Carbons to Computers

Historical Timeline 1940-1949

Decade overview

Peacetime years following World War II bring a flowering of innovations utilizing wartime technologies, and capitalizing on a renewed belief in progress and the future.

Major work is carried out in research laboratories developing new and powerful computers and calculating machines. With the invention of the transistor at Bell Laboratories, household and office equipment begin to shrink in size, making full use of a wide range of plastics.

Communications systems grow in scope and sophistication, with mobile telephones entering the scene mid-decade. Office careers are perpetuated as high status and even glamorous in the popular media, in spite of the low wages offered for clerical and other office work.

In 1943, President Roosevelt signs the pay-as-you-go income tax bill. Wage and salary earners are now subject to a paycheck withholding tax.

In 1945, Grace Murray Hopper coins the term "bug" to indicate a fault interfering with the running of a computer program.

In 1947, William Levitt breaks ground for Levittown, his suburban mass-development community of 17,500 houses.

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman wins the 1949 Pulitzer Prize.

Corporate milestones

J. Presper Eckert proposes construction of Magnetic Calculating Machine
First mobile telephones introduced
Russell Kelly Office Service founded by William Russell Kelly
Day-Timers, Inc. created as joint venture between a lawyer, Morris Perkin, and the Dorney family printing business to create planners as Christmas gifts for Perkin's attorney friends
Hewlett-Packard Company incorporates in California
Bell Laboratories announces the invention of the transistor
Ampex develops first U.S. audio recorder using magnetic tape
First electronic digital computer that stores its programs internally, Manchester University's Mark I prototype, begins operating.
Traditional black, rotary-dial desk model telephone, the Model 500 Series, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, introduced by Bell Telephone Laboratories


1900-1909 || 1910-1919 || 1920-1929 || 1930-1939 || 1940-1949
1950-1959 || 1960-1969 || 1970-1979 || 1980-1989 || 1990-


This material was generously provided by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

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