1838

After years of experimentation, Samuel F. B. Morse builds a working telegraph and sends a message via Morse code, which communicates human speech through digital signals, as computer codes do today.

Western Union Telegraph Company Records, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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1876

In search of a better telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, an early step in the creation of the Internet.

Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs

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1883

While perfecting the light bulb, Thomas A. Edison discovers that electricity can flow through a vacuum. The “Edison effect” later leads to the vacuum tubes that controlled current flow in early computers.

National Archives and Records Administration

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1890

Herman Hollerith’s electrical tabulating machine introduces punched-card technology to process the 1890 U.S. Census in record time.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

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1924

In 1911 Hollerith's company joins with two others to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). Thomas J. Watson, Sr. joins the company in 1914, quickly becomes its President, and, in 1924, renames it International Business Machines (IBM).

Courtesy of IBM Corporation Archives

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1925

Bell Laboratories, a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell’s earlier lab, is created and housed at 463 West Street, Manhattan.

Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs

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1928

IBM introduces the 80-column punched card to maximize the amount of information the card can hold.

New-York Historical Society

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1935

A historic round-the-world phone call is placed at AT&T facilities in New York, using a telephone circuit that spans 23,000 miles of wire and radio connections to link two offices in the same building.

Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs

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1937

Bell Labs mathematician George Stibitz conceives a computer that processes data using electrically operated switches. His 1937 Model K Adder tests the concept. It pioneers digital computing by using binary numbers (just 1s and 0s) to match the on/off switches of his relays.

Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs

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1944

A Harvard team, including Grace Hopper, programs the IBM-created Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, nicknamed the Mark I, to do calculations for the atomic bomb and other defense work.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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1946

Continuing work begun during the war, ✪ women become the first programmers of the massive ENIAC computer, nicknamed the Giant Brain, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Courtesy of the U.S. Army.

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1947

A Bell Labs team invents the transistor, for which the three scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics. With the invention of the integrated chip in 1957, millions of transistors and all their circuitry can be etched in a single chip of silicon. The new technology will replace vacuum tubes and lead to the miniaturization of computers.

(Left to right) John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain, June 1948. Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs.

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1948

IBM completes its first large-scale digital calculator, the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC), which can modify a stored program.

Courtesy of IBM Corporation Archives.

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1952

On presidential election night, CBS uses the new UNIVAC computer to predict the outcome, but does not broadcast the computer’s (correct) forecast of an Eisenhower landslide.

New-York Historical Society.

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1956

AT&T completes the laying of the first transatlantic telephone cable and holds a long-distance call connecting New York, Ottawa, and London.

AT&T, Transatlantic Telephone Cable (TAT-1) Pulled Ashore at Clarenville, Newfoundland, ca. 1955. Reproduction Courtesy of the AT&T Archives and History Center.

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1956

CBS again uses the UNIVAC on election night, as it did in 1952, but this time trusts and broadcasts the computer’s predictions. At IBM, Tom Watson, Jr. becomes chief executive officer and introduces a bold new branding campaign.

J. Presper Eckert Explains UNIVAC to Walter Cronkite, ca. 1952. Courtesy of the Computer History Museum

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1957

IBM introduces FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslating System), a programming language designed for scientists and engineers to use in performing complex computations using English-like statements.

Courtesy of IBM Corporation Archives

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1958

At Brookhaven Laboratories on Long Island, William Higinbotham creates what may be the first video game, later known as Tennis for Two.

Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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1959

COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language), a computer language for businesses, is created by a team that includes UNIVAC computer pioneer Grace Hopper. It uses English-like syntax, easily understood and readable by programmers and users.

Courtesy of the Computer History Museum.

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1964

In early April, IBM announces the System/360, a general-purpose family of computers that can be programmed for any task and expanded as needed. Later in the month, the World’s Fair opens in Queens, introducing visitors to the newest technology and gadgets.

Courtesy of IBM Corporation Archives.

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1974

Ed Catmull, left (shown here with Alvy Ray Smith and Loren Carpenter), leads the newly formed New York Institute of Technology’s Computer Graphics Laboratory, which will pioneer computer generated imagery (CG) techniques.

Kerry Nordquist/Disney-Pixar-LucasFilm

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1981

IBM introduces the personal computer, also known the 5150. The computer’s display alongside a vase and red rose mirrors IBM’s original advertising campaign to promote its newest invention.

Courtesy of IBM Corporation Archives.

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1990

During the 1990s New York was a pioneering tech hub and at its center was Silicon Alley, located in the Flatiron District. The city’s entrepreneurs founded hundreds of online companies that pushed the limits of the emerging technology and met the growing demands of its new markets.

Courtesy of Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock.com

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2002

With the founding of Meetup, and later Etsy, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Kickstarter, Tumblr, and Vimeo, New York regains the spotlight as a booming capital of our digital future.
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2011

The IBM computer named Watson in honor of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., appears on TV’s Jeopardy! and defeats all-time winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

Seth Wenig, Man vs. Machine, January 13, 2011. Associated Press.

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2015

July 9, 2015: IBM announces a working version of a computer chip only seven nanometers wide (equal to a few strands of DNA), promising computers with far more speed and power. For a glimpse of New Yorkers working in technology today, see Silicon City Now.
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