The History of Computing Project
Is a collaborative effort to record and publish the history of the computer and its roots in the broadest sense of the word.
Its founding principle is to work together in as open and
cooperative a manner as possible in producing a definitive history and
historical archive of computing.
Explicit goals are to provide an accurate and balanced history with input from as many sources as possible and maximum access to the results worldwide.
The contents of this site is provided under the
The Project is incorporated as a nonprofit organization:
History of Computing Foundation
It all began in 1986 when somebody asked the original author (Cornelis Robat) during a course he gave:
'Where do computers come from and who started with it'.
At that time Cornelis had not a solid answer. Because who thought about that in those days. Computer people were all very, very busy to keep up with things changing around them at the speed of light.
The computer revolution hadn't started really yet! Let alone that someone was interested in the history of it, there was no history.
At a first attempt to reconstruct the History of Computers four pages were
created. It was in the form of a hand out distributed during "introduction
to computers" sessions.
Though as a 101 in computer history it might have served its purpose it did not satisfy one's curiosity and off course there where many blank spots.
This needed a more serious approach and each 101 session the handout grew. Then the handout grew into a full fledged (private) project that completely ran out of hand.
At first the information was gathered from all possible sources. Even from childrens magazines and movies. Later on books were bought or borrowed, museums were visited and in the mid 1990s the Internet proved to be an invaluable and inexhaustible resource.
Until 1993 the material served as a basis for lectures and other presentations, those who wanted a copy of the material got one because it was just about 50 pages.
But in the next two years the amount of information quickly became too much to print (+500 pages). Also people started to ask for pictures and other illustrations. Thus from 1995 pictures and graphic material was added.
Next issue: publication.
Publication of the story was done by Zipping the file and copy it on a 720Kb
floppy. It was sold for a nominal price on the HCC fair in the Netherlands.
That proved to be a success, also because a diskette is small and very portable. I was taken fro granted that every one had a word processor and was able to print their own copy of "the history of computing". At that time the project was called "the chronology of computers" and the language used was Dutch.
From 1996 other people started to cooperate with this project and to not let
them down the "history" had to be published in some form other then
The question however was not when but how.
Some attempts were made to spread it via BBS systems, and the story was gladly accepted by the BBS sysops, but that did not reach enough people in one time.
In 1997 the first attempt was made to publish the information via the internet
on a website and a few chapters were placed on the web (www.computermuseum.nl)
Somehow the webmaster ran out of spare time and quit her job uploading the material.
Now there was a problem and people started to ask questions.
Also the scope of the projects was widened. Mainly because of the possibilities of the web. You have virtually unlimited space.
The chronology became a part of the whole and other sections like biographies,
hardware and reference pages were created.
Followed by sciences, technology and other supporting sections that were needed to support and explain the whole (his)story of computing. And then the project then was renamed in:
the History of Computing project
Soon it was no longer possible for one single person to keep this project going. The project became too large and something drastic had to be done. The maximum what could be done was done and a backlog of updates was the result.
At the end of 1999 after talking to some friends it was decided to set up a foundation that could take care of the job and ensure the projects continuity.
The History of Computing Foundation officially was founded in April, 2000 by Cornelis Robat, Fannie de Boer and JanWillem Jekel
To finance the foundation the History Project primarily relies on seed funding from Robat in't Veld Formatie, an independent software developer. We have assembled a Board of Directors and incorporated as a non-profit corporation, and are seeking various kinds of support, from funding, to equipment, to volunteer time.
A number of organizations and people have provided crucial cooperation to the Project, however, editorial control is independent, to separate the output of the Project from any institutional interests.
Please contact us for details.
Suggestions of any kind, just chatting, critical notes, additions and praise are welcome any time. Please mail the Editors
Some people ask us how do and did we get all this information. Well the answer is simple: from every available source.
And luckily the subject of computer history is growing immensely in popularity.
Even books are printed on specific parts of the computer history. Or are trying
to give an overview on a particular time section.
Most are dealing with periods from 1940 and up, which is a pity. But still it is nice reference material for our editors of course. (See the bibliographical section of this project)
And there are thousands of sites all over the planet created by people and companies that describe their private collections or histories. That too is a very valuable source for us; not only for information and specs but also for the needed pictures.(See list of interesting sites).
Since 1994 the Internet is roamed. And all relevant information from history, museum, or collection's sites found is downloaded. Reworked to our standard format and when relevant put onto our own site, of course with the proper references and after asking permission when the information is copyrighted.
Why downloading all, you would ask?
Because many sites just vanish after 3 to 6 months. Some sites are moved without notice, as is their good right. And some sites stay on for a longer time, then vanish just as well. There are not many sites that stay on for more than 3 years. This is the reason why we download everything of interest or historic value, in order to guarantee the preservation of the information. In that way as well we create an enormous database which, someday, will come online as well.
To read all the available information in one single session is not something you do over night without missing a lot.
But to make it suitable for on line reading we divided the whole story into small easy to digest portions with hyperlinks connecting the various subjects, so come back often.
Please refer to the site map for more details about the site
Please be aware that some sections, chapters or pages are not quite finished, due to limited resources, a backlog in updates or information that is not yet processed
The history of computing foundation is collaborating with other organizations in the production of a history CD which is available via this site for 10 EUR. This CD contains much more than available on the site. When interested please go to our on line shop
If you want to use the information for non commercial purposes it is granted beforehand under the Open Content License
In the case we used copy righted material the individual owners are referenced. In case of doubt consider to use the OCL rules.
Mostly the footnotes at the bottom of each page will point you to towards
Material that was found and used on our site and that was found on several other sites as well without reference to whom owns the information is used with reference to the URL where we found it. In our view this does not mean that the owner of that site can claim the copyright to that information. By inserting the reference we just want to indicate where the material came from. And in the same time point you towards a site that might be of interest too.
In all other cases the foundation assumes copyrights on all material found on this site.
For a more elaborate explanation go to our Copyrights statement
By all means NO!
Mainly because data on a certain period is still missing, or contributors omitted
some info not known at the time they have sent us their material.
There is little information known on computer history from Russia, China and Japan.
And what happened in Africa and South America in this field.
No, the story will never be complete.
The above is the main reason that this material is published in electronic form and not published as a hardcopy in book format. In that way it is relatively easy to make corrections and publish it, just costing a few bytes on the internet.
Do you want to join this project?
Gladly! Time is our biggest enemy, a lot of material is just thrown away by people not realizing the value of what they are throwing away.
That is why your help is needed to make this story more complete and document the computer history in a proper way.
But remember when you send text, corrections, pictures or anything, we love to have the name of the originator or web site you got it from. We like to give credits and honors.
Don't hesitate to contact us.
Last Updated on 17-Feb-2004