Timeline of computing 1990–99
|?||Consortium of major SVGA card manufactures (called Video Electronic Standard Association, VESA) was formed and then introduced VESA SVGA Standard.|
|?||Motorola released the 68040 capable of 35 MIPS and integrated a far superior FPU. The 68040 was included in some of the Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga lineup.|
|March 19||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 Mbit/s.|
|May 22||Introduction of Windows 3.0 by Microsoft. It is a multitasking system that maintains compatibility with MS-DOS, allowing several MS-DOS tasks to be run at once on an 80386 or above. This created a real threat to the Macintosh and despite a similar product, IBM's OS/2, it was very successful.|
|June||Commodore releases the Amiga 3000, the first 32-bit Amiga. It featured the Motorola 68030 processor and the upgraded ECS chipset. Amiga OS 2.0 was released with the launch of the A3000, which took advantage of its 32-bit architecture. Later variants included the Amiga 3000UX, launched as a low end UNIX workstation, running UNIX System V. The A3000T was the first Amiga to use a tower form factor, which increased expansion potential.|
|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.|
|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.|
|?||Multimedia PC (MPC) 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 12 MHz 80286 microprocessor, but this was later revised to require a 16 MHz 80386SX microprocessor as the 80286 was realised to be inadequate. It also required a CD-ROM drive capable of 150 kB/s (single speed) and also of Audio CD output. Companies can, after paying a fee, use the MPC logo on their product.|
|?||Borland acquires Ashton-Tate Corporation and the Dbase program.|
|?||Phil Zimmermann releases the public key encryption program PGP along with its source code, which quickly appears on the Internet.|
|March||Commodore release the CDTV, an Amiga multimedia appliance with CD-ROM drive but no floppy drive.|
|April 22||The Intel 80486 SX is released as a cheaper alternative to 80486 DX, with the key difference being the lack of an integrated FPU.|
|May||Creative Labs introduces the Sound Blaster Pro sound card.|
|June||To promote OS/2, Bill Gates took every opportunity after its release to say 'DOS is dead', however the development of DOS 5.0 led 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 640 KiB boundary (into UMBs and the HMA), freeing more RAM for programs. This version marked the end of collaboration between Microsoft and IBM on DOS.
|August||The Linux kernel is born with the following post to the Usenet Newsgroup comp.os.minix by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish college student:
"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."
Linux has become one of the most widely used Unix-like operating system kernels in the world today. It now runs on many different types of computers, including the Sun SPARC and the DEC/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 with GNU systems while they waited for the development of their own kernel, GNU Hurd, to be completed. The GNU project's aim is to provide a complete and free Unix-like operating system, combining the Hurd or Linux kernel with a complete suite of free software to run on it. Torvalds changed the licence of the Linux kernel from one prohibiting commercial use to the GNU General Public License on 1 February 1992.
|?||Introduction of CD-i launched by Philips.|
|?||The PowerPC 601, developed by IBM, Motorola and Apple Computer, was released. This was the first generation of PowerPC processors.|
|April||Introduction of Windows 3.1|
|May||Wolfenstein 3D released by id Software|
|June||Sound Blaster 16 ASP Introduced by Creative Labs.|
|October||Commodore International releases the Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000. Both machines included the improved Advanced Graphics Architecture chipset.
The Amiga 1200 featured a 14 MHz 68020 processor, whilst the Amiga 4000 featured a 25 MHz 68040.
|November 10||Digital Equipment Corporation introduces the Alpha AXP architecture and the Alpha-based DEC 3000 AXP workstations, DEC 4000 AXP departmental servers and the DEC 7000 AXP enterprise servers.|
|?||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.|
|?||First web magazine, The Virtual Journal, is published but fails commercially.|
|?||Doom was released by id Software. The PC began to be considered as a serious games playing machine. This was reinforced by another release in 1993 – Sam & Max Hit the Road.|
|?||Novell purchased Digital Research, DR DOS became Novell DOS.|
|?||The MP3 file format was published. This sound format later became the most common standard for music on PCs and later digital audio players.|
|March 22||Intel releases the P5-based Pentium processor, with 60 and 66 MHz versions. The Pentium has over 3.1 million transistors and can achieve up to 100 MIPS. John H. Crawford co-managed the design of the P5; Donald Alpert managed the architectural team. Vinod K. Dham was general manager of the P5 group.|
|May||MPC Level 2 specification introduced (see November 1990). This was designed to allow playback of a 15 frame/s video in a window 320x240 pixels. The key difference is the requirement of a CD-ROM drive capable of 300 kB/s (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.|
|June||Severe Flat Tire made the first live music performance on the Internet, using MBone technology.|
|July||Windows NT 3.1 was released that supported 32-bit programs.|
|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 standalone version of MS-DOS released, since Microsoft turned its efforts to Windows 95. The Windows 95 version of MS-DOS reports itself as MS-DOS 7.0 – and includes a few enhancements.
N.B. The Windows 95 version of MS-DOS report itself as version 7.0, Windows 95 OSR2 reports 7.1.
|?||Several major PC games are released, such as Command & Conquer, Alone in the Dark 2, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Descent and Little Big Adventure. Other, less significant releases for the PC included Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Final Unity, Full Throttle and Terminal Velocity.
This success of the PC as a games platform was partly due to and partly a cause of significantly increased PC ownership among the 'general public' during the early–mid 1990s. This also reflected the rapidly increasing quality of games available for the PC.
|?||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.|
|?||DNA computing proof of concept on toy travelling salesman problem; a method for input/output still to be determined.|
|?||Netscape Navigator 1.0 was written as an alternative browser to NCSA Mosaic.|
|?||Motorola released the 68060 processor.|
|March 7||Intel released the 90 & 100 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor.|
|March 14||Linus Torvalds released version 1.0 of the Linux kernel.|
|April 29||Commodore International declares bankruptcy. Commodore's assets were eventually sold to German PC manufacturer ESCOM in 1995.|
|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.|
|October 10||Intel releases the 75 MHz version of the Pentium Processor.|
|March||Linus released Linux Kernel v1.2.0 (Linux 95).|
|March 27||Intel releases the 120 MHz version of the Pentium processor.|
|May 23||Sun Microsystems first announces Java at the SunWorld conference.|
|June 1||Intel releases the 133 MHz version of the Pentium processor.|
|September 1||Sony releases its first PlayStation – To date, over 100 million have been sold.|
|October 3||Be Inc. launch the BeBox, featuring two PowerPC 603 processors running at 66 MHz, and running their new operating system BeOS.|
|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).
It was the first product built around Intel's P6 architecture, later used in the Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium M, Core and Core 2 processors.
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.
|November 6||3dfx releases Voodoo, the first consumer 3D accelerator, capable of rendering scenes in real time and in high resolution.
QuakeGL (a GL port of Quake) is the first popular game utilising this new technology. Other games soon follow, including Tomb Raider. 
|December 21||First public release of the Ruby programming language (version 0.95)|
|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 13 February 1996.|
|?||Nokia released the Nokia 9000, the first of Nokia's smartphones.|
|?||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 "Battlecruiser 3000AD" was also released, but its advertising had to be censored.|
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 separate 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 2.1 GB and is better at coping with large disks (especially in terms of wasted space).
|January 4||Intel released 150 and 166 MHz versions of the Pentium Processor.|
|April 17||Toshiba released the "Libretto" sub-notebook. With a volume of 821.1 cm³ and a weight of just 840 g, it was the smallest PC compatible computer to be released.|
|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 Digital's Alpha architecture and would very soon support the SPARC architecture in addition to many others). It was also the first stable kernel to support SMP, kernel modules, and much more.|
|July 4||Hotmail, founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, is commercially launched on Independence Day in the United States, symbolically representing freedom from Internet service providers. (Hotmail is now owned and operated by Microsoft.)|
|July 14||The first public release of Opera, version 2.1 for Windows.|
|September 23||Audio Highway announced the Listen Up player, the first MP3 digital audio player. It was later released in September 1997.|
|October 6||Intel released the 200 MHz version of the Pentium Processor.|
|December||id Software releases QuakeWorld, a version of Quake designed for Internet multiplayer games. A number of innovative features such as movement prediction make the game playable even over low-speed and high-latency Internet connections.|
|?||Tim Berners-Lee awarded the Institute of Physics' 1997 Duddell Medal for inventing the World Wide Web (see 1989).|
|?||"Grand Theft Auto" and "Quake 2" were 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 game players.|
|January 8||Intel released the Pentium MMX (166 and 233 MHz versions) with the MMX instruction set designed to increase performance when running multimedia applications.|
|May 7||Intel releases the Pentium II processor (233, 266 and 300 MHz versions). The Pentium II features a larger on-chip cache as well as an expanded instruction set.|
|May 11||IBM's Deep Blue became the first computer to beat a reigning World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, in a full chess match. The computer had played him previously — losing 5/6 games in February 1996.|
|June 2||Intel releases the 233 MHz Pentium MMX.|
|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 was to drop the long running court case — attempting to sue Microsoft for copying the look and feel of their operating system when designing Windows.|
|September||Internet Explorer 4.0 was released.|
|January||Compaq Computer Corporation announces pending acquisition of Digital Equipment Corporation for $9.6 billion.|
|February||Intel released the 333 MHz Pentium II processor. Code-named Deschutes, these processors used the new 0.25 micrometre manufacturing process, which allowed them to run faster and generate less heat.|
|March||Be Inc. released BeOS R3. This was the first version of BeOS to be available for x86 PCs as well as PowerMacs.|
|May||Apple announces the iMac, an All-in-One with integral 15 inch (381 mm) multiscan monitor, 24x CDROM, 2x available USB ports, 56 kbit/s modem, 2 stereo speakers, and Ethernet but no floppy drive. It was encased in translucent Bondi Blue and Ice plastic. Quantity shipping began in August. Designed by Jonathan Ive, it was the model that put Apple back on the road to profitability.|
|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 GB with FAT32 (although FAT32 was actually released with Windows 95 OSR2).|
|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.|
|January 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.|
|February 22||AMD releases a K6-III clocked at 400 MHz and a 450 MHz version for OEMs.
It contains approximately 23 million transistors, and is requires motherboards using the Super Socket 7 socket.
It supports a 100 MHz front side bus (FSB), an improvement over AMD's previous chips that used a 66 MHz FSB. The use of a 100 MHz FSB brought technological equivalency with the 100 MHz FSB featured on the Intel Pentium II.
|August 31||Apple releases the PowerMac G4. It's powered by the PowerPC G4 chip from Motorola.
Available in 400 MHz, 450 MHz and 500 MHz versions, Apple claimed it to be the first personal computer to be capable of over one billion floating-point operations per second.
|November 29||AMD releases an Athlon clocked at 750 MHz.|
|December 2||Quake III Arena, an exclusively multiplayer first-person shooter, is released by id Software. A number of other multiplayer-only titles soon follow, including Unreal Tournament and Starsiege: Tribes.|
- p. 54, "Intel Turns 35: Now What?", David L. Margulius, InfoWorld, July 21, 2003, ISSN 0199-6649.
- p. 21, "Architecture of the Pentium microprocessor", D. Alpert and D. Avnon, IEEE Micro, 13, #3 (June 1993), pp. 11–21, doi:10.1109/40.216745.
- p. 90, "Inside Intel", Business Week, #3268, June 1, 1992.