Technology timeline

Sometimes it is useful to look at history, either to see how things improved (or not so), or when a tech or idea first popped up. This is an attempt to make a timeline of the most important advances in technology for historical interest.

Computers, information processing and machine intelligence

Year Event Importance+Links
1947 Transistor invented (point-contant transistor) Basis of electronics up to today (2017),
1957 Fortran language invented at IBM by John Backus Became standard for scientific and industrial computation
1958 Lisp language invented Based on lists (Lisp is an acronym for LISt Processing), Lisp was very popular for science applications, grammar analysis, and early artificial intelligence.
1959 COBOL language invented Although unwieldy, the language became a standard for banking backend software and legacy systems programmed in it are still in use (albeit in decline) in 2017
1968 SHRDLU, an early English language parsing system connected to a physical simulator (playground) aka “block world”, started on MIT (by Terry Winograd) First attempt to teach a machine to understand reasonably complex commands in English, was meant to control a crane in well-defined storage room
1969 ARPANET started Basis of what we now call the internet
1970 Pascal language invented by Niklaus Wirth Meant primarily for education, Pascal was widely used for many kinds of tasks before replaced (mostly by C++), and influenced most of future languages.
1970 Forth language invented by Charles H. Moore Forth is interesting in that it is a stack-based language. The same technique is used in much newer virtual machines (whose assembly code is similar to Forth code), like Java VM and OpenFirmware. Original Forth compiles into very tight code, optionally without need for memory heap, and was used in small microcontrollers.
1972 C language invented by Dennis Ritchie A “portable assembly” language, standard for kernel-level code and small microcontrollers; still in wide use in 2017
1973 First cell phone
1982 Commodore 64 released One of the iconic 8-bit home computers/game consoles
1983 C++ language invented by Bjarne Stroustrup For many years the de-facto standard for application programming, in 2017 still used for low-level apps like game engines
1984 First test models of autonomous cars at Carnegie Mellon University's Navlab and ALV
1985 Commodore Amiga released One of iconic 16-bit home computers, one of the first that had hardware-supported multitasking. Become very popular among musicians, yielded lots of audiovisual demos.
1988 Standard for data CD's (aka CD-ROM) produced by Sony and Phillips (aka “The Yellow Book”) In its time, CD-ROMs were the most popular storage medium for software (especially after popularization of CD writer devices)
1990 First web browser written at CERN; first HTML standard was made a year before by Tim Berners-Lee) Birth of WWW
1991 First public post about Linux (that time, a small hobby OS by Linus Torvalds)
1991 Python language invented by Guido van Rossum Easy to write and understand, Python became widely used for various scripting, and very popular in science community thanks to its packages of scientific algorithms
1991 TiVo service launched The first on-demand over-the-network television system
1992 JPEG algorithm discovered First lossy compression algorithm for images that got massive use and is used worldwide in 2017 for photos
1992 Jürgen Schmidhuber proposes a solution to the vanishing gradient problem (, the solution lies in pre-training each layer of a neural network separately with fine-tuning with backpropagation. Probably one of milestones for what will be called “deep learning”
1993 MP3 algorithm discovered at Fraunhofer institute Very similarly to JPEG for images, this lossy compression algorithm for sound became de-facto standard for lower-to-medium music storage
1993 FreeBSD born FreeBSD is an operating system for a variety of platforms which focuses on features, speed, and stability. It is derived from BSD, the version of UNIX® developed at the University of California, Berkeley
1994 Started work on specification of Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) Started by Sony and Phillips after resolving disputes between competing formats for storage, MMCD and SD. DVDs will replace CDs soon with their much greater capacity (approx. 4G against 720M)
1995 Java language invented at Sun Microsystems by James Gosling Java became standard for large-scale enterprise software, replacing COBOL, and for cell phone apps (first its reduced version, Java SE, modern Android phones use full-fledged Java); it started the app boom which lasts in 2017
1995 Javascript invented by Brendan Eich
1995 eBay founded First worldwide buying and selling platform
1996 First DVD player (Toshiba SD-3000)
1997 IBM “Deep Blue” computer defeats world master Gary Kasparov in chess
1998 First hardware MP3 player (Diamond Rio PMP300)
2000 C# invented in Microsoft Microsoft's alternative to Java became its #1 competitor in non-enterprise (and some enterprise) applications; important use is in the Unity3D engine (scripting) which helped many indie games to hatch
2000 First USB Flash Drive comes to market (as “ThumbDrive” by Trek Technology + IBM) Will become the standard for large data storage and transport, similarly to old science-fiction “memocrystals”
2000 Term “Deep Learning” coined by Igor Aizenberg et al. Formally a start of a new wave of machine learning (aka AI) applications
2001 Wikipedia launched
2001 IBM POWER2 processor launched Probably the first multicore CPU (with 2 cores), will start a trend
2003 WiFi 802.11g standard published (up to 54 Mbps)
2003 iTunes launched by Apple Probably the most famous online music store
2004 Facebook launched From multiple candidates, Facebook become almost a definition of a social network platform
2005 5 autonomous cars finished the DARPA challenge of driving through a desert (year before, none did) Important milestone for autonomous cars, marks start of a trend
2005 YouTube launched
2005 Google Maps launched
2005 Reddit launched
2007 Apple presents the first iPhone
2007 Netflix (founded 1997) starts providing streaming video
2008 Apple AppStore launched
2008 OS Android launched for cell phones (HTC Dream) (but did not have significant popularity until 2010)
2008 Github launched Became the most popular site for sharing coding projects
2009 Stack Exchange launched
2009 Wolfram Alpha launched An engine for computations with questions asked in natural language (, is used in the background by multiple assistant software, including Apple Siri.
2009 Bitcoin started First cryptocurrency
2010 Microsoft Kinect V1 produced (face and gesture recognition, voice recognition and 3D image based on twin cameras); an open source driver (paid by Adafruit) allowed many useful hacks
2011 GPU-trained CNN achieves superhuman performance in a traffic sign recognition contest
2011 IBM Watson AI wins Jeopardy! The AI gained 35374 USD in comparison to human opponents (4800 USD, 10400 USD). This is important because questions in Jeopardy! are asked in natural language which the software had to analyze.
2012 22nm CPU die technology (Intel Ivy Bridge processors)
2012 Google reports total of 500 000 km of test drives of their autonomous cars (on public roads but with two humans aboard)
2013 Atlas robot unveiled by Boston Dynamic Atlas is an agile bipedal humanoid whose gait was likened to a 1-year child walk by DARPA project manager.
2014 14nm CPU die technology (Intel Core M Broadwell, soon followed by desktop CPUs) For comparison, an antibody molecule is about 10 nm while a glucose molecule is about 1 nm; 14 nm is smaller than biological viruses (see
2015 Google TensorFlow published as open source (
2015 Google Photos started by Google Project branched from Google+. Its abilities to automatically classify images according to what they show is acclaimed by critics
2015 Tests of autonomous cars permitted on public roads in Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan, some tests also ran in Germany, Netherlands, Spain, in UK's Milton Keynes and in Paris
2016 Google announces its “RAISR” image reconstruction technology Based on a neural network trained on many images that then decides which filters to use, this algorithm allows (at least in theory) to reconstruct and upscale images (inherently a guesswork act) in a way perceived as natural by human eye.
2016 Google AlphaGo defeats Lee Sedol in Go, receives honorary 9-dan Go has much larger number of possible moves than chess and cannot be solved by bruteforce; even a year before, many Go masters considered Go inaccessible for computers due to crucial importance of intuition in the game
2016 AI player achieves superhuman performance in Doom, using only visual inputs from the game
2016 Adobe announces closed beta for Adobe VoCo, software for mimicking voices (“Photoshop for voice”)
2017 AI player “Phillip” (programmed by Vlad Firoiu, MIT) beats professional players in Super Smash Bros (but itself can for now only play for one character, Captain Falcon, due to lack of support of shooting)
2017 AI player “DeepStack” defeats 10 pro players in no-limits Texas Hold'em poker game (historically it is a tie with Libratus, both were developed simultanously) Similarly to Go, poker was considered a hard or impossible task for computers due to (perceived) necessity of empathy and bluffing

Genetics and medicine

Year Event Importance+Links
1924 First electroencephalography (EEG) measurements on human (by Hans Berger)
1953 Double-helix DNA structure discovered by Wattson, Crick and Franklin Beginning of modern molecular genetics
1962 First demonstration of neurogenesis in an adult mammal brain (Joseph Altman) Up to this discovery it was believed that neurons are never newly created in adult brain
1976 Discovery that interleukin 2 (IL-2) is a growth factor that allows to cultivate T-cells in vitro Many years later, this knowledge will be used for production of genetically modified T cells to attack tumors (aka CAR-T), the first and important case of immunological anti-cancer medicines
1978 In-vitro fertilization Will give millions of couples the ability to conceive a child when normal way fails
1985 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) discovered by Karry Mullis The very basic stone of modern genetic analysis
1985 fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) first applied on a human Used to see blood flow in various parts of the brain
1989 T-killer cells altered to attack a specified target Zelig Eshar shows that T-killer immunity cells can be re-targeted to attack any other cell of choice (by replacing the targeting receptor); this is considered the start of CAR-T antitumor therapy.
1990 Human genome project officially launched
1992 Functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) measurement of the brain first used on humans Allows to measure the consumption and flow of oxygen in brain (the BOLD strategy), showing what parts of the brain are in use in the moment. First test was on human visual cortex.
1996 Dolly the sheep, the first animal cloned from somatic cell
1998 Viagra (sildenafil) approved by FDA for erectile dysfunction
2001 “CRISPR” term coined Acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, marks special patterns in bacterial DNA, later shown to be part of bacterial anti-viral defense together with an enzyme that targets and cuts non-familiar DNA. This will be used by humans for DNA editing, the famous CRISPR/Cas9 technique (with caspase 9 used as the cutting agent).
2003 Cause for progeria found The horrible fast-aging disease is caused by a point mutation in gene for lamin A which produces scaffolding for cell nucleus (position 1824 in the LMNA gene)
2003 First idea of gene drive A self-promoting gene or casette that spreads to offspring with extreme probability, described by Austin Burt in Imperial College London, can propagate a genetic change in a population with extreme speed. (Considered too dangerous for common use.)
2003 Human Genome Project officially declared successfully completed
2004 Milwaukee protocol Medical regimen able to rescue patients with symptomatic rabies (using pharmacologically induced coma with nutrient replacements), considered 100% fatal before; yielded much information about the behavior of the rabies virus
2005 “Genome Sequencer 20” by Life Sciences can sequence the human genome in a month and for 300000 USD
2006 23andme launched The first personal genetics web service, provides genetic analysis from saliva sample sent by mail.
2006 Induced pluripotent cell (iPSC) technology discovered By Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto; yielded Nobel Prize in 2012)
2006 Vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV)
2008 Primitive but multi-layered brain-like organoids grown from stem cells By Yoshiki Sasai et al., RIKEN, Tokyo
2011 Price of whole-genome sequencing now at 5000 USD per genome (Illumina Inc.)
2014 First working fully synthetic yeast chromosome The chromosome was artificially synthesized from computer-stored data that was previously read from the natural chromosome, with junk and transposons deleted (!!), still works normally (Jef Boeke et al., N.Y. University Langone Medical Center). DOI: 10.1126/science.1249252
2014 E. coli with two extra genetic bases (called X and Y) prepared First case of adding new bases to DNA when the extra bases are also passed to the offspring
2014 Emotional content of a memory engram modified by optogenetics in mouse Emotional content of a recent memory engram in mouse was switched by optogenetic switching of neurons in the dentate gyrus (Susumu Tonegawa et al.), possibly first step in memory-modification technology. doi:10.1038/nature13725, doi:10.1126/science.1239073
2015 Price of whole-genome sequencing drops to 1500 USD per genome (from National Human Genome Research Institute)
2017 Minified Cas9-like enzyme from Campylobacter jejuni used in medicine Small enough to allow building an all-in-one adenovirus-coated capsule for CRISPR-Cas9 editing in vivo; first use was a test of treatment of retinitis pigmentosa. doi:10.1038/ncomms14500
2017 Mouse embryo cultivated from embryonic stem cells and developed in vitro for 7 days This is about 1/3 of mouse pregancy period, just before the embryo implants into the mother's body, a significant breakthrough for artificial womb technology. Extra-embryonic trophoblast cells were used to provide a 3D scaffolding for the embryo. DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1810
2017 Atlas of long non-coding RNA sequences (with precise 5' ends) launched at RIKEN, Tokyo doi:10.1038/nature21374
2017 FDA approves first anti-cancer drug, pembrolizumab, to be prescribed based on cancer genetics rather than its type First approved use of an anti-cancer medicine based not on how the cancer superficially looks but what it really is.

Space Technology

Year Event Importance+Links
2012 “Curiosity” rover lands on Mars
2014 First landing of a probe on a comet (lander Cassini, orbiter Philae, comet 67P)
2016 Gravitational waves observed for the first time in LIGO laboratory
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