Unfortunately, some files have inappropriate or harmful comments or imagery—a possible consequence of the era and the ages of the people involved, often kids.
These milestones are for the PC underground and cracking scenes. They are not definitive but are based on the digital artifacts collected.
The more notable communities on other microcomputer platforms are seldom mentioned here, including the famed Apple II, Commodore 64, and Commodore Amiga communities, which were often poorly imitated by the underground communities on the PC.
The Secrets of the Little Blue Box
Esquire October 1971Ron Rosenbaum writes the first mainstream article on phone freaks, primarily kids who'd hack and experiment with the global telephone network.
The piece coins them as phone-phreaks and introduces the reader to the kids' use of pseudonyms or codenames within their regional groups of friends. It gives an early example of social engineering, defines the community of phreakers as the phone-phreak underground, and mentions the newer trend of computer phreaking, which we call computer hacking today. November 15
The first microprocessor
Intel 4004Intel advertises the first-to-market general-purpose programmable processor or microprocessor, the 4-bit Intel 4004
The first 8-bit microprocessor
Intel 8008Intel releases the world's first 8-bit microprocessor, the Intel 8008 Early 1972
Blue boxesInspired by The Secrets of the Little Blue Box article, Steve Wozniak and a teenage Steve Jobs team up to build and sell 40-100, Wozniak-designed blue boxes to the students of Berkeley University. The devices allowed users to hack and manipulate the electromechanical machines that operated the national telephone network.
The first popular microcomputer
Altair 8800The worlds first popular microcomputer appears on the front cover of Popular Electronics in the USA, the Altair 8800 by MITS running an Intel 8080 CPU. February
The first commercial microcomputer software
Altair BASICPaul Allen and Bill Gates program and sell Altair BASIC for the computer they first saw a month prior. BASIC (Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was a programming language conceived by John Kemeny and Thomas Jurtz of Dartmouth College in early 1964 to be as approachable as possible. 5 March
The first meeting of the Homebrew Computer ClubWhile many technology clubs of this type for sharing ideas were common, this Silicon Valley, Bay Area group became famous for its numerous members who later became industry figures.
An Open Letter to HobbyistsBill Gates of Micro-Soft writes a letter to the hobbyists of the Homebrew Computer Club requesting they stop stealing Altair BASIC. March
The first Apple computerSteve Wozniak and Steve Jobs debuted the first Apple computer prototype at a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club.
CP/M operating systemGary Kildall forms Digital Research to sell his hobbyist operating system, CP/M, for the Intel 8080. Gary was an occasional consultant for Intel's microprocessor division, which gave him access to hardware and personnel. CP/M became the first successful microcomputer operating system. It dominated the remainder of the 1970s and is the default platform for most computers running an Intel 8080, 8085 or its compatible competitor, the Zilog Z-80.
Intel 8086 CPUIntel releases the 16-bit programmable microprocessor, the Intel 8086, which is the beginning of the x86 architecture.
Unlike at the start of the decade when Intel broke new ground, this CPU design was a commercial response to market competition. While code-compatible with the famous Intel 8080, this product failed to dominate in a market saturated with more affordable 8-bit hardware.
Intel 8088 CPUIntel releases the lesser 16-bit microprocessor, the Intel 8088. While fully compatible with the earlier Intel 8086 CPU, this model is intentionally "castrated" using an 8-bit external data bus. The revision is an improvement for some buyers as it needs less expensive support chips on the mainboard and is compatible with the more readily available 8-bit hardware. Software written for either CPU often gets quoted as 8088/86 compatible. June 18
The first commercial software for x86
The first operating system for x86
Seattle Computer Products QDOSTim Paterson worked on a project at Seattle Computer Products to create an 8086 CPU plugin board for the S-100 bus standard. Needing an operating system for the 16-bit Intel CPU, he programmed a half-complete, unauthorized clone of the CP/M operating system within four months. He called it QDOS (Quick and Dirty OS), and it sold few copies. December
PC-DOSSeattle Computer Products sells 86-DOS, an almost finished update to QDOS. It is available under an OEM license and sold to Microsoft for a flat fee. Under a non-disclosure agreement with IBM, Microsoft rebrands it as PC-DOS on a non-exclusive, per-copy royalty agreement.
First IBM Personal Computer
IBM PC 5150Built on the 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor, 16KB of RAM and Microsoft's PC-DOS, this underpowered machine heralds the PC platform. August
First published PC game
IBM's Microsoft AdventureA port of the text only Colossal Cave Adventure
Initial release of MS-DOSMicrosoft releases the first edition of MS-DOS v1.25, which is readily available to all OEM computer manufacturers. All prior releases were exclusive to IBM.
Atarisoft, Infocom, Datasoft, Mattel and Sierra On-Line
First popular IBM PC cloneCompaq Portable March
PC/MS-DOS v2.0 with ANSI.SYS is releasedIncludes for the first time a device driver to view ANSI text May 12
Earliest unprotect text
Directions by Randy Day for unprotecting SPOC the Chess Master
Microsoft Windows annoucementIn hindsight, this premature announcement aims to keep Microsoft customers from jumping to competitor graphical user interface software.
First 16 color PC game
IBM's Kings's QuestFor the IBM PCjr, a short-lived PC line with custom hardware October 17
Earliest information text
Zorktools 1.0 (for Infocom game titles) by Software Pirates IncEarly releases rarely included accompanying text files unless they were complicated tools or software utilities.
EGA graphics standard
Earliest demonstration on the PC
Fantasy Land EGA Demo by IBM
Earliest text loader
Bally Midway's Spy Hunter by Imperial WarlordsText loaders and ANSI art offer similar results but are different in execution. Text loaders are binary programs that display text mode characters and colors. ANSI text required the ANSI.SYS device driver included in PC/MS-DOS 2+ to convert plain text files into onscreen animation and color. 20 November
Initial release of Microsoft WindowsExpensive hardware requirements and a lack of purpose lead to lackluster sales. It will take a decade and multiple releases before Windows becomes dominant.
Dam Buster* Documentation by Apocalypse BBS
*Accolade's The Dam Busters March
First 16 color EGA game
Accolade's Mean 18
Earliest PC loadersLoaders were named as they would be the first thing to display each time a cracked game is run. These screens were static images in the early days and sometimes contained ripped screens from other games. Some users found these annoying and a cause of file bloat.
Earliest PC demo
3 Dimensional EGA DemonstrationA demo and a piece of software created purely for aesthetics, usually to show art or animation. While earlier demonstration software existed on the PC, they were intended for retailers or distributors and usually not given to the public.
AdLib audio standard
VGA graphics standard
First 32 color VGA game
Arcadia's Rockford: The Arcade GameApril 4
Earliest standalone BBS ad
Swashbucklers II BBS
Earliest ANSI ad
Mindscape's Paperboy by BSP
Earliest NFO-like document
KOEI's Romance of the Three Kingdoms by BSPOctober 6
Earliest ASCII art
MicroIllusions Fire Power by $print
Earliest scene drama
TNWC accusing PTL of stealing a release
Well unlike PTL I won't sacrifice some game code to put up a fancy title screen for the group that released this (TNWC)
Earliest PC cracktro
Mandarin Software's Lombard RAC Rally by Future Brain Inc (FBi)An intro or cracktro are small, usually short, demo programs designed to display text with art or animation. Cracktros specifically promote pirated releases or groups, while intros do not. June 1
First issue of Pirate magazine
The earliest magazine for the PC scene
The Underground Council (UGC)
Triad 1989 ↩
Norwegian Cracking Company (NCC)
International Network of Crackers
Pirates Sick of Initials (PSi)
Triad 1990 ↩
Future Brain Inc (FBI)
American Pirate Industries API
International Network of Crackers
Miami Cracking Machine (MCM) ⤴
New York Crackers (NYC)+(ECA) ⤴
Use of the ".NFO" file extension
Origin System's Knights of Legend by The Humble Guys
It happened like this, I'd just used "Unguard" to crack the SuperLock off of Bubble Bobble, and I said "I need some file to put the info about the crack in. Hmmm.. Info, NFO!", and that was it.December 2
Earliest PC cracktro with music
MicroProse's M1 Tank Platoon by The CatIn this example, the term "music" is a loose definition that relies on the horrible internal PC speaker. By this era, many commercial games supported good audio hardware addons such as the AdLib, MT-32, or Covox.
Sound Blaster audio standard
First enchanced PC game on CD-ROM
Sierra On-Line's Mixed-Up Mother Goose
ANSI Creators In Demand (ACiD)
Aces of ANSI Art (AAA) ⤴
Bitchin Ansi Design (BAD)
Damn Excellent ANSI Design (DEAD)
The Humble Guys (THG)
United Software Association 1991 ↩
THG-FX 1991 ↩
Nokturnal Trading Alliance (NTA) 1991 ⇄
The Original Funny Guys 1992 ↩
Lamers of Power 1992 ↩
National Elite Underground Alliance (NEUA)
Software Chronicles Digest (SCD)
Earliest BBS VGA loader
XTC Systems BBSApril 12
Earliest contemporary cracktro
Blues Brothers* by The Dream Team, Tristar & Red Sector Inc. (TDT/TRSi)
Programmed by Hard Core, it's the first PC cracktro with listenable music and a modern VGA aesthetic that could hold its own with cracktros on other systems.
*Titus Software's The Blues Brothers. July
Earliest contemporary demo
Mental Surgery by Future Crew (FC)October 21
Earliest elite BBStro
Earliest CD image release
Slob Zone by ROM 1911
Slob Zone was later published as Slob Zone 3D and Deep River's H.U.R.L.
Earliest CD-RIP release
Interplay's Virtual Pool CD-Rip by HybridDue to the potential size of programs distributed on CDs and the high cost of low-capacity hard drives, the sharing of CD games was not desirable. By mid-1995, some groups started to "rip" out subjective fluff such as intro animations and redistribute the rest of the incomplete but playable game as a "CD-RIP." Early August
Windows 95 warez releaseDrink or Die became infamous for releasing the to warez scene, a copy of the CD media for the box retail edition of Windows 95, two weeks before the official worldwide release. The release highlighted a significant problem for software and game publishers: some company employees were either members of these warez groups or receiving kickbacks.
Another thing that may raise some questions is that, when you are in MS-DOS-SHELL, and you type 'ver', you will see Windows 95. [Version 4.00.950] This does not mean Beta 950, this, in fact (coming directly from my supplier's mouth at MS*) means that this is version 4.0 -ergo- Windows '95.
Windows 95 releaseMicrosoft's biggest and most hyped mainstream product release. It was hugely successful in the market and began the transition away from PC/MS-DOS.
Razor 1911 - Tenth Anniversary CD-ROM
Earliest ISO release
Sierra On-Line's Lords of Magic by CiFEAn ISO is a file archive of a physical media disk such as a CD or DVD. The trading of ISOs between individuals happened for years prior. Still, the formalization of an ISO trading scene for software occurred in late 1997, but it took years before it became a dominant format.