The Evolution of Tech

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In a new special edition, Newsweek explores 60 years of Silicon Valley innovation. The timeline below shows how technology has evolved over time, from the early stages of label printing to modern printers replicating organs.

The PC

As decades have come and gone, so have the many cumbersome features that once bogged down the designs and processes of the personal computer.


On the cover of the January Popular Electronics, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems announces its Altair 8800 personal computer kit. Upon its release, MITS co-founder Ed Roberts coins the term "personal computer."

Altair 8800 personal computer kit Andrew Harnik/AP Images


The Apple I is completed by Steve Wozniak and presented at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting. After receiving 50 orders for the Apple I from a computer store called the Byte Shop, Wozniak and Steve Jobs found Apple Inc.


Spanning beyond the hobbyist community, the Apple II swiftly gains popularity and is given to schools by the company. It's sold with a switching power supply, keyboard, main logic board, case, game paddles and a copy of the arcade game Breakout.


IBM announces its first PC, which sees success based more on name value than memory capacity. The Osborne 1, the first mass-produced portable microcomputer, weighs in at 23 pounds and becomes available for $1,795.


Apple introduces the first commercial PC with a graphical user interface, the Lisa. The GUI proves to be a milestone in the PC's evolution. Lisa, as well as its GUI, were created based on a concept from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).


The Apple Macintosh is introduced to the world in a critically acclaimed, Orwellian Super Bowl commercial. As the first successful mouse-driven computer with a GUI, the unit is sold for $2,500. Mouse-utilizing applications include MacPaint and MacWrite.


Shortly after Jobs's return to Apple, the company launches the iMac, a series of desktop computers. Praise for the machines stems from their easy usability. The product is seen as the reason for Apple's emergence from near bankruptcy in the mid-'90s.


Apple continues to simplify its own designs, leading to the release of the MacBook Air. The leaner, lighter laptop boasts a long-lasting battery. To achieve the thinner design, it swaps out the hard drive for a solid state disk, the first computer to boast this feature.


The U.K.'s Raspberry Pi Foundation creates a credit card-sized single board computer sold for the low price of $25. Known as the Raspberry Pi, the compact machine has everything—so long as you have a monitor, keyboard and mouse to hook it up to.

The Printer

In 50 years, printing technology has leapt from invoices and mail labels to replicating organs.

Xerox 9700 Laser Printer Courtesy of Xerox Historical Archives


Although in 1972 Xerox PARC had invented the first laser printer, which used lasers to etch the image into a cylindrical ink drum that then pressed the image into paper, it does not hit the commercial market until 1977.


Adidas announces it will start making custom 3-D-printed sneakers for customers, which it claims will properly cushion and protect feet better than mass-produced sneakers.

Computer Storage

In 1951, engineers had to store data and codes on a 1,200-foot-long tape that held only 3 megabytes. Now you can carry 100,000 times that in your pocket.


Before computers are invented, IBM creates 80-column punched cards that feed commands into tabulating machines. This was the first way to store any information digitally.


Following the computer science advances that occurred during World War II, magnetic tapes are introduced by UNIVAC as a new way to store data.


The first disk storage drive is released by IBM and purchased commercially by businesses. It allows them to instantly check digitally where accounts stand rather than finding out on a monthly basis.


IBM debuts an 8-inch floppy disk, which becomes the first portable storage device.


The 3.5-inch floppy disks replace their 8- and 5-inch predecessors. By 1984, the Apple II has a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive built in.


In an effort to replace floppy disks, CDs are used for storage. Created with read-only memory, they are able to store data in addition to playing and storing music.

A 3.5-inch floppy disk Shutterstock


The USB flash drive, also called a zip drive, is released by M-Systems and IBM and is the nail in the coffin for floppy disks. External hard drives soon follow in the early 2000s.


An add-on to its tech empire, Amazon formulates the Amazon Web Service, providing purchasable cloud storage for companies such as Dropbox.


Apple unleashes the iCloud, which not only syncs all data from Apple's products—the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers—but also stores everything on a virtual server.

Operating Systems

Without the middleman between your applications and hardware, you'd have to write code to get your computer to open a file. These innovators do the work so you don't have to.


The very first operating system, UNIX OS, is released. Creators Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie built the OS to support a space video game they had developed.


In a coup that frustrated Steve Jobs for years, Microsoft creates MS-DOS for IBM's PC. It is a simple program that displays white text on a black screen.


NeXT, Steve Jobs's first endeavor after leaving Apple, releases a colorful OS, called NeXTSTEP. The OS ultimately becomes the basis for Apple's OS X.


Microsoft and Bill Gates's long-awaited Windows 95 introduces the world to an easy-to-use "Start" menu, application icons and the right-click menu.


The first Apple operating system released since Jobs's return, the Mac OS X is flashy but a little slow.


Microsoft releases Windows 10, which reintroduces the "Start" menu. Apple releases El Capitan, which boasts a split-screen feature for multitaskers.

Wearable Tech

Since the inception of the computer, inventors have endeavored to make technology a part of everyday attire.


The first wearable piece of technology is made for less than noble purposes. Keith Taft invents George—a computer that he puts in his shoe and operates with his big toe—to count cards at the blackjack table.


The elementary precursor to the Apple Watch, Pulsar is a watch/calculator you can operate from your wrist. It sells for $3,950.

Pulsar watch/calculator Lpettet/iStock


Music fanatics can finally rock out to "My Sharona" whenever they want with the revolutionary Sony Walkman.


Reflection Technology releases Private Eye, a tiny computer screen attached to a headband, enabling users to read and write text with a handheld keyboard. But that's about all it does.


Further advancing the ability to walk or drive while talking on the phone, the blinking-blue Bluetooth technology revolutionizes cellphones—and makes it easier for investment bankers to identify each other.


Nike + iPod helps runners track their mileage through a small GPS device that can be placed in their shoes.


The Fitbit clip is released. It tracks not only users' steps but also their heart rate and sleep patterns. In 2013 it evolves into a wristband.


Google releases computerized eyeglasses. Reviews of Google Glass are negative, and any future forays into computer glasses are suspended indefinitely.

Google Glass Joe Haupt/Lpettet/iStock


The long-awaited Apple Watch goes beyond fitness and acts as an iPhone for the wrist. Initial sales are sluggish, but early adopters claim the watch is a revelation.


The only problem with the integrated circuit was that it could perform only specific tasks, so they were becoming too specialized to be commercially viable. Thus, the microprocessor was born.


As with many innovations, several microprocessors are created at the same time. Texas Instruments goes head to head with Intel, but the latter's 4004 processor, invented by Marcian Hoff, Stan Mazor and Federico Faggin, is credited as being the first of its kind.


Intel's fifth generation microprocessor contains 1.3 billion transistors. Intel claims it provides so much battery life, you can watch the first season of Downton Abbey (including the Christmas special).

The Cellphone

The telephone has changed a lot since Alexander Graham Bell first called Thomas Watson and said, "Come here—I want to see you," in 1876. Today, mobile phones are ever-present in our pockets (well, hands), and we use them for nearly everything.

An early mobile phone Chris Willson/Alamy


The first mobile phone call is made on the Motorola DynaTAC by Martin Cooper. These "bricks," which weigh 28 ounces, are released in 1983 and cost $4,000.


The first flip phone, the Motorola MicroTAC, is released and features a built-in calculator and the first address book.


The first mobile phone purchased in mass quantities, the Nokia 3210, has an internal antenna, SMS text messaging and picture messaging, and three games, including Snake, a game revived from the '70s.


The Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar pioneers storing and listening to music on your phone. Meanwhile, the first camera phone, the J-SH04, debuts in Japan.


The T-Mobile Sidekick, featuring the largest screen so far, hits stores. The phone has a built-in keyboard and allows users to access applications such as AOL Instant Messenger.

T-Mobile Sidekick Victoria Arocho/AP Images


Apple's iPhone introduces a touch screen that users can control with their fingers, as well as its revolutionary—and still standard—App Store.

This article was excerpted from a Newsweek special edition—The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley: Exploring 60 Years of Innovation, by issue editor Alicia Kort. For more about the road to the digital age, pick up a copy today.

FROM LEFT: Matt Carr/Getty Images; Kyodo/AP Images; AP Images; Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images; Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Jon Furniss/Getty Images; Shutterstock; Digital Imaging by Eric Heintz

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