Carbons to Computers

Historical Timeline 1950-1959

Decade overview

Consumerism in its many guises is a major theme of the 1950s. At the beginning of the century, most people worked to survive and sometimes prosper; in the 1950s many people work to buy the "American dream."

In 1950, the first charge card is introduced by Diners' Club; a prototype of the credit card, it had to be paid off in full monthly.

In 1954, TV dinners are introduced in the United States.

In 1954, there are fifteen computers in the United States.

In 1955, Rosa Parks rides in the front seat of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, propelling the demand for civil rights reform in America.

In 1957, John McCarthy founds the Artificial Intelligence Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Corporate milestones

George Nelson's "Executive Office Group" for Herman Miller features first "L-shaped" desk
First commercially available computer, UNIVAC I (universal automatic computer), completed in Philadelphia and turned over to U.S. Census Bureau
Rolodex "Rolomatic" introduced, featuring a ball-bearing clutch mechanism
Bette Nesmith markets "Mistake Out," later known as "Liquid Paper," to secretaries in her office
IBM introduces hard disk for data storage--RAMAC
Digital Equipment Corporation incorporates in Massachusetts
Smith-Corona makes a portable electric typewriter weighing 18.3 pounds (more than its manual predecessor)
Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments conceives the integrated circuit
Modem dataphone, using telephone lines for transmitting binary data, introduced by Bell Laboratories
First commercial Xerox copier introduced


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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