The Network behind the Image

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I am researching the ethics of photography, and one of the areas of interest is the ‘networked image’. Some time back I wrote about the various ways that we talk about and use the word ‘digital‘, which is related to unpacking how we might analyse what is going on with photographs – from digital capture and processing, to networking and exchange.

Well, one thing led to another and I decided to write up a timeline of innovations which all affect today’s networked image. Here it is so far, including a few personal technology milestones.

1843 Alexander Bain, a Scot, receives patent for first Fax-type device.
1881 Shelford Bidwell, English, invents apparatus for transmitting pictures by telegraph.

The received image was printed by chemical reaction. A piece of paper was soaked in potassium and the electrical signal reacted with this to burn into the paper. Bidwell used electricity to make an exact replica of his original butterfly picture.

1911 IBM founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR); renamed ‘International Business Machines’ in 1924.
1913 Édouard Belin, French, invented the Belinograph which scanned with a photocell and transmitted over ordinary phone lines. Used by AT&T Wirephoto service.
1942 Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil patent ‘frequency hopping’, a basic technology for WiFi.
1944 First mainframe, Harvard Mark 1 completed – development started in 1930s.
1944 First Colossus operational at U.K. Bletchley Park, to break the Lorenz ciphers used by the Nazis.
1945 ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) operational.

ENIAC was the first re-programmable, electronic, general-purpose computer. It was originally designed and primarily used to calculate artillery firing tables for the US Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, though its first program on the feasibility of thermonuclear weapons.

1951 Title of ‘first commercially available general-purpose computer’ probably goes to Britain’s Ferranti Mark I – sold to Manchester University
1953 First IBM machine using an internal, addressable, electronic memory – IBM 701 ‘Electronic Data Processing Machine’.
1956 First computer operating system was GM-NAA I/O, by General Motors’ Research division for its IBM 704.
1956 Artificial Intelligence (AI) first coined by John McCarthy in his first academic conference on the subject.
1957 First IBM computer running FORTRAN delivered.
1957 First drum scanner – Russell A. Kirsch, US National Bureau of Standards.

Russel A. Kirsch. 1957.  First scan, his son Walden. 5 x 5 cm.

1958 Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) authorised by President Eisenhower.
1959 Paul Baran (RAND Corporation) tasked with designing ‘survivable’ communications technology.
1959 COBOL introduced.
1960 Baran proposed a distributed network based on data in ‘message blocks’ with redundancy as key concept.
1963 Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse, built in 1964 with Bill English.
1964 BASIC, invented by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz first runs (on General Electric computer).
1965 Donald Davies conceived ‘packet switching’ at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL); proposed UK commercial data network.

1967 Mick first programming – Fortran punch cards on IBM mainframe.

1968 First public demonstration of a mouse controlling a computer system.
1969 US DoD (ARPA) awarded ARPANET contract using Davies and Baran packet switching.
1969 UNIX development started at Bell Labs.
1969 CompuServe founded – dial-up services.
1972 ARPA renamed DARPA.
1972 First read-write floppy disk (8″), Alan Shugart’s Memorex.
1973 Xerox PARC developed Alto personal computer, with bitmapped screen, desktop metaphor and graphical user interface (GUI).
1973 Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn researched connecting ARPANET with SATNET (satellite networking) and ALOHANET (radio network).
1974 Cerf & Kahn name the Internet in paper defining Internet Transmission Protocol Program (TCP).
1974 Digital Research’s CP/M operating system invented by Gary Kildall.
1975 First digital camera, created by Steve Sasson at Kodak.
1975 Bill Gates founds Microsoft.
1976 Wang 1200 WPS word processing multi-user system, with workstations using Intel 8080 microprocessor.
1976 Apple Computer 1, running on Integer Basic.
1976 First word processing program, Electric Pencil, Michael Shrayer Software.
1977 Tandy TRS-80 (Radio Shack), running BASIC. By 1979, had the largest selection of software in the market.
1977 Apple II.
1977 5 1/4″ floppy disk introduced by Shugart, storing 98.5 KB.
1978 Ward Christensen and Randy Suess launch first public dialup bulletin board.
1978 US DoD launch first GPS prototype.
1979 CompuServe’s Information System (CIS) and The Source – first online services.
1979 First spreadsheet program, VisiCalc (‘visible calculator’), originally released for Apple II.
1980 First use of word ‘cyberpunk’ as the title of a Bruce Bethke short story, published 1983.
1980 Microsoft MS DOS shipped.
1980 Seagate introduce first computer hard drive, ST506, with 5 megabytes storage.
1980 Sinclair ZX 80 released, running on Sinclair basic.

1980 Mick programs on Sharp PC-1211 (also sold as Tandy TRS-80) pocket computer.

1981 IBM PC released (Model 5150), running licensed MS DOS as PC DOS and with 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor.
1981 Sony introduces 3 ½-inch floppy drives and diskettes.
1981 Osborne 1, running CP/M – the first commercially successful portable computer.
1982 Commodore 64 running Commodore Basic – Guinness World Records listed as highest-selling computer model of all time.
1982 Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardised, permitting worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks.

1982 Mick programs games on Atari 800 (Atari DOS).
1982 Mick used IBM PC at work

1982 William Gibson’s short story ‘Burning Chrome’ coins the term ‘cyberspace’.
1983 Apple Lisa, one of first personal computers with graphical user interface (GUI).
1984 First Listserve (mailing list) software developed by Ira Fuchs, Daniel Oberst, and Ricky Hernandez.
1984 Apple Macintosh introduced, running Mac OS.

1984 Mick programs on Epson PX 8 laptop (CP/M).

1985 Microsoft release Windows 1.0.
1985 The WELL founded by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) – bulletin board, later ISP.
1985 Quantum Computer Services launches online service, becoming AOL in 1989.

1986 Mick moves to Nikon AF cameras (F-501).

1986 Microsoft goes public.
1986 National Science Foundation Network (NFSNET) creates new Internet backbone.
1986 First computer virus, Brain, infected 5 1.4″ floppy disks.

Brain was the work of two brothers, Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi, who ran a computer store in Pakistan. Tired of customers making illegal copies of their software, they developed Brain, which replaced the boot sector of a floppy disk with a virus. The virus, which was also the first stealth virus, contained a hidden copyright message, but did not actually corrupt any data (Securelist).

1987 Photoshop developed by two brothers Thomas and John Knoll.
1988 Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) Red Book – communication standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other services.
1988 Photoshop – distribution license sold to Adobe Systems Incorporated.
1989 WWW invented by Tim Berners-Lee.
1989 CompuServe – first service to offer Internet connectivity via its proprietary e-mail to Internet-based e-mail addresses.
1989 NeXT 1.0 operating system (UNIX based)
1990 Tim Berners-Lee sets up first web browser on a NeXT computer.
1990 ARPANET decommissioned.
1990 Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) founded.
1990s ‘Going digital’ meant scanning film.
1991 WiFi: NCR with AT&T invented the precursor to 802.11, for use in cashier systems.
1991 Tim Berners-Lee released WWW software.
1992 First photo posted on WWW at CERN.

Silvano de Gennaro. 1992. First photo on WWW, Les Horribles Cernettes. Edited in Photoshop 1.0. 120 x 50 px.

1992 CompuServe hosted first known WYSIWYG e-mail content and forum posts.
1992 First SMS message sent – Neil Papwort of Sema Group used a PC to send ‘Merry Christmas’.
1993 US DoD – GPS fully operational
1993 NFSNET privatisation.

1993 Mick – Compuserve account.

1993 Marc Andreessen releases Mosaic browser.
1994 Netscape corporation formed.
1994 IBM release Simon Personal Communicator, first touch screen phone.
1994 Jeff Bezos founds Amazon.
1995 Microsoft Internet Explorer 1.0 (99% of market in 1999).
1995 Microsoft launch proprietary Microsoft Network (MSN).
1995 Alcatel support Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) to replace ISDN. Broadband as we know it.
1995 First consumer digital cameras with a screen – ability to engage with image and delete in real time. Apple, Casio, Kodak.
1996 ICQ chat service launched (bought by AOL in 1998).
1996 President Clinton authorises full dual use (civilian + military) of GPS.
1997 Amazon goes public.

1997 Mick founds LeaderValues, Yatesweb websites.
1997 Mick buys first digital cameras (Kodak).

Mick Yates. 1997. Ingrid. Kodak DC 210, 1.1 MP.

1998 Larry Page and Sergey Brin found Google.
1999 First mobile phone with camera (Kyocera VP-210).
1999 First mobile phone with GPS (Benefon Esc!, GSM in Europe).
1999 WiFI Trade association created.
1999 Nikon D1. First mainstream professional digital camera, displacing Kodak’s lead.

2000 Mick moves to Nikon D1 system.

2000 Smartphones connect to 3G network.
2000 US DoD ended purposeful degradation of GPS.
2000 First commercial ADSL product in UK.
2001 Mac OS X succeeded Mac OS.
2001 First version of iPhoto.
2002 Commercial introduction of MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) on mobile phones.
2003 Digital cameras outsell film.
2003 Mac OS X Panther introduces Safari browser.
2004 Web 2.0 functionality to replace stand alone software.
2004 Camera phone sales exceed digital camera sales.
2004 Gmail launched with 1gb cloud accounts.
2004 Mark Zuckerberg founds Facebook.
2004 Flickr launched, with tagging.

Thomas Vander Wal coined Folksonomy as a classification system in which end users apply public tags to online items, typically to make those items easier for themselves or others to find later. ‘Taxonomy’ refers to a hierarchical categorization in which relatively well-defined classes are nested under broader categories. A folksonomy establishes categories (each tag is a category) without stipulating or necessarily deriving a hierarchical structure of parent-child relations among different tags.

2004 Google goes public.
2005 Yahoo! acquires Flickr.

2005 Mick – Flickr account (August).

2006 Twitter launched.
2006 Flickr’s 100 millionth upload.
2007 Apple iPhone 1.

2007 Mick – Facebook account (April).

2008 Android 1.0 OS – first phone, HTC Dream (September).
2009 Flickr partnership with Getty.
2009 WhatsApp launched (January).

2009 Mick – Twitter account (March).

2010 Google Nexus phone (Android).
2010 Instagram launched (October).

2010 Mick – Instagram account (December).

2011 Instagram adds tags (January).
2012 Kodak declared bankruptcy.
2012 Facebook goes public – valuation of $100 billion.
2013 Facebook acquires Instagram.
2014 Facebook acquires WhatsApp.
2018 SmugMug acquires Flickr.

Header: Epson PX 8 Laptop, 1984.

Ccomputer History Museum. Timeline of Computer History. Available at: (accessed 04.06/2021).

Science Museum. 2020. The First Digital Photographs, from Victorian Technology to the Internet.  Available at:  (accessed 04/06/2021).

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