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

By Sophia Maddox | December 28, 2023

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.

John Backus and Team Forge the First High-Level Programming Language, FORTRAN

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According to John Backus, before his team developed FORTRAN, a computer programmer "had to employ every trick that he could think of to make the program run fast enough to justify the rather enormous cost of running it. And he had to do all of that by his own ingenuity because the only information he really had was the problem at hand, and the machine manual." He also pointed out that, sometimes, there was not even a manual. In addition, many computer programmers considered the information they had amassed highly guarded secrets that they would not share willingly.

In 1957, John Backus was working for IBM when he proposed to his superiors that the company develop a more practical alternative to assembly language that told computers what you wanted them to do. The development of FORTRAN eliminated the need to hand-code computer programs, helping to reduce startup costs. The program became widely accepted and was considered the standard for many decades.