Computerworld's 40th Anniversary

Tidbits and Timelines From the Past 40 Years

Computerworld's 40th Anniversary

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Way Ahead of Their Time

  • In 1969, Viatron Computer Systems Corp. in Bedford, Mass., offered to rent office workers and consumers a personal computing device, billed as "The Everything Terminal," for $39 per month. But the company hemorrhaged money and was bankrupt by 1971, delaying the onset of personal computing by nearly a decade.
  • Telemart Enterprises Inc. opened a computerized supermarket in San Diego in 1970. Customers could call and interact with Telemart's IBM computers via a voice-computer interface to select groceries for home delivery. The service proved too popular, and the computers couldn't keep up with demand. Telemart went bankrupt in two weeks.
  • Japanese firm International Logic Control set up an office in Jaffrey, N.H., to manage offshore programming in Japan for U.S. businesses. It was merely 30 years ahead of its time and disappeared in 1972.

Signs of the Times

1969: Vietnam War protesters erased more than 1,000 tapes at a Dow Chemical Co. computer center, charging that the tapes stored research on nerve gases and napalm. (Dow denied the charges.)

1972: The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that a company is responsible for the actions of its computers, thus eliminating the "computer error" defense.

1984: The U.S. Congress passed the first federal law against computer crime, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

1996: Encyclopedia Britannica ceased door-to-door sales in favor of online sales.

Some Things Never Change

Notable Computerworld headlines through the 1970s and '80s:

February 1977: "Senate Study Hits Civilian Agencies for Lax DP Security"

June 1977: "Gap Between [Business] Management, DP Still a Problem"

March 1978: "Too Much Jargon Hurts DPers' Credibility"

July 1978: "Survey: Checkless U.S. Still a While Away"

November 1986: "MIS: Treat End Users as Customers"

March 1987: "MIS Seeks Better Apple Support, Service"

All-Time Best Error Message

When a Texas Instruments 990 minicomputer was on the verge of crashing, the error message read: "SHUT 'ER DOWN, CLANCY, SHE'S PUMPING MUD!"


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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