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The History of IT: What Makes Your Top 3?

Daniel Wolfe
June 26, 2015

The Information Technology (IT) industry undergoes rapid change every day. From advances in networking to steps forward in processing to widespread virtualization and everything in between, what’s true in IT today could easily be replaced tomorrow.

As a fun thought exercise, Gil Press, contributor to Forbes Tech, compiled a list of the top three events in the history of computer technology (or IT). Here’s what he came up with:

  • 1945: John Von Neumann publishes the First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, “the first documented discussion of the stored program concept” and a blueprint for today’s computer architecture.
  • 1973: Bob Metcalfe writes memo inventing Ethernet at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC.
  • 1989: Tim Berners-Lee circulates “Information management: A proposal,” in which he outlines a global hypertext system.

Unlike many analysts who talk about IT in terms of more modern hardware-defined eras, Press believes that looking at the past may be the best way to make educated guesses about the future of the IT industry. His perspective is an interesting one, if for no other reason than because it shows how long IT as we know it today has really been in development.

We couldn’t help but add our own suggestions to this list of important milestones in the history of IT. Adding onto Press’ suggestions, here are three events we think deserve a spot:

  • 1969: ARPANET becomes a reality and sets the foundation for the Internet when four computers are connected and communicate with one another, based on a concept first published in 1967.
  • 1971: Intel releases the Intel 4004, the first microprocessor. Even at 4 bits, the 4004 would become incredibly important to the future of computing.
  • 2012: World IPv6 Launch commences, when ISPs, home network equipment manufacturers, and companies around the world permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services.

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive—you’ll notice a period of 23 years between our most recent event and Press’. Obviously, there’s a lot that happened between the publishing of “Information management: A proposal” and the launch of IPv6. Yet for their own unique reasons, each were monumental steps forward for the IT industry.

The launch of IPv6 is the most recent event on this list, but it’s likely that ten years from now, we’ll look back on events happening today and be able to identify several evolutions as important to IT’s future as ARPANET or Metcalfe’s Ethernet memo were in their time. For now, it’s fun to at least think about the most important events in the history of our amazing industry.

We’ve suggested some alternatives for the most important events in the history of computer technology. Which events would you choose to add to this list? Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. We’d love to hear your contributions!


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