Important dates in computer technology

The upcoming release of Windows 7 is certainly a landmark for Microsoft, but not that big in the larger scheme of things. Here is my list of five significant milestones in the computer world.

A top one must be the creation of ARPANET by the Department of Defense. ARPANET grew into the entity known today as the Internet. Would there even be an Internet without it?

What about the AT&T-funded; project that brought forth the UNIX operating system? While UNIX itself is major, I think more about the effect had it on a young Helsinki college student, Linus Torvalds, who began development of a UNIX clone while in college. The clone eventually became known as the Linux operating system that not only runs countless file and Web servers today, it also ushered in the era of open-source software.

The introduction of the IBM personal computer was certainly a watershed moment but not as big as the decision to release the specifications allowing the entry of third-party computer makers. If IBM had chosen to keep its computer architecture proprietary, what would the personal computer look like today and what would it cost?

Perhaps nothing in the computer world had a bigger impact on the masses than Windows 95. The new, easy-to-use operating system brought forth the desktop design that elevated it to the head of the class. Windows 95 brought personal computing into many homes with the same basic look that endures today.

Then there's the impact of Apple - make that the impact of Steve Jobs. Jobs returned to a withering Apple company many think would have been just another dot-com bust if Jobs had not returned. He is the driving force behind everything Apple including the iPod, iPhone and the Mac OS X operating system.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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