April 10, 1943
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania begin work on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), which when completed, will become the first general-purpose fully electronic computer, capable of making calculations one thousand times faster than any other prior computer. The work will be carried out in secret since the computer is intended for military purposes, though it won’t actually be completed until after World War II ended. ENIAC will be unveiled to the public in February 1946.
April 9, 1959
NASA announces the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald Slayton, The seven were chosen from 110 applicants to participate in the Mercury program, the nation’s first manned space program. The news media quickly dubs the group the “Mercury Seven.” On May 5th, 1961, Shepard will become the first American in space during the flight of Freedom 7.
April 8, 1983
John Sculley is named president and CEO of Apple Computer after Steve Jobs convinced him to leave his position as president of PepsiCo. While Steve Jobs wanted the position of president for himself, then-CEO Mike Markkula did not think Jobs was ready to take on that responsibility.
Jobs wanted Sculley based on his success growing Pepsi’s marketshare against Coke. He wanted that same type of marketing success for Apple against IBM. Part of computer industry lore, Jobs reportedly asked Sculley, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
Ultimately, Sculley and Jobs entered into a power struggle, Sculley convinced Apple’s board of directors to strip Jobs of all power within the company, and Jobs left Apple. One has to wonder how the computer industry would be different today if Steve Jobs had been given lead of his company in 1983 instead of Apple opting for “adult supervision”. Recent history with companies such as Facebook, Google, and even Apple since Jobs’ return, has shown that visionaries can make great leaders of technology companies.
April 7, 1964
IBM launches the System 360 mainframe architecture, which comprised six compatible models complete with 40 peripherals. The line, dubbed the “360″ because it addressed all types and sizes of customer, cost IBM over five billion dollars to develop, and it is widely considered one of the riskiest business gambles of all time.
Up until this time, computer systems, even from the same manufacturer, were generally incompatible with each other. Software and peripherals from old systems would not work with new systems. This stifled acceptance and deployments of new systems as business customers were hesitant to lose their investments in their current systems. By developing a mutually compatible series of mainframes, customers were assured that their investments would not be lost if they purchased further System 360 models.
IBM’s gamble paid off handsomely, as in just the first three months of its release, IBM will receive US$1.2 billion in orders. Within five years, over thirty-three thousand units will be sold, popularizing the concept of a computer “upgrade” around the world. The 360 family was the most successful IBM system of all time, generating in over US$100 billion in revenue through the mid-1980’s. It became the basis for all sequent IBM mainframe architectures, which will hold a 65% marketshare in the 1990’s.
The 360 architecture also introduced a number of industry standards to the marketplace, such as the worldwide standard of the 8-bit byte. Its enormous popularity catapulted the business world into the technology age and transformed the computer industry. Not bad for a bunch of suits.
April 6, 1992
Microsoft releases Windows 3.1, priced at $149.00, selling three million copies over the next two months. Windows 3.1 added multimedia extensions allowing support for sound cards, MIDI, and CD Audio, Super VGA (800 x 600) monitors, and increased the speed of modem it would support to 9600 bps. For many of us that were into computers back in the day, it was the first version of Windows we actually used, as previous versions were still gaining consumer acceptance and Windows 95 wasn’t released until 3 years later.
April 5, 1995
Dan Farmer and Wietse Venema release to the Internet the Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks, known by its acronym, SATAN. SATAN is a network scanner for investigating the vulnerability of remote systems. Designed for use by network administrators, the program will soon generate controversy over the ethics of freely releasing powerful security tools to the general public. And it didn’t please the Church Lady one bit, either.
April 4, 1994
Ironically, 19 years to the day after Microsoft was formed, Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark create the Mosaic Communications Corporation, which will later be renamed Netscape Communications Corporation. Andreessen had developed the Mosaic web browser while working at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois.
April 4, 1975
Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates, age 19, and Paul Allen, age 22, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company is founded to develop BASIC for the MITS Altair 8800. MITS is headquartered in Albuquerque so Gates and Allen move there from Boston to launch their company. Eventually they decide to move Microsoft to the Seattle, Washington area, where both men were from originally and met in high school.
April 3, 1973
Martin Cooper, considered the “father of the cellular phone”, makes the first cell phone call on a New York City street.
April 3, 1966
The Soviet space probe Luna 10 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit around the Moon. It was launched by the USSR from an Earth orbiting platform on March 31, 1966. Luna 10’s battery will operate for 460 lunar orbits before deactivating as planned on May 30, 1966.