry between 1937 and 1942. This gadget was an electrical computer that used over 300 vacuum tubes for digital computation, but it lacked a CPU and hence could not be programmed.


J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly designed and built the ENIAC between 1943 and 1946. The gadget was 1,800 square feet, weighed 50 tons, and used around 18,000 vacuum tubes. Because it fully functions, many people believe the ENIAC was the first digital computer.

The first computer firm

The first computer company was the electronic Controls Firm, created in 1949 by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, who also worked on the ENIAC computer. Later, the business was renamed EMCC or Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and created a series of mainframe computers under the UNIVAC brand.

The first stored-program computer


The SSEM was born in 1948 as inventors continued their goal of building and upgrading the computer. This gadget has the capability of electronically storing and processing a program. Small-Scale Experimental Machine is an abbreviation for Small-Scale Experimental Machine. Frederic Williams designed it, and Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill constructed it.

A year later, the British EDSAC – the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator – was released. Maurice Wilkes created and developed this gadget, which included a variation of the tic-tac-toe game.

It was also during this time that the Manchester Mark 1 was born; it was another device capable of running stored programs. From there, innovators and mathematicians began to create and refine the gadgets, allowing them to read a set of words stored in computer memory.

Over time, the first computer firm was founded, the first commercial computer was developed, IBM arrived, and computers began to be outfitted with RAM and graphics.

From the 1950s until the 1970s, how did computers evolve?

From the 1950s to the 1970s, computer technology advanced significantly. I’ll go through some of the most significant developments during this period.

In 1953, IBM released its first commercial, scientific computing.

In 1955, MIT developed the Whirlwind machine, the first computer with RAM.

MIT introduced the first transistor computer, the TX-0, in 1956.

Finally, in 1960, the size of such gigantic computers was reduced when the Digital Equipment Corporation introduced the PDP-1 minicomputer.

The Programma 101, released in 1968, is regarded as the first desktop computer. It was also the first mass-produced desktop computer.

The Xerox Alto, the first workstation, was launched in 1974. The computer, monitor, and mouse were all incorporated into the workstation, which was groundbreaking at the time. Icons, windows, and menus were also featured.

In 1971, Intel unveiled the Intel 4004, the first microprocessor.

The Kenbak-1, launched in 1971 by John Blankenbaker, is the first personal computer. It costs $750 (about $5,000 in today’s currencies). It has many switches that can be turned on and off to enter data.

The first microcomputer, the Micral computer, was introduced in 1973. It was the first non-assembly commercial computer, costing $1,750 (about $10,000 in today’s currencies).

Ed Roberts introduced the Altair 8800 in 1975. He coined the phrase “personal computer” first.

Computers at Home

By the end of the 1970s, home computers had grown in popularity. It was touted and launched in 1977 as a low-cost computer designed for a single user who was not technically savvy.

These home computers were less expensive than commercial computers but were also less powerful in terms of memory.

Home computers were mainly utilized for gaming, word processing, and homework completion. Home computers were also noted for producing better sound and graphics than their more sophisticated professional counterparts.

Home computers at the time were eerily similar to what we have now, with a keyboard incorporated into the casing of the motherboard and expansion ports. In addition, the CPU/keyboard, a floppy disk drive, and a color display were standard features on most home computer units. In terms of additions, some home computer systems included a dot matrix printer, but that was about it.

Notable Household Computers

Up to 1985, the most popular home computers in the United States were:

  • TRS-80 was introduced in 1977.
  • Different models of the Apple II family were launched in 1977, Atari 400/800 in 1979, and subsequent generations: 130XE and 800XL
  • In 1980, the Commodore VIC-20 was introduced, and in 1982, the Commodore 64 was introduced.

Even though personal computers were seen as an electronic substitute for typewriters and essentially a gaming console, it is estimated that there were approximately a million personal computers in the United States at the time.

Everyone wanted to be a part of the technology that would transform the world, and home computers were advertised as such. Finally, decades later, the computer fulfilled its promise and changed our world.

Personal Computers in the 1970s

In the early 1970s, the first personal computers were constructed. Most were low-volume operations that relied on small-scale integrated circuits and multi-chip CPUs.

In the 1970s, the Commodore PET was a personal computer.

The Altair 8800 was the first computer widely used with a single-chip CPU. However, it was also supplied as a kit to electronics amateurs, requiring buyers to construct their computers.

Clones of this computer immediately appeared, and soon there was an entire industry based on the 8800’s design and architecture. It also created the Homebrew Computer Group, a club centered on enthusiast computer makers.

Apple’s first computer

The Apple I (Apple 1) was the first Apple computer, costing $666.66 at the time. Steve Wozniak created the computer kit in 1976, with a 6502 8-bit CPU and 4 kb of memory that could be expanded to 8 or 48 kb via extension cards. Even though the Apple I featured an entirely constructed circuit board, the kit required a power source, display, keyboard, and casing to function. An image of an Apple I is shown below.

Apple I

The “Trinity” (based on a mention in Byte magazine) emerged in 1977: the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the Tandy Corporation’s TRS-80.

These three computer models went on to sell millions of units. RAM on these early PCs ranged from 4kB to 48kB. The Apple II was the only one with a full-color, graphics-capable display, and it subsequently became the best-selling model of the trio, selling over 4 million copies.

Notebooks and Laptops in the 1980s and 1990s

The introduction of the commercially available portable computer was a significant breakthrough in the 1980s.

The earliest of them was Osborne 1, which debuted in 1981. It featured a small 5′′ monitor and was bulky and hefty compared to current laptops (weighing in at 23.5 pounds). Portable computers, on the other hand, continued to evolve and finally became streamlined and readily portable, as notebook PCs are today.

These early portable computers were only portable in the most technical sense. They ranged in size from that of a big electric typewriter to that of a suitcase.

The Gavilan SC was the first computer marketed as a “laptop.”

The first laptop with a flip form factor was created in 1982, but the Gavilan SC was the first portable computer sold as a “laptop” in 1983.

Early versions featured monochrome panels, but color displays became available in 1984. (the Commodore SX-64).

Laptops got more popular as they became smaller and lighter. Displays have attained VGA resolution by 1988, and 256-color screens were available by 1993. Resolutions and colors progressed fast after that. High-capacity hard disks and optical drives were also introduced in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Laptops are often classified into three categories:

  • Alternatives for desktop computers
  • Standard notebooks
  • Subnotebooks

Desktop replacements are often bigger, with screens ranging from 15 to 17 inches and performance similar to higher-end desktop PCs.

Standard laptops typically feature 13-15′′ screens and offer a reasonable balance of performance and mobility.

Subnotebooks, often known as netbooks, have screens that are smaller than 13 inches and have fewer functions than regular notebooks.

The Rise of Mobile Computing in the 2000s

Mobile computing is one of the most recent critical advances in computer history.

Many cell phones currently have faster processors and more memory than desktop computers have even ten years ago. With phones like the iPhone and the Motorola Droid, it’s now feasible to accomplish most of the operations previously reserved for desktop PCs from any place.

The Droid is a smartphone that can perform basic computer operations, including email and web surfing.

Mobile computing started its beginnings in the 1980s with the introduction of pocket PCs. These looked like a mix between a calculator, a tiny home computer, and a personal digital assistant (PDA). By the 1990s, they had essentially fallen out of popularity. Instead, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) were popular in the 1990s.

Models were available from a variety of manufacturers, including Apple and Palm. PDAs’ major feature that not all pocket PCs possessed was a touchscreen interface. PDAs are still made and used today, however, smartphones have mainly overtaken them.

Smartphones have completely transformed mobile computing. Most fundamental computing operations, including email, internet surfing, and photo and video uploading, can now be performed on smartphones.

Netbooks in the late 2000s

The invention of netbook computers is another recent advancement in computing history.

Netbooks are smaller and more portable than standard laptops. Yet, they perform most of the operations that most computer users require (using the Internet, managing email, and using basic office programs). Some netbooks even include not just built-in WiFi but also built-in mobile broadband connectivity choices.

The Asus Eee PC 700 was the first mass-produced netbook.

The Asus Eee PC 700, which debuted in 2007, was the first mass-produced netbook. Initially launched in Asia, they were quickly distributed in the United States.

Other manufacturers swiftly followed suit, introducing new versions in 2008 and 2009.

One of the primary benefits of netbooks is their low price (often between $200 and $600). Some mobile broadband providers have even given out netbooks for an extended service contract. In 2009, Comcast also had a deal in which you could get a free netbook if you joined their cable internet services.

Most netbooks now come with Windows or Linux preinstalled, and Asus and other manufacturers may soon provide Android-based netbooks.

At this time the history of computers covers nearly two centuries, which is significantly longer than most people know. Moreover, computers have developed dramatically throughout their history, from mechanical computers in the 1800s through room-sized mainframes in the mid-20th century, all the way up to netbooks and smartphones today.

Computers in the Future

In the future, computers will be more than simply the rectangular devices we hold in our hands. They are now in, and will soon be in, practically everything we touch – our automobiles, refrigerators, and even light switches. Moreover, all of our devices will soon be able to interact with one another.

Consider your phone managing all of the lights and power in your home through an app, even if you’re thousands of miles away. It’s feasible that one day we’ll be able to use technology that we’ve only seen in sci-fi movies.

In reality, “smart lights” such as the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Bulbs are already available (click to see price and specs on Amazon). These lights can be operated by speech, thanks to their compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assist. With a few easy keystrokes, they can choose between 16 million different hues and tints of white.

What about the Google T3007ES Nest Learning Smart Thermostat, which learns and programs the temperatures you prefer, regulates the thermostat based on the weather outside, and shuts itself down automatically. At the same time, you’re gone, and, of course, includes voice control?

Not to mention the continuous emergence of virtual reality. The Oculus Quest All-in-One VR Gaming Headset is becoming increasingly popular among gamers. However, there is a rising market for non-gamers who wish to experience virtual reality in the privacy of their own home.

Because technology impacts our lives and the world we live in, we must remember that these advancements should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford them. For example, 3D printing and robotic prosthetics should be accessible and affordable to everyone and anybody who needs them, regardless of income.

Scientists and technologists should work together to make improvements and advancements that benefit everyone. In addition, they should be educated to recognize how their designs and innovations may be used technologically. Still, they should also be aware of the influence they will have on people and their lives.

So, what does the future hold? Nobody knows. But we can only hope that whatever gadget or other technical wonder is created will improve people’s relationships.

These advancements should assist in developing and enhancing this relationship and enabling nations and individuals to understand one another better.


Computers have impacted and altered our lives and the entire globe. Computers and the Internet have made work, communication, and information access much more straightforward. However, this was not always the case because there was a period when there were no computers.

How long have computers been in existence? Because computers are classified differently, the answer may alter depending on the kind. The Altair 8800 debuted in 1975, marking the first time the phrase “personal computer” was used.

The KENBAK-1, developed in 1971, is also regarded as the first personal computer. However, one might argue that computers (such as the ones we use today) have been around for roughly 50 years, dating back to the early 1970s.

Despite the various changes that the computer has undergone, from a simple computing machine to the computers we have today, one thing is sure: the future will bring us even more technical developments that will significantly influence our lives and the world we have today live in.


Editorial Staff

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