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35 Technologies that shaped the industry

To celebrate Computerworld's 35th anniversary, we looked back over the years to find the 35 most important advances in corporate IT.

September 30, 2002 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When Computerworld published its first issue in 1967, the private sector was still using vacuum tubes to exchange information. Technology and the world it has shaped have come a long way since then. To commemorate Computerworld's 35th anniversary, here's our list of the 35 products and technologies that have had the greatest impact on enterprise IT since 1967.
1. Dynamic RAM You can't process information unless you can store it and make it available to a computer. Before dynamic RAM, or DRAM, storage was unreliable (vacuum tubes), excruciatingly slow (punch cards, paper or magnetic tape) or incredibly expensive (magnetic core).
In 1966, IBM's Robert Dennard found a way to store a memory bit as a charge on a capacitor in a single-transistor cell. Patented in 1968, this became the foundation for Intel Corp.'s 1970 introduction of a 1K bit memory chip, which was 10mm sq. and sold for $21. Chip-based memory could be made quickly and cheaply, and by the mid-1970s, DRAM was the standard for virtually all computers.

Introduced in 1973, the Xerox Alto was the forerunner of today's GUI.
Introduced in 1973, the Xerox Alto was the forerunner of today's GUI.
2. Graphical user interface Programs and data used to be fed into a computer as line-by-line entries on punch cards or tape and were invoked by arcane scripts specific to a particular hardware and software combination. The first real break from this came in 1973, when researchers at Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) created the Alto computer. This machine combined all the elements of what we now call the graphical user interface, or GUI: graphical windows and icons on a bit-mapped display navigated by a mouse with buttons.
An Alto descendant, the Xerox Star, became a commercial (if not successful) product in 1981. Steve Jobs liked the idea so much, he borrowed it for Apple Computer Inc.'s Lisa and Macintosh. After a succession of false starts, Microsoft Corp. joined the GUI club in 1990 with Windows 3.0, and Windows is now the world's de facto standard for computer interfaces. The old-fashioned command line is still available, but most users and tasks use Windows.
3. Internetworking Computers are infinitely more capable when connected. There were a few networked computers in the 1960s, but the first real wide-ranging connections were introduced by the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency with 1969's Arpanet. Arpanet's real contribution was that it recognized the potential of the computer to be more than a high-speed calculator; it could serve as a communication medium among people.
The DRAM chip, patented in 1966, made reliable, fast and cheap storage possible.
The DRAM chip, patented in 1966, made reliable, fast and cheap storage possible.
Arpanet pioneer David


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