Short History of Computing, AI and Robotics

Some input is from a list published in New Scientist April, 2005, a lot is based on Wikipedia

the automated loom
The Turk
Antikythera mechanism


150-100 B.C. The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical analog computer (as opposed to most computers today which are digital computers) designed to calculate astronomical positions. Here is a wonderful 3-D animation of the Antikythera mechanism. And here is a rebuild of the Antikythera mechanism with Lego.

1623 Wilhelm Schickard built the first automatic calculator. The machine could add and subtract six-digit numbers, and indicated an overflow of this capacity by ringing a bell. Schickard's machine was not programmable. The first design of a programmable computer came 1837 (Charles Babbage)

1703 Gottfried Leibniz wrote the article "Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire" and created the the modern binary numeral system, on which modern computers are based.

1770 The Mechanical Turk was a famous hoax which purported to be a chess-playing automaton first constructed and unveiled as a chess master hidden inside to operate the mannequin

1804 Joseph Marie Jacquard, a French silk weaver and inventor, improved on the original punched card design of Jacques de Vaucanson's loom of 1745, to invent the Jacquard loom mechanism. The use of punched cards was adopted by Charles Babbage to control his Analytical Engine, and later by Herman Hollerith for tabulating the 1890 USA census

The robot in R.U.R.
The movie Metropolis features the robot Maria
Patent for Burroughs adding machine

1820 Charles Xavier Thomas designed and patented the Arithmometer, first successful, mass-produced mechanical calculator. It could add, subtract, and multiply. It could divide with some user intervention.

1837 Charles Babbage designed a mechanical general-purpose digital computer, but based on the decimal system. Because of financial, political, and legal issues, the engine was never actually built.

1888 William Seward Burroughs received a patent for his adding machine. He was a founder of American Arithmometer Company, which became Burroughs Corporation and evolved to produce electronic billing machines and mainframes, and eventually merged with Sperry to form Unisys

1921 Karel Capek write the science fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) and creates the name robot.

1927 Metropolis, a silent movie by Fritz Lang feature a robot called Maria.

The Norden bombsight was a highly sophisticated optical/mechanical analog computer
Electro mechanical calculator

1930 Mechanical Calculators were redesigned to use electric motors. The could add, subtract, multiply and divide.

1936 Alan Turing completes his paper "On computable numbers" which paves the way for artificial intelligence and modern computing

1940 Electrical Analog Computer are used for various tasks, including calculation of the trajectory of bombs. They were still in use in the Vietnam war.

1941 Conrad Zuse finishes the Z3 based on telephone relays and binary numbers. It became the first functional program-controlled computer, pioneering numerous advances, such as floating point numbers.

1942 Isaac Asimov sets out his three laws of robotics in the book I, Robot

1943 Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts publish "A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity" to describe neural networks that can learn

1944 Colossus Mark I is operational at Bletchley Park and used to decipher encrypted teleprinter messages during WW II. It used 1,500 vacuum tubes and was on the binary system.

1946 ENIAC was used in relation to the design of the hydrogen bomb. It used 17,468 vacuum tubes, but also 1,500 relays, weighed 27 t and used the decimal system. article

1949 Grey Walter builds Elmer and Elsie, two autonomous robots that looked like turtles. They were equipped with a light sensor

1950 Claude Shannon publishes an analysis of chess playing as a search process

1950 Alan Turing proposes the Turing test to decide whether a computer is exhibiting intelligent behaviour

1956 John McCarthy coins the phrase "artificial intelligence" at a conference at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

1956 Demonstration of the first AI program, called Logic Theorist, created by Allen Newell, Cliff Shaw and Herbert Simon at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University

Unimate, the first industrial robot
Shakey, the first movable robot
HAL 9000 from the movie 2001

1956 Stanislaw Ulam develops Maniac I, the first chess program to beat a human player, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory

1957 Bob Bemer developed the idea of interactive computer usage (Time-sharing). multiple computer terminals (screens) which let many people share one mainframe computer processor. A result, the project "Compatible Time Sharing System" or CTSS, was demonstrated in November, 1961.

1958 SAGE, a network of very large computers (AN/FSQ-7, with 55000 vacuum tubes, 2,000 m² floor space, weighing 275 tons) spread over the USA, was used to track hostile aircraft in real time and direct the retaliation against them. It was rendered obsolete by ballistic missiles before it was fully deployed in 1963. It used early version of interactive terminals (CRT)

1961 Unimate is the first industrial robot

1962 the term "personal computer" appeared in a November 3, 1962 New York Times article reporting John W. Mauchly's vision of future computing

Intel 4004, a 4-bit microprocessor

1965 PDP-8, the first successful commercial minicomputer, produced by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a 12-bit computer (as opposed to today's 32 or 64 bit) with up to 32K words magnetic core memory. This was the first step from the traditional large "mainframes" to personal computing devices

1965 Herbert Simon predicts that "by 1985 machines will be capable of doing any work a man can do"

1966 Joseph Weizenbaum, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, develops Eliza, the world's first chatbot

1968 Arthur C. Clarke writes "2001: A Space Odyssey" featuring HAL 9000, the artificial intelligence on-board computer of the spaceship

1969 Shakey, a robot built by the Stanford Research Institute in California, combines locomotion, perception and problem solving

1971 Intel 4004, the world's first commercially available single-chip microprocessor, was on 4-bit basis. Microprocessors paved the way for smaller computers

1973 Xerox developed the Alto, an early minicomputer and workstation, to allow for better interaction between users and computers, using a graphical user interface, bit-mapped high resolution screen, and a mouse

Dante II and II
R2-D2 and C-3PO

1975 Altair 8800, a microcomputer, based on the Intel 8080A microprocessor on 8-bit basis, starts the personal computer revolution

1975 John Holland describes genetic algorithms in his book Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems

1977 Apple II, the first popular microcomputer manufactured by Apple Computer. It had color and high-resolution graphics

1977 The robots R2-D2 and C-3PO are an important part of the Starwars movies

1979 VisiCalc,the first spread-sheet starts the use of personal computers in the office. It was available on the Apple II

1979 A computer-controlled autonomous vehicle called the Stanford Cart, built by Hans Moravec at Stanford University, successfully negotiates a chair-filled room

1981 the IBM PC starts the "IBM PC compatible hardware platform". Based on these specifications (e.g. CGA graphics) it was possible to buy compatible components from other manufacturers. This started a wave of innovations. The operating system was PC-DOS from Microsoft, who purchased the earlier CP/M. The system was character based

1982 The Japanese Fifth Generation Computer project to develop massively parallel computers and a new artificial intelligence is born

Mid-1980s Neural networks become the new fashion in AI research

1992 Doug Lenat forms Cycorp to continue work on Cyc, an expert system that's learning common sense

1986 Honda Motor Company starts the line of humanoid robots ASIMO

1993 Dante I and II were walking robots used to explore live volcanoes

Roomba from iRobot
AIBO from Sony
ASIMO from Honda

1997 The Deep Blue chess program beats the then world chess champion, Garry Kasparov

1997 Microsoft's Office Assistant, part of Office 97, uses AI to offer customised help

1999 Sony introduces Aibo, a robotic dog capable of seeing, walking and interacting with its environment, sold as a toy.

1999 Remote Agent, an AI system, is given primary control of NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft for two days, 100 million kilometres from Earth

2001 The Global Hawk uncrewed aircraft uses an AI navigation system to guide it on a 13,000-kilometre journey from California to Australia

2002 Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner by iRobot, a company concentrating on robots for household work and military tasks

2004 In the DARPA Grand Challenge to build an intelligent vehicle that can navigate a 229-kilometre course in the Mojave desert, all the entrants fail to complete the course

2005 Several driverless vehicle manage to complete the course in the required time frame