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

By Sophia Maddox | January 4, 2024

Apple launched Macintosh during the Superbowl XVIII in 1984 With a Groundbreaking Commercial

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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Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas, and Lee Clow conceived the idea to introduce the world to Macintosh through a television ad based on George Orwell's book "Nineteen Eighty-Four." The ad, directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) featuring Anya Major as an unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother, was first shown on 10 local channels during the last break before midnight on December 31. Still, most people saw the ad during Super Bowl XVIII on CBS.

In a keynote address, Steve Jobs described the ad as "It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived as the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom."

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.