The Computer Revolution: From Room-Sized to Pocket-Sized

By Sophia Maddox | March 28, 2024

Microsoft Releases Windows 95 and People Instantly Love It

Computers are an integral part of life. People use them to communicate with people who are important to them at work and home. Many people look up information that they want to learn on a computer. Others watch movies, play games or entertain themselves using computers. From early morning to late night, people rely on computer systems to help them stay organized.

While it is hard for most people to imagine life without computers, it hasn't always been that way. Here's a look at how people developed computers and their operating programs. Along the way, meet some people who influenced their development. You'll discover how computers went from filling entire rooms to being small enough to fit in your pocket.


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Microsoft's Windows 95 was the first system to combine MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows products. It was the first operating platform to feature a start button and the first to feature task-switching features. A Microsoft internet option was included, making it easier for people to get information from the internet. Its 32-bit architecture meant the system was more stable than previous options and people could use the computer to do multiple tasks simultaneously.

The company introduced the system to the public using The Rolling Stones' 1981 single "Start Me Up," so the commercial instantly drew viewers' attention. The company also spent thousands creating hype around the product, including lighting the Empire State Building up in Microsoft's colors, so people did not want to miss out.

Meet the Architect Behind COBOL, Grace Hopper

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After graduating from Yale University with a Doctorate in Mathematics, Grace Hopper gave up a teaching career at Vassar College to join the U.S. Navy. She worked on developing the Mark I computer at Harvard University and wrote a 500-page operator's manual for the Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator. After World War II, she became a research fellow at Harvard University before joining Eckert-Mauchly Corporation and assisting with developing the universal automatic computer.

By the mid-1950s, businesses faced a problem applying computers to their companies. They were spending about $800,000 on programming costs and $500,000 on hardware to run them. A group convinced the United States Department of Defense to tackle the problem. Grace Hopper and others solved the problem by writing Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), allowing computers to understand words and numbers. She based COBOL on FLOW-MATIC language, which she developed first. While being modified a few times, it became the standard program all computers use.