This article presents a detailed timeline of events in the history of computing from 1990 to the present. For a narrative explaining the overall developments, see the related History of computing.

Computing timelines: 500 BC-1949, 1950-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-present

1990 Consortium of major SVGA card manufactures (called Video Electronic Standard Association, VESA) was formed and then introduced VESA SVGA Standard.

1990 - March Macintosh IIfx released. Based on a 40 MHz version of the 68030 it achieved 10 MIPS. It also featured a faster SCSI adapter, which could transfer 3.0 Mb/sec.

1990 - May 22

Introduction of Windows 3.0 by Microsoft. It is a true multitasking system (or pretends to be on computers less than an 80386, by operating in 'Real' mode). It maintained compatibility with MS-DOS, on an 80386 it even allows such programs to multitask - which they were not designed to do. This created a real threat to the Macintosh and despite a similar product, IBM's OS/2, it was very successful. Various improvements were made, versions 3.1, 3.11 - but the next major step did not come until Windows '95 in 1995 which relied much more heavily on the features of the 80386 and provided support for 32 bit applications.

1990 - October Macintosh Classic released, an identical replacement to the Macintosh Plus of January 1986. Also came the Macintosh IIsi which ran a 68030 processor at 20 MHz to achieve 5.0 MIPS, and also a 256 colour video adapter.

1990 - November Macintosh LC released. This ran a 68020 processor at 16 MHz to achieve 2.6 MIPS, it had a slightly improved SCSI adapter and a 256 colour video adapter.

1990 - November MPC (Multimedia PC) Level 1 specification published by a council of companies including Microsoft and Creative Labs. This specified the minimum standards for a Multimedia IBM PC. The MPC level 1 specification originally required a 80286/12 MHz PC, but this was later increased to a 80386SX/16 MHz computer as an 80286 was realised to be inadequate. It also required a CD-ROM drive capable of 150 KB/sec (single speed) and also of Audio CD output. Companies can, after paying a fee, use the MPC logo on their products.

1990 - November ATA spec. final proposal submitted to ANSI.

1991 Introduction of ISA standard, although it was simply called the AT bus until after competing standards were launched that needed differentiating.

1991 Borland took over Ashton-Tate Corporation & the Dbase program used by many businesses and individuals.

1991 - April 22 80486 SX released as cheaper alternative to 80486 DX - the key difference being the lack of an integrated F.P.U.

1991 - May Introduction of Sound Blaster Pro.

1991 - June MS-DOS 5.0, PC-DOS 5.0
In order to promote OS/2 Bill Gates took every opportunity after its release to say 'DOS is dead', however the development of DOS 5.0 lead to the permanent dropping of OS/2 development.

This version, after the mess of version 4, was properly tested through the distribution of Beta versions to over 7,500 users. This version included the ability to load device drivers and TSR programs above the 640KB boundary (into UMBs and the HMA), freeing more RAM for programs. This version marked the end of collaboration between Microsoft and IBM on DOS.

1991 - August Linux is born with the following post to the Usenet Newsgroup comp.os.minix:
Hello everybody out there using minix-
I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be
big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.
The post was by a Finnish college student, Linus Torvalds, and this hobby grew from these humble beginnings into one of the most widely used Unix-like operating systems in the world today. It now runs on many different types of computer, including the Sun SPARC and the Compaq Alpha, as well as many ARM, MIPS, PowerPC and Motorola 68000 based computers.

In 1992, the GNU project ( adopted the Linux kernel for use on GNU systems while they waited for the development of their own (Hurd) kernel to be completed. The GNU project's aim is to provide a complete and free Unix like operating system, combining the Linux or Hurd platform with the a complete suite of free software to run on it. Linus changed the Linux kernel license from "no commercial use" to the GNU General Public License on the 1st of February 1992.

1992 "Windows NT addresses 2 Gigabytes of RAM which is more than any application will ever need". Microsoft on the development of Windows NT.

1992 Introduction of CD-I launched by Phillips.

1992 - April Introduction of Windows 3.1

1992 - May Wolfenstein 3D released by Id Software Inc.

1992 - June Sound Blaster 16 ASP Introduced by Creative Labs.

1993 Commercial providers were allowed to sell internet connections to individuals. Its use exploded, especially with the new interface provided by the World-Wide Web (see 1989) and NCSA Mosaic.

1993 First web magazine, The Virtual Journal, is published but fails commercially.

1993 Doom was released by Id Software Inc. The PC began to be considered as a serious games playing machine. This was reinforced by another release in 1993 - "Sam and Max Hit the Road".

1993 Novell purchased Digital Research, DR-DOS became Novell DOS.

1993 - March 22 Intel Pentium released. At the time it was only available in 60 & 66 MHz versions which achieved up to 100 MIPs, with over 3.1 million transistors.

1993 - May MPC Level 2 specification introduced (see November 1990). This was designed to allow playback of a 15 fps video in a window 320x240 pixels. The key difference is the requirement of a CD-ROM drive capable of 300KB/sec (double speed). Also with Level 2 is the requirement for products to be tested by the MPC council, making MPC Level 2 compatibility a stamp of certification.

1993 - December MS-DOS 6.0. This included a Hard-Disk compression program called DoubleSpace, but a small computing company called 'Stac' claimed that DoubleSpace was partly a copy of their Compression Program, Stacker. After paying damages Microsoft withdrew DoubleSpace from MS-DOS 6.2, releasing a new program - DriveSpace - with MS-DOS version 6.22. In operation and programming interface DriveSpace remains virtually identical to DoubleSpace. MS-DOS 6.22 remains the last version of MS-DOS released, since Microsoft turned its efforts to Windows '95. Windows '95 DOS shell reports itself as DOS 7 - and includes a few enhancements, e.g. support for long filenames.

N.B. The DOS shell in Windows '95 reports itself as version 7.0, Windows '95 OSR2 reports 7.10.

1994 - March 7 Intel Release the 90 & 100 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor.

1994 - March 14 Linus Torvalds released version 1.0 of the Linux kernel.

1994 - September PC-DOS 6.3 Basically the same as version 5.0 this release by IBM included more bundled software, such as Stacker (the program that caused Microsoft so much embarrassment) and anti-virus software.

1994 - October 10 Intel Release the 75 MHz version of the Pentium Processor.

1994 Doom II released. This reflected the rapidly increasing quality of games available for the PC - an opinion supported by other major releases in 1994, such as "Alone in the Dark 2", "Theme Park", "Magic Carpet" and "Little Big Adventure" which also helped demonstrate the diversity of games available on the platform. This success of the PC as a games platform was partly due to and partly a cause of significantly increase PC ownership among the 'general public' during the early/mid 1990s.

1994 Peter Shor devises an algorithm which lets quantum computers determine the factorization of large integers quickly. This is the first interesting problem for which quantum computers promise a significant speed-up, and it therefore generates a lot of interest in quantum computers.

1994 Netscape Navigator 1.0 was written as an alternative browser to NCSA Mosaic.

1994 Command & Conquer released. Other (less significant releases) for the PC included Star Trek 'The Next Generation', Full Throttle, Descent and Terminal Velocity. The advent of 3D graphics cards from Videologic and 3Dfx helped the platform's games status further.

1995 - March Linus released Linux Kernel v1.2.0 (Linux'95).

1995 - March 27 Intel release the 120 Mhz version of the Pentium processor.

1995 - June 1 Intel release the 133 Mhz version of the Pentium processor.

1995 - August 21 [poss. 23] Windows '95 was launched by Bill Gates & Microsoft. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows '95 is an entire operating system - it does not rely on MS-DOS (although some remnants of the old operating system still exist). Windows '95 was written specially for the 80386 and compatible computers to make 'full' use of its 32 bit processing and multitasking capabilities, and thus is much more similar to Windows NT than Windows 3.x. Windows 95 and NT 4 are almost indistinguishable in many respects - such as User Interface and API. Unfortunately, in order to maintain backwards compatibility, Windows 95 doesn't impose the same memory protection and security measures that NT does and so suffers from much worse reliability. Despite being remarkable similar in function to OS/2 Warp (produced by IBM and Microsoft several years earlier, but marketed by IBM), Windows '95 has proved very popular.

1995 - November 1 Pentium Pro released. At introduction it achieved a clock speed of up to 200 MHz (there were also 150, 166 and 180 MHz variants released on the same date), but is basically the same as the Pentium in terms of instruction set and capabilities. It achieves 440 MIPs and contains 5.5 million transistors - this is nearly 2400 times as many as the first microprocessor, the 4004 - and capable of 70,000 times as many instructions per second.

1995 - December 28 CompuServe blocked access to over 200 sexually explicit Usenet newsgroups, partly to avoid confrontation with the German government. Access to all but 5 was restored on Feb. 13 1996.

1995 - December JavaScript development announced by Netscape.

1996 Quake released - representing the dramatic increases in both software and hardware technology since Doom, of 3 years previous. Other notable releases included "Civilization 2", "Command & Conquer - Red Alert", "Grand Prix 2" and "Tomb Raider". On the more controversial front "Battle Cruiser 3000" was also released, but its advertising had to be censored.

1996 - January Netscape Navigator 2.0 released. First browser to support JavaScript.

1996 - January 4 Intel release the 150 & 166 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor. They contain the equivalent of over 3.3 million transistors.

1996 Windows '95 OSR2 (OEM System Release 2) was released - partly to fix bugs found in release 1 - but only to computer retailers for sale with new systems. There were actually two separated releases of Windows 95 OSR2 before the introduction of Windows '98, the second of which contained both USB and FAT32 support - the main selling points of Windows '98. FAT32 is a new filing system that provides support for disk partitions bigger than 2.1GB and is better at coping with large disks (especially in terms of wasted space).

1996 - June 9 Linux 2.0 released. 2.0 was a significant improvement over the earlier versions: it was the first to support multiple architectures (originally developed for the Intel 386 processor, it now supported the Digital Alpha and would very soon support Sun SPARC many others). It was also the first stable kernel to support SMP, kernel modules, and much more.

1996 - October 6 Intel release the 200 Mhz version of the Pentium Processor.

1997 Tim Berners-Lee awarded the Institute of Physics' 1997 Duddell Medal for inventing the World Wide Web (see 1989).

1997 "Grand Theft Auto", "Quake 2" and "Blade Runner" were all released while Lara Croft returned in "Tomb Raider 2". As the standards for graphics kept increasing, 3d graphics cards were beginning to become mandatory for games players.

1997 - January 8 Intel released Pentium MMX (originally 166 and 200 Mhz versions), for games and multimedia enhancement. To most people MMX is simply another 3-letter acronym and people wearing coloured suits on Intel ads, and to programmers in meant an even further expanded instruction set that provides, amongst other functions, enhanced 64-bit support - but software needs to be specially written to work with the new functions. A major rival clone, the AMD-K6-MMX containing a similar instruction set, caused a legal challenge from Intel on the right to use the trademarked name MMX - it was not upheld.

1997 - May 11 IBM's Deep Blue became the first computer to beat a reigning World Chess Champion, Gary Kasparov, in a full chess match. The computer had played him previously - losing 5/6 games in February 1996.

1997 - May 7 Intel Release their Pentium II processor (233, 266 and 300 Mhz versions). It featured, as well as an increased instruction set, a much larger on-chip cache.

1997 - June 2 Intel release the 233 MHz Pentium MMX.

1997 - August 6 After 18 months of losses Apple Computer was in serious financial trouble. Microsoft invested in Apple, buying 100,000 non-voting shares worth $150 million - a decision not approved of by many Apple owners! One of the conditions was that Apple were to drop their long running court case - attempting to sue Microsoft for copying the look and feel of their operating system when designing Windows. It must be pointed out that Apple copied the XEROX Star system when designing their WIMP.

1998 - February Intel released of 333 MHz Pentium II processor. Code-named Deschutes these processors use the new 0.25 micro manufacturing process to run faster and generate less heat than before.

1998 - April A U.S. court has finally banned the long-running game of buying domain names relating to trademarks and then selling them for extortionate prices to the companies who own the trademark. The case was based around a man from Illinois who bought in 1995 and tried to sell it for $13,000. The current going commercial rate for domain name registration is around $100.

1998 - June 25 Microsoft released Windows '98. Some U.S. attorneys tried to block its release since the new O/S interlaces with other programs such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and so effectively closes the market of such software to other companies. Microsoft has fought back with a letter to the White House suggesting that 26 of its industry allies say that a delay in the release of the new O/S could damage the U.S. economy. The main selling points of Windows '98 were its support for USB and its support for disk partitions greater than 2.1GB.

1998 - September Upstart eMachines announces two home PCs priced at $399 and $499, creating the sub-$600 market and launching a price war. Within four months, the new company becomes the #5 computer maker at retail.

1999 - Jan 25 Linux Kernel 2.2.0 released. The number of people running Linux is estimated at over 10 million, making it not only an important operating system in the Unix world, but an increasingly important one in the PC world.

1999 - Feb 22 AMD release K6-III 400MHz version, 450 to OEMS. In some tests it outperforms soon-to-be released Intel P-III. It contains approximately 23 million transistors, and is based on 100Mhz super socket 7 motherboards, an improvement on the 66MHz buses their previous chips were based on. This helps its performance when compared to Intel's Pentium II - which also uses a 100MHz bus speed.

1999 - Aug 31 Apple release the PowerMac G4. It's powered by the PowerPC G4 chip from Apple, Motorola and IBM. Available in 400MHz, 450MHz and 500MHz versions it's claimed to be the first personal computer to be capable of over one billion floating-point operations per second.

1999 - Nov 29 AMD release Athlon 750MHz version.

2000 - Jan 14 US Government announce restrictions on exporting cryptography are relaxed (although not removed). This allows many US companies to stop the long running, and rather ridiculous process of having to create US and international copies of their software.

2000 - Jan 19 Transmeta launch their new 'Crusoe' chips. Designed for laptops these provide comparible performance to the mid-range Pentium II chips, but consume a tiny fraction of the power. They are a new and exciting competitor to Intel in the x86 market.

2000 - Feb 17 Official Launch of Windows 2000 - Microsoft's replacement for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT. Claimed to be faster and more reliable than previous versions of Windows. It is actually a descendant of the NT series, and so the trade-off for increased reliability is that it won't run some old DOS-based games. To keep the home market happy Microsoft have also released Windows ME, the newest member of the 95/98 series.

2000 - March 6 AMD Release the Athlon 1GHz.

2000 - March 8 Intel releases very limited supplies of the 1GHz Pentium III chip.

2000 - June 20 British Telecom (BT) claim the rights to hyperlinks on the basis of a US patent granted in 1989. Similar patents in the rest of the world have now expired. Their claim is widely believed to be absurd since Ted Nelson wrote about hyperlinks in 1965, and this is where Tim Berners Lee says he got the ideas for the World Wide Web from. This is just another in the line of similar incredible cases - for example's claim to have patented '1-click ordering'.

2000 - Sept 6 RSA Security Inc. released their RSA algorithm into the public domain, in advance of the US patent (#4,405,829) expiring on the 20th Sept. of the same year. Following the relaxation of the US government restrictions earlier in the year (Jan. 14) this removed one of the last barriers to the world-wide distribution of much software based on cryptographic systems. It should be noted that the IDEA algorithm is still under patent and also that government restrictions still apply in some places.

2001 - Jan 4 Linux kernel 2.4.0 released.

2001 - March 24 Apple released Mac OS X. At its heart is Darwin, an Open Source operating system based on BSD. Mac OS X finally gave Mac users the stability benefits of a protected memory architecture along many other enhancements, such as preemptive multitasking. The BSD base also makes porting Unix applications to Mac OS easier and gives Mac users a full-featured command line interface alongside their GUI.

2001 - November Microsoft released Xbox, a games console. It initially cost $299 (£209), and includes the ability to connect to the internet for multiplayer gaming.

Computing timelines: 500 BC-1949, 1950-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-present


See also: