The Early Years






Note: This timeline is presented as it was created in 1996.

1996 marked the 50th anniversary of the public revelation of the ENIAC, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Large Scale Computing Subcommittee of the AIEE under the chairmanship of Charles Concordia that led to the founding of the IEEE Computer Society. Within those years the computer field has not only developed but has had added to it new concepts and ideas that have transmogrified it into an almost unrecognizable entity. We are reaching the stage of development where each new generation of participants is unaware of both their overall technological ancestry and the history of the development of their specialty, and have no past to build upon. We need to know enough about our history not only to both protect ourselves from it and not be condemned to repeat it, but also to use it to our advantage.

The impact of the information revolution on our society and our industry is immense. In our increasing desire to control our own destinies, we seek to understand not only our contemporary technology, but also to look to the past to recognize trends that will allow us to predict some elements of the future. Looking backward to discover parallels and analogies to modern technology can provide the basis for developing the standards by which we judge the viability and potential for a current or proposed activity. But we also have a feeling of responsibility for preserving the achievements of our forebears through the establishment of archives and museums, with the expectation that the pleasure of discovery will easily outweigh the profitability of mere historical rumination.

The Computer Society and its predecessor committees in the AIEE and the IRE have been an important player in the development of the field providing a means for the free interchange of ideas, for the mutual enhancement of concepts, and the development of a profession that is providing leaders in our society, the nation and the world. The National Academy of Sciences has recognized the computer and the programming language FORTRAN as among the inventions of the century, and our pioneers rank with those in other well established fields in their recognition in the annual Kyoto Prize competition, and national awards throughout the world.

| The Early Years


World War II