Today multimedia might be defined as the seamless digital integration of text, graphics, animation, audio, still images and motion video in a way that provides individual users with high levels of control and interaction. The evolution of Multimedia is a story of the emergence and convergence of these technologies.

As these technologies developed along separate paths for disparate purposes, visionaries saw the possibilities for the sum of the parts as well potential personal application in the broader societal context This chapter highlights visionaries and technological developments from the development of the printing press to the emergence of the WWW .

"The historian, with a vast chronological account of a people, parallels it with a skip trail which stops only at the salient items, and can follow at any time contemporary trails which lead him all over civilisation at a particular epoch. There is a new profession of trailblazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected." Vannevar Bush (1945).

This chapter is constructed around five themes developed over a time line. Presented within an interactive timeline framework, the reader has the option to pursue elaboration with a click of the mouse.

Visionaries: From the ingenious idea of the programmable computer, trace the innovations of the outstanding thinkers that had a direct impact on the explosion of the technological age.

Text, Processing and Software: Inventions and innovations that spawned the development of software enabling computers to move from mathematical processing to technology that creates and delivers multi media.

Computers: From the printing press through the exclusive military and academic and corporate worlds trace computer development into the ubiquitous role of the desktop personal computer of today.

Audio & Communication: From the telegraph signal to cellular telephones, follow the development from signal transmission to digital transmission of voice

Video &Animation: From manually manipulated negative film and hand drawn sketches, video and animation develops to sophisticated digital creation and rendering of motion


Chapter Contents

Case study

Pre 20th Century

1900 - 1933

1934 - 1945

1946 - 1956

1957 - 1964

1965 - 1974

1975 - 1979

1980 - 1989

1990 - date




Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
Pre20th Century        
1455 Printing Press Gutenberg and Caxton, movable type printing      


  Franklin discovers electricity    


   Charles Babbage designs the Difference Engine    


  Babbage designs Analytical Machine, often considered to be the fist general-purpose computer.

Lady Byron writes programs for the machine



    Telegraph receiver and transmitter  
1839       Daguerreotype: photographs produced using a paper negative


  George Boole: develops binary mathematical language of 1’s and 0’s (Boolean Algebra)    
1858     Transatlantic cable laid  
1867 Remington Manual Typewriter      





Granted a phonograph patent

1886   Burroughs: First commercially successful adding machine.    



    Mood Music for Film: Musical scores sent along for organ accompaniment

Gramophone: disks manually rotated @ 70 rpm

Film: Sequential photographs with sprockets manually pulled through a projector




Tabulating Machine for the U.S. Gov.Census using punch cards. The tabulating machine later became IBM.

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1920     Commercial radio: KDKA Pittsburgh  
1925     Electronically recorded sound discs

AT&T’s Bell labs allow recording of whole symphonies

1927     "Talkies": The first commercial talkie film using optical sound recording.

Juke Box: Automatic Music Instrument Company –coin operated phonograph

Telephone becomes operational between London and New York.

"The Jazz Singer" starring Al Jolsen.


 First public demonstration of T.V.



      "Steamboat Willie" first cartoon with a fully synchronized soundtrack


  Conrad Zuse

First calculator.

1932     Magnetic tape

BASF introduces magnetic tape recording

1933     Dudley

Vocoder – voice coder


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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Tele-communication Video & Animation
1934 - 1945        


  "Turing’s Machine" defined as capable of computing any calculable function    
1937       "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" the first full-length animation is released.


  John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry design a prototype of the ABC computer (the first automated digital computer).    
1940       First colour T.V.broadcast.
1941   "Colossus" built for the British military from Alan Turing’s design    
1943   Zuse – Z3: First machine to work on a binary system rather than decimal system.    


 "As we may think" in the Atlantic Monthly Memex    

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1946 - 1956        


  ENIAC Electronic Numerator Integrator and Calculator the first successful high speed digital computer. However, it used the same concepts that Atanasoff and Berry used to build the ABC computer.    
1948   Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain develop the transistor. More reliable and cheaper to run than vacuum tubes. Open reel tape recorder by Magnecord  
1951   UNIVAC Computer used magnetic tape for buffer memory.    
1952   IBM 701: First electronic stored computer that used vacuum tubes, RAM, punch cards and was the size of a piano.    
1953 Electric typewriter      
1954     Transistor radio: First commercial use of transistor radio developed in 1947 @ Bell labs  
1956     First Transaltantic telephone cable CBS broadcast

First network broadcast using video tape.

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1957 - 1964        
1957     Sputnik launched  
1958   CRAY: Builds the CDC 1604 for Control Data Corporation. The first fully transistorized supercomputer.

Texas Instruments develops the first Integrated Circuit. Solves the problems of speed, size and wiring.

1959   Second generation computer introduced by IBM. Used transistors instead of vacuum tubes.    
1960   Removable disks

Paul Baran sees a communications network different than the traditional point to point links. He envisioned a "fishnet network".

1963   CAD (Computer Aided Design)

Sketchpad uses the first light pen.


 Phillips first compact audio cassette.

First home video tape recording


"Understanding Media" postulates the global village. Third generation of computers included the photo printing of conductive circuit boards to eliminate wiring.    

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1965 - 1974        


Xanadu hypertext project      


Development of hypertext editing system   Dolby labs produces Dolby noise reduction for prerecorded tapes  
1970   Fourth generation computer by IBM uses chips to reduce size and cost.    
1971   Intel 4004 chip developed by Hoff. Computers can now be owned by individuals.    


      Phillips laserdisc playback only deck

PONG, first commercial video game

1973 Metcalf outlines ideas for ethernet   Kahn &Cerf present ideas for structure of Internet  
1974   Intel 8080 microprocessor which was to be used in many PC’s.    

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1975 - 1979        


  Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates.  DND takes over ARPANET  SONY Betamax VCR with a one hour, inch video cassette tape.
1976       JVC introduces VHS format.


  Apple was founded by Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak  Email provided to 100 researchers  
1978     First commercially available cell phone  
1979 VisiCalc: the first spreadsheet

Wordstar: word processing package is released.

  Walkman: SONY introduces a portable audio cassette player.

First MUD, MUD1, by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw at U of Essex

Beginning of on-line services with CompuServe and The Source.


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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1980 Word Processing Machine

Single purpose machine with limited storage on magnetic material.

    SONY introduces the consumer camcorder
1981 The MS-DOS, or Microsoft Disk Operating System Adam Osborne completed the first portable compute Apollo Computer unveiled the first work station  
1982  Lotus 1-2-3, software writes directly into the video system of the IBM PC   First digital audio 5’’ compact disc.  Computer-generated graphics in movies step forward with Disney's "Tron."
1983   First PC clone Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) introduced

Internet is born

TCP/IP protocol

 W. Gibson in Neuromancer coins the term "cyberspace." Apple Computers introduces the Macintosh with the first mouse driven GUI (Graphical User Interface). 3 1/2-inch "microfloppy" diskette

DNS: domain name server introduced

voicemail developed

1985 Desktop publishing

Aldus PageMaker for the Macintosh

   NSFNET: linking five universtiy supercomputer centers

(550 mg)CD-ROMs evolve from CDs on which music is recorded.

1986    optical transistor patented, a component central to digital optical computing.   SONY Betamax removed from consumer shelves
1987  Hypercard : Apple (1987) actually hypermedia (nonsequential links to documents) includes authoring system -tool for building interactive hypermedia documents (Authorware Model,Linkway)   First digital audio tape players  
1988  Robert Morris' worm flooded the ARPANET.     3D Graphics: 3D graphical supercomputers

Pixar's "Tin Toy": the first computer-animated film to win an Academy Award,

1989 Handwriting recognition is introduced by grid with a touch sensitive pad on a lap top computers. Battery powered ,fully functional notebook computer. Corporation for Research and Education Networking (CREN) is formed by merging CSNET into BITNET


 Maxis released SimCity, a sophisticated video game launching a new genre 'simulation'.

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Time & Vision Text , Processing & Software Computers Audio & Telecommunication Video & Animation
1990 IBM, Tandy AT &T, and others announce the software specifications for multimedia platforms.


IBM, Tandy AT &T, and others announce the hardware specifications for multimedia platforms.  The birth of theWorld Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, develops HTML ( HyperText Markup Language)  

PGP encryption released by Phillip Zimmerman

National Science Foundation lifts ban on commerce on the Internet.


VERONICA World Wide Web


Mosaic developed by M. Andreessen  Internet
1994 Internet goes interactive; shopping, banking, live concerts, radio broadcasting, spamming  


1995 Private ISP becomes big business

Netscape goes public

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"Our failure to place affection and empathy at the centre of the educational process says something very grave about us, and I do not think it will be of much value for us to persevere unless we can learn to love our technology less and ourselves more." … Neil Postman (1996)

"In order that the picture may not be too commonplace, by reason of sticking to present-day patterns, it may be well to mention one such possibility, not to prophesy but merely to suggest, for prophecy based on extension of the known has substance, while prophecy founded on the unknown is only a doubly involved guess."Vannevar Bush (1945)

Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom and wisdom is not foresight. Each grow out of the other and we need them all. Arthur C. Clark (1997)



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Barabash, Craig (Vannevar)

Kyllo, Janice (Ada)